Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Special Website for Very Special Kids!

Josh, Ray and Jess in Magic Kingdom
For those of you who may be new to my blog and me, I am a senior at Neumann University working towards an Elementary Education degree, specializing in Special Education.  I have had a lot of experience with special needs children, everything from Downs Syndrome to Learning Disabilities.  I have even had experience with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but not nearly as much experience as my friend Ray and his family.  Ray's oldest son has Autism Spectrum Disorder, but this hasn't stopped this Disney loving family from enjoying multiple Disney trips! Check out the following article, seen in the Examiner and written by Ray, regarding Disney vacations with special needs family members:

Visiting Disney Parks with special needs

Planning a visit to a Disney Park can be overwhelming for a family. But for those families with special needs children or family members, the task of planning a Disney vacation can be downright daunting. From personal experience, we know that while planning a vacation with special needs in mind is difficult, you can do it and have a magical Disney trip.

My wife (Rachel) and I have been to the various Disney parks several times, my wife even more since she grew up in southern California not far from Disneyland. We took our first born child to Disneyland when he was very young, and had a pretty good trip. However, we discovered as he got older that he had Autism Spectrum Disorder. At this time, we had added a daughter to the family, and were worried that we wouldn’t be able to travel again. We wanted to take the family to Walt Disney World, but the thought of planning the trip seemed overwhelming. Rachel and I searched the web, finding bits and pieces of information that would help us ensure our son and our family could have a successful trip to Walt Disney World. With a lot of research and planning, we felt prepared for our trip and booked our vacation.

Ray, Josh, Chris Reid and Jess enjoying Splash Mountain! 

One way that Disney helps those with special needs is with a Guest Assistance Card (GAC). This card tells cast members what assistance you need, so they can easily help you. Now a word of caution: the GAC is not a pass to the front of the line, a fact cast members (the name given to the park staff) will remind you of when they issue the card. However, if you need an alternate entrance to an attraction, or a quiet area to wait for your turn, they will provide it if they have it. When you arrive at the park, take time to visit the Guest Relations booth and request the assistance. They will ask what your needs are and you can let them know what problems you may have.

The cast members are a very helpful resource for your trip. If you need a little extra help, talk to them. They will work with you to see what they can do. They can’t always fill every request, but more often than not they can give you the assistance you require. For us, our son does not do well in some theaters so we may have to leave early. We alert the cast member when we enter the theatre, and most have been able to help us find seats near an exit so we could leave easily if needed.

If you have family members with special needs, you will have to do extra planning to ensure you have what you need for your trip. There are some excellent websites that can help you. is a comprehensive website on both Disney Resorts. They also have a section for those with special needs, outlining what you can expect from the parks for different types of special needs (Autism, Pregnancy, Persons of Size, etc.). Another web is Disney for Families with Autism Spectrum Disorder at This is a website created and maintained by my wife and myself. It contains information on the parks and attractions and is geared towards persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It also features basic social stories and picture schedules to help you plan your trip to the park.

Going to Walt Disney World with my son has been a great experience. Disney does an excellent job of making it special for him. If you have someone with special needs in your family and you are considering making the trip, just know that it is possible to do it and you may find some magic on your trip."

Visit the page for this article by clicking here

Check out Ray and Rachel's site for information regarding visiting the parks with special needs family members and give their podcast a listen too at

Oh! And if you are on twitter, follow Ray at for his great tweets!

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