In case you’re wondering when you read the headline for this post, Disneyland doesn’t give you free passes to families with autism to go to Disneyland. (Gee wouldn’t that be nice… I keep wishing Autism Speaks or some organization would help with that one considering how dang expensive it is to go and how many of our families struggle financially in ways other families don’t. If anyone here’s from Autism Speaks, hope you’re listening).
Anyway, a disability pass means that you go to a separate waiting area from the rest of the folks, often it means waiting in the area near the exit; for some rides it’s using the fast pass lane. It’s true that a family can often skip ahead in most lines/not wait as long. It’s a wonderful and much needed thing when you go to Disneyland and your child has difficulty with crowds, waiting for long periods of time, etc. For those families who give you the stink eye for doing this, hold your head high with the knowledge that these people are clueless about what our kids go through when it comes to downtime, waiting and crowds, high functioning or not. Unless they really want to see first hand what a melt down is like, up close and personal, they shouldn’t bat an eyelash at this much needed accomodation for families with someone on the spectrum.
While it’s very helpful, be aware that Disney also has a policy of only allowing one disabled person to ride a ride at a time (I’m assuming they do this to make it seem more fare, although as I’ve said above, they’re already doing that by providing the accomodation in the first place). Because of this one disabled person per ride police, in a few cases, your wait time might actually be longer (as is often the case with the It’s a Small World ride we found. There’s only one disabled boat compared to the many other boats they have going. Also many of the Fantasyland rides might see you waiting longer because of this policy… keep it in mind if the line isn’t very long and the disabled line is).
The folks at Disneyland will also give you suggestions as to what rides might not be suitable for a child with autism, a very kind and thoughtful service I thought. They marked our ride list/map for us the first time we went and after going on many of the autism unfriendly rides with my neurotypical daughter as a test run for her brother, we agreed on everything they suggested. By the way, you get the pass I’m speaking of by bringing your child to Town Hall first thing when you get there. I’ve heard they ask for a page of an IEP or some proof and I used to bring my page from regional center saying my son has autism and qualifies for services… but in reality they never asked me for anything other than seeing him and seeing all the members of the party riding with him. This is so they can put the appropriate number of people allowed per pass… all family members riding WITH the child get to go together.
Again, we’d never be able to make it through Disneyland without the pass. It just wouldn’t be possible to wait in crowded hot long lines like that without my son combusting. It wouldn’t be worth going. As it is, my son is limited on what he enjoys and what’s too loud or too scary for him (he can’t deal with anything with intense motion, so all rollercoasters and thrill type rides are out, including Star Tours, etc…. and everything in Toon Town is just too darn loud for anyone). That being said he adores Disneyland more than any other place and it’s a super special treat we save for birthdays (or if he’s playing a gig there… see my previous post). Most of the Fantasyland rides are fabulous for him, even though he’s 11, (they’re my favorites too and I”m considerably older than 11). He also love Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and the terrific show they have at the end which is worth the price of admission alone, including spectacular fireworks (show your pass and they’ll honor special seating/viewing area for that as well)..
You can also use the pass to get on the tram on the way back if the wait is crowded and endless, which it usually is… a lifesaver, I tell you… we LOVE the folks at Disneyland for doing this.