Disney With Special Needs: Autism and Adjusting to the Disney Resorts

Walking into a Walt Disney World Resort, is like leaving reality and entering a new magical story. Disney’s Polynesian Resort takes you away to a tropical paradise, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge takes you on safari and Disney’s Art of Animation lets you be immersed in some of your favorite Disney movies. Each offers a new and unique experience! With that being said, spending the night in a new environment or being in an unfamiliar place can be overwhelming to someone who has special needs. I would like to share my personal experience about staying in the resorts with my brother, who has a high functioning form of autism.

My family has stayed at multiple Walt Disney World Resorts including: the Polynesian, the Contemporary, All-Star Music, the Pop Century, the Art of Animation, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

On our last Disney vacation, we stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. The resort is broken up into four movie themes: The Little Mermaid, Cars, The Lion King, and Finding Nemo. We stayed in the Cars section, which my brother picked since it is his favorite! My brother always enjoys staying at the resorts; I would almost say he likes being at the resort better than going to the parks. He does really well during the day, but sleeping in a new place often causes him to be uneasy. During the first night of our trip, he paced around, he stimmed, and he had a hard time falling to sleep. He has to get acclimated to new places before he can really relax.

To help him adjust we usually bring items from home that comfort him, like his favorite pillow. The next day, we did some of his favorite things like visiting the arcade. We also just walked around the resort, just so he could get use to being there. Showing him around the resort, I feel is the best way to help him adjust because he can get a feel of where he is at and see that there is nothing to fear. The second night we were there, he acted calm and he actually rested.  He absolutely adored the Art of Animation!  Outside our room they had the Cars characters and a setup of Radiator Springs. We of course, had to have a photo shoot of us in front of all the cars!

Every person has their own way of adjusting to new places. My best tip is to have patience; being away from the familiarity of home can be nerve wracking. It also helps if you stay at a resort they would be interested in. My brother really enjoyed the Art of Animation because he liked being in the middle of Radiator Springs and having a Cars themed room.

The Walt Disney Company also offers special accommodations at their resorts for Guest who have physical disabilities. If you have specific concerns when choosing a Disney Resort, make sure to ask about your needs while discussing your vacation, and if using a travel professional, be sure to let her/him know before booking. For the complete list and more information of the accommodations Disney offers please visit: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/planning-guides/in-depth-advce/guests-with-disabilities/

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Paige was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Her frequent family trips to Walt Disney World started her Disney obsession and sparked her dream to be a cast member. Paige’s dream came true when she participated in the Disney College Program in 2012. She worked at Casey’s Corner, The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and the Main Street Bakery. Paige shares, “I love to live by Walt’s words, ‘All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them.'”

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