Roundtable Discussion on Changes to the GAC at Disney’s Parks

Special Mouse Podcast

Special Mouse Podcast

Hello Everyone!

Well last night I, along with many other great and passionate people, was featured on the Special Mouse Podcast.  We convened to discuss of course the changes to Disney’s Guest Assistance Card, and how we feel it will impact our families but also how we plan to adapt our touring plans and park experiences.  I hope you give it a listen as it is packed with many different viewpoints on both of Disney’s North American Parks: Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

As well if you don’t already I sincerely encourage you to subscribe to Kathy Kelly’s Podcast via iTunes!  It is packed with information, not just about Autism, but a plethora of other needs and how to plan accordingly.  She also features trip reports from the perspective of those who have to tour the Disney Parks with accommodations so you get real advice on what to expect.

I am proud to have a working relationship with this podcast (yes, I have sponsored it to be clear), but also even if I hadn’t I would still recommend it for the vast information you can find to help you navigate the parks with a person who has Special Needs.  Give it a listen, you’ll be glad you did:

http://bit.ly/1bET8zC 

Keep Calm And Make It Work! Re: GAC to DAS Changes

Author’s Note: The main points of this article deal with Disneyland touring as they don’t have the Fast Pass + reservation system in place and the effects of these changes could be felt there more so than Orlando at present.  I will be writing about how to work with the FastPass+ system and DAS in the coming weeks!

Okay.  So we’ve reacted.  We’ve worried.  We’ve called, read, talked, called again, confirmed, commented, heck even debated.  But, the fact is, these changes to the Guest Assistance Card at the Disney Parks well, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  October 9th will soon be here and I am sure it’s going to be rough anyhow.  Why don’t we figure out now that we have processed what we’re going to do to adapt?  We all have had to adapt at sometime to something that was not working.  So too with this we will do so once more.  We all make it work everyday, it’s what we do isn’t it?

Make It Work!

Make It Work!

I know we will find ways to help work through these changes.  Is it going to be easy? No, but nothing worth having ever is.

Getting The New Card – First let’s start with what we know about this new system.  It will be different in some aspects, but similar in others.  The Guest concerned will still need to acquire a card at the start of their stay.  There is conflicting evidence as to how long the card is going to be issued for.  I am going to be optimistic and lean to the side that so long as you can prove you are not just a day visitor Disney will extend it through your trip.  So, we all know this process this is pretty similar to what we have experienced that first time we go to a park.  You go into Guest Relations, you present the member of your party who will need added accommodations and speak with the Cast Member.

Next, we are going to have to leap off here a bit as this goes into territory unknown.  I know how uneasy that makes us, but let’s say that the reports are true that there will be a designated kiosk in each land.  Okay, so let’s make sure we note those and memorize their location in order to get acquainted.  Last I heard reported there were to be 4 in Disneyland and 3 in Disney’s California Adventure.  It is probably a good idea to ask while at Guest Relations for that Cast Member to place them on the map for you before you leave so you have a continual frame of reference.

Working With The Kiosks – When we attended Radiator Racers, there wasn’t a line at the kiosk.  As well though it wasn’t placed in the best area, right across from the entrance to the ride.  This made our son think he was going on the ride right then which I was not prepared for as we hadn’t ever used the GAC like this.  So the next time what I did was before we even got near the area I did a social story with him, then in succinct and direct language I informed him we were going to get a ticket to go on Radiator Racers but he had to help me.  Could he help me do that? He was happy to.  So we got our return Fast Pass and he was able to ignore the entrance.  Next we did quite a bit in Cars Land, as in the evening a lot of the attractions were only 5-10 minute waits.

But, my advice for working with the kiosks, is now that we know they are coming, pre-teach.  Talk to your child in the way you know how.  Make them a part of the process.  I would also reach out to them to help you, as I think most of our children do want to help as much as they are able.  Once they do, they feel a sense of accomplishment. Then it becomes the standard.  But, if you were to approach it without pre-teaching, talking about it, or including them I could see where the walking to the kiosk instead of the ride could present problems just off the bat.  It’s going to all be in your approach.  You know your child and what they need to hear.

Working with the Cast Members – I think it goes without saying, but if you want to seriously complain, a Front Line Cast Member is not the person to unload on.  They are working the best they can every day to make not just your family’s vacation work but thousands of others as well.  So, save your criticisms, unless they are warranted at the individual.  If you have concerns put it in writing and send it to Disney directly.  I have found with Cast Members if I am reasonable, tell them what we need (not what my son’s diagnosis is), and how they can help in a polite way I get somewhere.  If I were to scream or make a scene it helps no one.  So while these changes aren’t the best for most with Autism, it’s truly better to work with those front line CMs.

Since some don’t use the GAC to avoid the bulk of the line, but to adapt your child’s experience, again explain to that Cast Member what you need.  I don’t think there is a Cast Member alive who wants to see your child in a painful, tearful meltdown.  Explain for example “We only use the card to avoid the stretching room as it causes our son to stim and meltdown.  We are happy to wait, but can we go through the chicken exit or how should we proceed.”  See what they can do to make a reasonable accommodation.

Waiting – Oh boy, that’s a mouthful in one word.  So what do you do to pass the time.  I recommend getting a Wait Time App on your Smart Phone or Mobile.  It will help you know real time what the estimated waits are for attractions all around you in the parks.  We use this regardless as we only use the current GAC intermittently.  But it will give you a continual heads up as to what attractions nearby fit into your child’s capabilities.

Next, Disney supplies a handy times guide.  Get your hands on one as it will tell you the scheduled performances of shows and streetmosphere performers.  We spent a lot of time dancing with the live music while waiting for other members of our party to finish rides on our recent trip to Disneyland.  In fact our son got a chance to speak directly to The Bootstrappers at length about all of their instruments and got a photo with them.

Tom and the Bootstrappers, New Orleans Square

Tom and the Bootstrappers, New Orleans Square

We also waved at people on the paddle wheel boat as it passed, grabbed an ice cream sat on the bench, fed the ducks, met Princess Tiana,

Yes, he kissed her hand and said “You must KEEES Me!” Adorable.

Yes, he kissed her hand and said “You must KEEES Me!” Part of having an autodidact is they can recite whole movies. I am sure if Princess Tiana was up for it, Thomas would have acted out the entire film.

found treasure in the Pirates store and all our other family did was ride Pirates of the Caribbean!  Another time he danced with the Disneyland Jazz band on Main Street while waiting on other members to finish shopping.  They came right up to him while he moved and danced around the band, it was a great time!

Fast Pass, DAS and Standby -The good thing about this system I see at the offset is it won’t work on the same system as the FastPasses.  So currently you will be able to get a DAS handwritten pass, get a Fast Pass for another attraction and hopefully get in the standby for a shorter attraction.

We’ve waited in the standby several times for many quick moving attractions.  The hardest for our son was Alice.  But, I pulled out his Nintendo and he played that after he started to get frustrated waiting.  Another thing, I ask him if he wants to wait for the attraction.  He looks at the line and he makes that call.  For something like Pirates, he will only go on it once for his brother, he won’t wait but 5 minutes and he is done.  But for Alice he waited over 25 minutes in line because he loves it and was invested.  So we ask him.

Work with your app or sign boards to find other attractions that work within the given time frame.  See a show, explore.  Disney isn’t just about how many rides you get done.  At least that’s not why I keep coming back over and over.  It’s that sense of place.  It’s a great place to be with your family period and the lands themselves are attractions so soak it up and explore.  There are veritable encyclopedias dedicated to hidden magic at the parks.

We loved calling to Figaro to “WAKE UP!” while we waited.

We loved calling to Figaro to “WAKE UP!” while we waited.

Become a connoisseur.  Also, something my family loves to do is wander and find Hidden Mickeys.  Maybe it appeals to that OCD in our son, but he loves to “collect and categorize” them.  Find what works here, but you couldn’t ask for a better tapestry to pull from than a Disney Park.

Before You Go:

Prepare Visual Aids – We usually travel with one or more visual aid for our son.  This helps him when he is getting stimmed or heightened even from the surroundings to be able to tell me what he needs without having to use words if he does not have them.  Sometimes the first thing to go when he gets very heightened are his words and ability to emote.  He can still communicate via sign language or pointing at visuals to let me know what he needs or how he is feeling.

I feel...

I feel…

I  need...

I need…

Make A Priority List – As with all trips I am sure you have a list of things you really want to see and those you can miss.  Make everyone’s “A” priority list, basically, these things HAVE to happen on the trip.  It should be fairly realistic though.  Next B, then C.

Watch YouTube Videos – Yes, watch videos of the attractions to prepare your child and you for what to expect, but also try to find some that show the lines.  I guess I always think the best defense is a good offense, and I start to communicate to our son that we may have to wait for this, or that, but look at we’ll see.  I recommend infaMOUSE Project on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/infaMOUSEproject?feature=mhee.  He gets it, as a parent to a son with Autism, he gets what you need to see to help your child prepare.  I cannot recommend his videos enough.

Prepare Your Tech – We have been fortunate in that we don’t always bring our iPhones, iPads, Nintendo DS, etc. into the parks.  But, there are times where it’s necessity even with touring with the GAC.  So make sure the battery life on all your devices is up to snuff.  Maybe put a few new puzzle game apps (Where’s My Mickey, Cut The Rope, Angry Birds Star Wars) or Apps for children with Autism on your device to help pass time in line if you need to get into a stand by line during this process.  Also if your battery starts to fail don’t worry.  There are charging stations in the locker area on Main Street.  For 2 bucks you can charge away.

Work With Staff – Let the teachers, paras, and staff at the school know you will be going on this trip and that there have been some changes to the established system which may require more waiting, more patience skills, calm down methods, tools for communication etc. You would be surprised a the vast resources I have found just by mentioning a problem we are having while traveling or in our home life.  Often they can work on these skills in Occupational Therapy settings and Speech as well.  The mainstream classroom also has established guidelines, everyone takes a turn, everyone waits in line for their lunch, everyone has a to do their work, etc. I rely on certain buzz words to re-direct our son and we work with our school to communicate those so he responds better when he is starting to have a melt down.

While Touring

Try To Stay Positive – I know that is easier said than done, as even we adults can feel like having a meltdown.  But, I have noticed the more stressed and upset I am those impressions come through on our sons.  Our child with Autism is very adept at reading our signals and if I am being negative he tends to pick up on it and respond.  But, if I approach in a very positive way everything as an adventure, something fun, let’s try this! He is more apt to go along.  I can’t count the number of times where I was positive about something, like Radiator Racers, and he may have had concerns but he did it, then it became his favorite.  It’s all in how YOU present these changes while you tour and how you work with them.

This is the kiddo who had a meltdown about Radiator Racers the day before. Once on, he couldn't wait to go again!

This is the kiddo who had a meltdown about Radiator Racers the day before. Once on, he couldn’t wait to go again! Some great things can happen if you are positive about the experience!

Properly Motivate – I can’t be the only parent out there that has bargained with their child with Autism.  When properly motivated I have seen our son do things he previously was very frightened of only to realize there was nothing to be scared about.  Say we are waiting in the stand by and he starts to get upset.   If I casually remind him that after this we will be going back to the Hotel so he can watch movies in the Lobby, the about face he does is astonishing.  If it’s something he really and truly wants he will wait (as long as he is capable) for it.  He is willing to compromise and work together for something he really wants to do, and be more flexible with his brother and those of us traveling with him.  But, I have to keep my promises.  The carrot has to be given.

One of our sons' favorite things about going to Disney? The cartoons in the lobby and "their" size rocking chairs.  Figure out your child’s happy and try to motivate and compromise.

One of our sons’ favorite things about going to Disney? The cartoons in the lobby and “their” size rocking chairs. Figure out your child’s happy and try to motivate and compromise.

Remain Hydrated – You ever come to realize that your child is hot.  Like hotter than usual?  And they are cranky, and not really rational?  They are probably not getting enough fluids.  Being hydrated while you tour can help your child remain calmer, it can also help them to reason better, and you too.  The human brain is better able to make choices when hydrated.  So push the fluids.

Rest – I think it’s safe to say most of us don’t tour crazy commando style.  But, also (and this goes hand in hand with what I wrote about taking in the lands), relax for a bit in the shade.  Eat some popcorn, feed the ducks, eat some ice cream, listen to a band or just watch the boats move on the water.  You paid to get in, but you aren’t going to “SEE” the parks if you are running around from ride to ride.  Establish a pace of relaxing occasionally so that when you come home you don’t need a vacation from your vacation.

You can also see our list on Quiet Places and Spaces at Disneyland here to help you regroup: http://wdwdreamin.com/2013/09/14/quiet-places-spaces-at-disneyland-and-disneys-california-adventure/

As well we have recently published an article on Quiet Places and Spaces you can use at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World

How To Tour – We discovered that getting to the parks for Early Entry was simply the way to go.  A lot of people would rather stay late than be up early.  But, having a child with Autism we are up anyhow.  So we make the best of it.  We go into whichever park has the early entry on that morning, do what we can and get a few things off our priority list through a combination of GAC (now DAS), FastPasses, and Standby.  Then about lunch time we head back to the hotel for swimming, naps, food, and then back out in the cool of the evening.  We were the first on Radiator Racers in the morning and the last Guests on Main Street that evening, and it was a wonderful experience.  But, find what works for your family so that tempers are cooler, everyone feels like they are heard and that the system now coming works as well.

In conclusion – Do I think that the current system is set in stone? No.  Like all things with Disney they will continually tweak as they learn real time from Guests what is not working.  They will have to abide by laws, but also their own recent experiences in accommodating Guests from now on, but I don’t think Disney is going to throw this system out there and not seek opinions. Also, do I think my suggestions alone are the way to go? Absolutely not.  I am sharing anecdotes, snippets of what works for us and what I have done to help our child remain calm at the Parks and yes get further and further from fully using the GAC in the first place.  I am fully aware (see previous posts on this issue) that there are those who won’t be able to adapt immediately and valid points and concerns are being raised.  I wanted to line out some ideas here that may work in the interim as we work through these changes.

If you tour with the DAS I would love to hear from you and I am sure Disney would too.  The only way to make something like this better is to let someone know what was positive and what didn’t work.  That’s the only way I can see this new system becoming the new way to help many.

Update: Since this post was published Disney released it’s Official FAQ and Guidebooks.  Both of these can be found on our blog at the following links:

http://wdwdreamin.com/2013/10/05/disney-releases-guide-for-guests-with-cognitive-disabilities-including-autism/

http://wdwdreamin.com/2013/10/04/official-from-disney-parks-regarding-updates-to-das/

How are you planning to help your loved one adapt to these changes?  Let us know in the comments below!

My Initial Reaction to the Announced Changes to the GAC System at the Disney Parks

Author’s Note: This is my reaction to changes announced via several social media sites and blogs.  I may change my opinion once I have toured with the new system and speak with Guest Relations further after the implementation.  As well this post is not meant to whine, or argue, or upset.  It’s simply meant to inform others as to what it is like currently and what I see could be the possible ramifications.  I always welcome questions about Autism and welcome a civil discussion on this topic.

Image

Today it was announced that effective October 9th, 2013 some changes will be implemented to the current Guest Assistance Card procedures at Disney’s Parks in North America.  Since the story broke of wide spread abuse in the system this past May, those of us who use the system with our families to tour the parks had waited for the changes to roll out.  There are changes I welcome, a photograph included on the pass to make sure the person to whom the pass was initially issued to is indeed the one presented and asking for assistance at the attractions.  But, there is another change that kind of misses the mark, and I will detail why.

While the current GAC never guaranteed a front of the line pass to Guests, what it did help with was an alternative entrance for those with a Disability.  Basically it would go like this, find the Cast Member at the front of the attraction, present your GAC, they check to make sure the person on the card is indeed there and the number in your party and then direct you to the designated GAC entrance for the attraction.  For us, with our son who is diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder, we usually receive 1 of 3 responses: Go in the Exit, Go in the FastPass line, Return at a designated time with a Handwritten FastPass.  Then w wait in that line or come back at the designated time, board an adaptive ride vehicle(if we’re traveling with Mammaw), or ride in a standard through the alternate entrance, then exit.  Repeat process.

The new system set to premier next month changes the process in that instead of presenting our party at each attraction for admittance, we now will go to a Guest Relations specific kiosk in each area, get issued a return pass for a specific attraction based on that attraction’s current wait time (-5 to 10 minutes depending on the location of the kiosk), then find something else to do with our time.  For those who use mobility assistive devices it changes their course as well.  At specific attractions that are already ADA compliant, they will be asked to go into the standard queue.  This includes all of Disney’s California Adventure, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot and some of Magic Kingdom at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  There are plans for updating the current attraction queues at the remaining attractions over the next few years to make them all ADA compliant.  But, I wonder if any Disney Manager who made this decision has done the switchback do si do with a wheelchair?  It’s not easy.

As a Mom to a child with a Developmental Disability I always have to look at possible negative outcomes from changes to everything that may effect him. I look at the positive too, as by design I am an Optimistic person, but it’s something you train yourself to do over the course of your parenthood.  Say you go up to the kiosk you get your return time for the attraction your family wants to ride and it’s 60 minutes later.  There are no other attractions you can go on with a wait time that fits in your child’s window of abilities or interest.  You could of course shop or eat, but how many shops can you really go in while at Disney?  I know it’s hard to be in stores with our children period, let alone to kill time continuously.  As well, what if you’ve already eaten or your reservation isn’t until later?  Eating is out then.  Do you sit and wait?  What?

Also what about Peak or Holiday times where even wait times for fast moving queues can mean upwards of 30 minutes or more?  If you already have a DAS pass, and the attraction does not give Fast Passes, can you go on anything else at that point?  And yes, some families with Special Needs are limited to Peak or Holiday travel just the same as families without, due to school schedules, etc.  Honestly if you could go to Guest Relations and say choose your attractions with the DAS and schedule your day based on your needs then I would honestly have no problem.  The Logistics of Touring with this new system and Disabilities can easily mean those who utilize it can miss a great many things because unlike those who don’t have a Disability we are all already having to tour at a slower pace or adapt our park experiences already due to our family’s capabilities.

I will give an example, my son does not have the best muscle tone.  This is a similar case with a great many children who have Autism.  As many of them refuse to eat certain foods because their bodies literally go into shock and force the food out, I’ve heard texture issues bantered about sarcastically, but it’s very real, and very frightening when you can’t get your child to eat.  If you visit Autism message boards you will hear this refrain as well, since most children and adults with Autism are notoriously picky eaters.  On top of this, they are also prone to having Gross Motor and Fine Motor Development Delays.  Where most kids can walk a balance beam, peddle a tricycle, catch a bouncing ball, or even tackle the stairs well, children with Autism spend countless hours in Occupational Therapy or Adaptive Physical Education to even be able to keep up.  Their brains and bodies don’t coordinate well.  I know it’s a very long example, but it explains in some ways why low muscle tone can be present in these children.  What this means is either we rent large strollers, wheelchairs, or we take a slower pace as once our children get tired yes it can lead to meltdowns.  And our kiddos on top of having low muscle tone are also combating the sensorial buffet that surrounds them at a Disney Park.  By the end of the day, my son who usually would stay up for an hour calming himself enough to go to sleep, will crash after being at the parks.  Does this mean we should forfeit going?  No, he loves it, wouldn’t trade it for anything.  But, we do have to slow down, and also there is no going all day long.

Another issue is that while most families who don’t travel with a member who has a disability ride an attraction once and then move on, there are times where we will ride the same attraction over and over and over.  Children with Developmental Delays can latch on or nest to a specific attraction.  For our son he has an attraction per park that he uses as his home base, a safe zone: Magic Kingdom, Haunted Mansion; Epcot- Spaceship Earth in Future World, Saludos Amigos in World Showcase; Muppet Vision 3-D at DHS; Kilamanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom.  This is common amongst other children with cognitive or developmental delays.  In fact we use nesting as a calming technique for our son at school.  He has his own corner that is his Switzerland, his safe spot where he goes on his own cognizance when he knows he is becoming overwhelmed.  So at Disney we end up riding some attractions over and over.  This pass will limit that capability substantially for these kids and adults.  We will adapt, sure, but they will be far less calm while waiting in the lines.

I say this so you understand that yes we got an Assistance Card, we didn’t use it every time, but it did somewhat help to make up for lost time.  And with it, we got to see attractions we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to experience due to time.  Now we will either have to extend our stay, choose a very off season to go, or forfeit those experiences entirely.  And no, my family didn’t use the GAC to get away with cheating the system, though the looks and comments and yes interaction from Guest Relations Cast Members we got sometimes made me feel awful.  We used it in order to help our son enjoy his visit and help keep him calm and free from stemming too much.  I wish I had the words to explain what touring is like for my son.  I wish I could plant us all in the brain of someone with a disability for just an hour.  Unfortunately on the outset I fear this new system has missed the mark.  I hope I am wrong and the whole thing goes swimmingly and these kids and adults are effected in very limited ways.  But at the outside I worry.

My Open Letter to Disneyland Guest Relations RE: Save Court des Anges!

Dear Disneyland Guest Relations,

copyright Disney

copyright Disney

Those not deeply involved in the operations and day to day of the Disneyland Resort may not miss the Court of the Angels. If you aren’t a California native in fact you may have no nostalgia for the quiet spot in New Orleans Square that sits off the main walk. But, if you are lucky enough in the coming months you may be able to help save the Court des Anges, Court of Angels.

For a bit of history, the Court has been a part of the Disneyland Park since New Orleans Square was opened in 1966 and remains to this day. Over the past decades of operations this quiet spot has become a lovely out of the way place where countless Guests have retreated from the hustle and bustle of the Park; family portraits have been taken here, wishes made in the fountain, breaths caught in it’s beauty. As well it exists solely to be a beautiful corner, it has no restaurant, no attraction other than a chance for Walt‘s Imagineers to show their talent to the Guests. Even in that vein, it has become an attraction unto itself. To quote John Hench:

“When we approach the design of a land from a conceptual perspective, we work to make the place convincing in every way. The rides are not the only attraction; the land itself is an attraction as well.” – John Hench, Disney Artist & Imagineer

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copyright Disney

It’s pedigree is one of legend. Designed by none other than Disney Legend, Herb Ryman. Mr. Ryman was one of Walt’s most trusted designers and in fact Walt specifically chose Herbert Ryman to provide the concept sketches for what would become Disneyland to investors and the public. Herbert Ryman also accompanied the select Disney animators and artists who went along with Walt and Lily Disney to South America, see Walt and El Grupo for more on that.

To add insult to injury the reason for the demolition is really one that I can’t support. It is being destroyed to make way for a Lobby for an exclusive Club (Club 33) that not a great many Guests can even enjoy. Seriously. I understand that the Parks were never intended to be museums, and Walt himself wanted to see them constantly changing. Being a frequent traveler to WDW I understand change, believe me. But, for such a purpose I can’t support it, and especially when the Court means so much to so many past and present Guests.

The Court exists simply to be a place for beauty for beauty’s sake. For our family, and other family’s traveling with Special Needs, it has served a purpose though. It’s a beautiful but quiet spot we can calm our children who may be stemming from too much stimulation, or sensory data in the surrounding areas. It’s uniqueness, tranquility, and coolness in the heat of the day provides a balm to an overwhelming experience for some visitors. Even I, someone who loves to go go go! on a Disney trip, loved simply sitting within it’s walls and soaking up it’s ephemeral qualities. I encouraged my children to make wishes in the well, if anything to say that they had that experience before it was demolished. If you had asked me to place Court des Anges on the map of Disneyland 6 months ago, I couldn’t have done so. But it left such an indelible impression on my brief visits there during our last and first vacation to Disneyland that I cannot stand the idea of it no longer being there.

I implore you, please find some other solution. When I think of Disney, I don’t think how great that Lobby is for a restaurant I probably will never see the inside of. I think of little inconspicuous spots like Court des Anges. Beautiful places that show how Disney is different from your average theme park experience, unique palettes you give your artists, your Imagineers, to strut their talents and impress your Guests.

Sincerely,

Amy J. Hughes

Owner, Up and Up Travel, LLC

Former Walt Disney World Cast Member

Lover of all things Disney Past, Present and Future

Companion Restrooms at Walt Disneyworld and Disneyland

disney_family_bathroom

These are incredibly useful if you have a special needs child, are a single parent traveling with your children or otherwise need to monitor or help your children due to age when you cannot accompany them inside of the restroom.  They are also perfect for those in mobility devices or with difficulty balancing and are large enough to accommodate someone to help.

We use these with our child who has Autism as he can become worried about the loud flushing in the restrooms and can panic. As well, since he is getting near 10, it’s not so easy to drag him into the Ladies Room any longer

Important! All First Aid locations have companion-assisted restrooms.

Animal Kingdom

Discovery Island

Opposite Flame Tree Barbecue, just before DinoLand USA bridge on the right

Africa

Near the Mombasa Marketplace

Dinoland USA

Near Chester and Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures

Asia

Near Maharajah Jungle Trek on the left before the entrance

Inside Maharajah Jungle Trek to the right as you exit the Bat House

Expedition Everest Restrooms

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Conservation Station
Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Star Tours/Mickey Ave.

Opposite Star Tours

Right side of Millionaire building on Mickey Avenue

Sunset Blvd.

Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Restrooms to the left of the Entrance of the Gates

Opposite The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Fantasmic! amphitheater

Backlot

Right side of Lights, Motors, Action!

Pixar Place

Restrooms at Toy Story Midway Mania

Epcot

Future World

Spaceship Earth On Left as you face SE

Future World West opposite The Land

Future World East opposite Test Track

Soarin’ Restrooms – Inside Land Pavilion

World Showcase

Right side of World Showcase –  just before you get to Canada

Morocco, right hand side

Germany, right hand side

Norway opposite the Viking ship

 

Magic Kingdom

Lower level of Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Castle

Near Pinnochio Village Haus

Next to Gaston’s Tavern

Near Casey Jr. Splash N Soak Station

Adventureland

Pirates of the Caribbean to the right on the road to Frontierland

Frontierland

Near Splash Mountain

Tomorrowland

To the right of Space Mountain

Toontown

Mickey’s Toontown Fair

 

Outside the Parks

Transportation and Ticket Center 

East Gate

Polynesian Resort

Great Ceremonial House 2nd Floor opposite the ‘Ohana Restaurant in the Hallway

Blizzard Beach Water Park

To the rear of the Locker area on the north side of Main Change.

Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

Near Guest Services
Fantasia Gardens Mini-Golf
Located before getting on the course

Winter Summerland Mini-Golf – Not available

Downtown Disney Marketplace
Once Upon a Toy Store – inside restroom area
Between Guest Relations and Once Upon a Toy Store – outside
Near the Memories shop at the Marketplace

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

At the Champion Stadium

At the Tennis Complex

Track and Field Restrooms

Jostens Center

 

Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure

While a smaller list, they are still well placed!

Disneyland:
Main Street, U.S.A. – (northeast end): First Aid and in

Frontierland – near the entrance to the Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante

California Adventure
The first aid center found in the Golden State

“a bug’s land” – outside Flik’s Flyers

Car’s Land – Restrooms by Flo’s V8 Cafe

Resorts

In the hotels facilities are located in the lobby of each Hotel tower.

And at the Disneyland Hotel, facilities are also located in the Convention Center lobby, near Steakhouse 55.

Quiet Places & Spaces at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure

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As Moms & Dads we all know the signs of when our children with Autism are stemming or if your family just needs to regroup for a moment.  It could be toe walking, a hand to the mouth and echolalia, raised shoulders, tense necks, heightened vocal pitch, hand flapping, rocking, the list goes on.  But, I think it’s safe to say most of our children have a physical tell that let’s us know the processing of the senses is becoming overwhelmed or emotions are starting to rule the day.  So what do you do in a theme park to help them calm down after stemming or having a full meltdown?  Where can you go to do establish a plan, perform mild OT, pressure, rocking, iPads or whatever your recovery methods may be?

We have made a list of quiet out of the way spots at Disneyland for both parks that if you should find yourself in these situations will remove you from the crowd a bit, provide a quiet and hopefully shady spot and allow your child to calm.  Disney is a “Sensorial Buffet” so it is not uncommon for even the most highly functioning child with Autism to stem a few times throughout the day.  Even NT parents have let me know this list has helped them to regroup in the parks.  These respites help them (and you) to catch your breath as you tour and dim the senses a bit while providing comforting surroundings.

Disneyland

Early in the Day

Main Street U.S.A.

Near First Aid – This is down Main Street and as you face the Castle hang a right before the Plaza restuarant.  I had the opportunity to observe this area in the morning for over 90 minutes while we ate and it was free from a great deal of traffic, transportation, streetmosphere etc.  Later in the day it does pick up.

Near Mad Hatter Shops – This early there may be a character or two near here.  And later in the day the Main Street Band comes out through the gates to the left as you face the shops.  But early in the day it’s quieter here as most Guests are moving through and out.

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Shops on Main Street (Gibson Girl especially) – We had to use Gibson Girl at 9 am on our day of arrival.  It was a good stop as it had seating, wasn’t too overwhelming and was close to Carnation Cafe which is where we were eating breakfast.  It was air conditioned as well and at 9 am there wasn’t too much call for ice cream.  As well most of your shops will be fairly quiet at this time of day so while the other members of your party browse and scope out purchases you can find a quiet corner if need be without too much trouble.IMG_2514

Later In The Day

First Aid Station – Back of Main Street

As the day goes on Main Street will become busier and busier in traffic and activity.  It’s safe to say that the hustle and bustle of Entertainment, Horse Drawn Carts, Music, Food, etc. can become a bit overwhelming.  However the First Aid Station is a bit quieter (and air conditioned).  I have had to use the First Aid Station before and when coming in, I simply state I need a quiet spot with my son to help him calm down.  There are chairs in the lobby and we don’t dally, but we move through his calm down methods so he can tackle Main Street with more clarity.

End of Main Street

As you exit on the left hand side there is a long walkway that leads to restrooms.  It’s shaded and quieter, removed from traffic as a whole.  If the sounds, sights, and smells become too much this is a good little retreat for a short stop over.

On top of the Train Station Platform – There is a brick patio with benches overlooking the whole of Main Street.  Now, this is raised up so if your child has a tendency to run, not a good option, but if they just want to sit and calm for a few, it gets them above the din of Main Street and as well the Train is a lovely ride that will take you wherever you need to go in the park without having to walk down and through again.  Not to mention, late in the day it’s shaded and there are some nice breezes that come through there.  If you time it right you will also have first rate seats for the 6:00 pm Flag Retreat as a bonus.

As of right now I cannot recommend the shops on Main Street as quiet places later in the day, because well they are stores and stores are designed to entice, have color, etc.  those colors only become more pronounced as the daylight gets dimmer and the crowds increase.  Plus at the later time of day they are packed with Guests getting those last souvenirs before heading out or getting settled for the fireworks.

Adventureland

This is a very tough spot to find out of the way locales, unlike it’s WDW counterpart.  The reason is the way it was designed and constructed.  It is meant to have the feel of being a crowded marketplace in some far off corner of the globe, so you get pressed in together to give that feeling.  However there are a couple of places we used to calm our son here, on the side and in the shade.

Near Jungle Cruise, under the awning – There is a shop that sells cold (ice cold!) water and fresh fruit.  It also has a canopy that hangs out and a bench that runs along it’s backside.  The other side of the bench and fence lead to the line for Jungle Cruise and it’s inbetween the GAC accessible entrance and the standard entrance for the attraction, The Indiana Jones FP distribution is also nearby.  We had a stop over here and it worked pretty well to get a calmed kiddo before jumping on Jungle Cruise.  As most folks aren’t walking back this way, they are either in line or out in the street moving along it is shaded and out of the way, plus you have access to freezing cold water so bonus!

Near Tarzan’s Treehouse – The bridge that leads to New Orleans Square should be right in front of you as well as the back side of the line for Pirates.  Near Tarzan and in between here is a shady spot, no seating but a good out of the way place to just breath for a few minutes, maybe do some standing joint compression, or allow your child the space to get some free movement going without worry.  It’s not HUGE, but it’s something in an otherwise crowded locale 🙂

New Orleans Square

Court of Angels – This is the creme de la creme of quiet spots for calming your kiddo.  Limited exits, it exists simply as a beautiful spot to add that oomph to an otherwise gorgeous palette of New Orleans Square (well done Imagineers!).  It is out of the way, has stairs to sit upon, shaded and did I mention beautiful?

Near the Waterfront – Again if your child likes to run off when stemming, might not be the best place to calm, but I noticed a few times that this spot was free of a great deal of traffic, the breezes coming off the water felt wonderful, it has some shade but it remained a place our son went to look out at the boats going by.  His signal that he was back to calm?  He would wave at other people out on the water, turn and say okay. 🙂  Please Note: Later in the day this area will become crowded due to it being the location for Fantasmic! This is more for morning or afternoon, by 6 or 7 there will be more people in the area.

Plus along the water you never know who might be there to greet you:

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Near the Railroad Depot – There is some lovely shade in this area, the opportunity for ice cream or cold water once more, benches and breezes.  As well please note you are on the backside of a restaurant that features live music and the train whistle does blow occasionally.  However, it’s out of the way of most Guests and you are able to sit for a spell.  If your child has noise sensitivity I recommend ear coverage in this area as if they are stemming the ambient noise could be a bit much, but otherwise it’s a good iPad and Social Story location 🙂

Wow your family with this one. The telegraph machine is clicking away in the distance at the depot.  Want to know what it is transmitting?  It is none other than Walt Disney’s opening day speech from July 1955 over and over. 😉

Frontierland

Waterfront – Again I recommend this as a literal cool spot.  This area is consistently prettyshaded, cooler due to it’s proximity to water and I noticed if you are on the extreme outside of the walkway, most people aren’t in that area and stick to the center.  I’ve sat on plenty of pavement on the outside of the Disney walkways since I was little and most of the time it’s an okay spot to sit.  Is it ideal?  No.  But it will do in a pinch!

Big Thunder Ranch Area –  While we visited unfortunately the area was closed for refurbishment.  But as a bonus it was VERY quiet.  So it was a nice quiet area to transition into another highly populated area (Fantasyland) with a quiet walk to allow our son to process.  There is a restaurant back in this area and a character meet N greet spot to the right as you head into Fantasyland so bewarned on the popular spots.  In the evening though?  Great location as most folks are using it just for a pass through.

Fantasyland

Okay, this is another location like Adventureland.  Depending on when you go in the year, and what time of day, this could be the most popular area of the park.  You may  have some tight quarters, and some VERY tight spots (Tea Cups and Alice come to mind).  I take our son (actually both of them) aside and do some preteaching before we go in to Fantasyland.  I simply set the expectations, but I also state they must not run off, they must stay with their Dad and I and hold someone’s hand at all times.  Not to scare you but it can be very crowded in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in these locations and better safe than sorry.  Are there some quiet spots?  You bet, but there are a lot of Guests with younger children as well.

Back of Mickey and the Magical Map – As I tweeted during the show, it’s fun but LOUD!  My advice remains the same if you have a child who can easily stem, check it out from the very back of the theater.  Not only are you close to the restrooms if your child is like mine and ignores that impulse in favor of watching, you are close to the snack and ice cream carts, the noise isn’t quite so loud and we found the handicap accessible viewing perfect and not too crowded for that time of day.

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As you enter Fantasyland, eatery and tables on your right – This area is a wide expanse that later in the day and evening is not very crowded.  As well early in the am, not crowded either.  Mid-day it’s a sea of people.  But, it has bottled water nearby, seating a shade.  The trifecta.  As well there are restrooms very close by.  We tend to travel with iPhones, Nintendo DS, or an iPad.  So if our son is stemming he usually asks for one of these to view while he calms.  I do push water every time we sit down because it’s a great time to rehydrate and your decision making skills are improved when your hydrated!  Never pass up the opportunity to drink water! 🙂

Near It’s A Small World – Believe it or not this area was fairly quiet when we went.  There is an area situated back by the train depot, Mickey’s Magical Map (which isn’t showing all the time, but be aware it can be loud), and It’s A Small World that was pretty quiet and shaded.  As well there are restrooms back at the theater.Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 12.16.54 PM

Staging Area Under the Monorail, near It’s A Small World – During the parade this is a highly congested area.  But, otherwise it has several benches and the monorail up above.  It’s not shaded but it does get you out of the stream of traffic and on to a bench.

Near the Matterhorn, benches on the left as you head to Tomorrowland – This area is highly shaded. has seating, food and water.  As well if you have other members of your party going on Matterhorn its a great location to simply wait and veg for a few.  Take care of you too 🙂

Tomorrowland

Near Mickey’s Star Traders, Benches near Water Area – There is a seating in the round near Mickey’s Star Traders and Space Mountain.  The benches form a circle with a water feature with a giant round boulder in the middle seemingly supported by the water itself.  I love this spot because of it’s tactile applications.  When your child is sensory seeking it’s a great place for them to try and roll the boulder in the water or sit in the shade and watch other children attempt the same.  There is a water and fresh fruit cart very close by and it sits between two areas that if you had members of your party going on Star Tours or Space Mountain they could find you easily.

Landscaping Outcropping Near Water Cart and Counter Service – We sat on this ledge a few times during our weekend while we rehydrated.  It’s close enough to the ground it’s safe but high up enough you won’t have difficulty just sitting down.  Water and shade abound and it’s off the path.

Red Rocket’s Pizza Port – They have a patio area in this section which is really great to sit in the evening.  My husband sat here with our sons while the remaining members (including me) went on Space Mountain with our Fast Passes.  Again, water, shade, seating, restrooms.  All close by and a good spot to relax.

Please Note: At night there is a concert in Tomorrowland that can be very loud on top of every thing else.  If your child stems or has meltdowns from noise ear wear or avoiding the area after dark is probably a very good idea!

 

Disney’s California Adventure

Hollywood Pictures Backlot

Muppet Vision 3-D/ Monsters Inc. Area – Early in the day to early evening only!  This area is fairly quiet, shaded and yes has access to water and restrooms nearby.  At night the Mad T Party starts up and this area can be VERY loud.  Again If your child stems or has meltdowns from noise ear wear or avoiding the area after dark is probably a very good idea!

a bug’s land

Benches inside a bug’s land – In the shade, the Companion restrooms in bug’s land are just a bit away, water and access to rides if your child opts to not go on and you need to wait for other members of your party.  bug’s land is also a pass through from the Hollywood area to the Golden State Area of the park if you need a quicker route than going all the way around. IMG_2686

Car’s Land –

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This recreation of Radiator Springs overwhelmed our son to begin with.  It could have been the heat, the asphalt, the noise, but after he processed he said it was almost too real.  Which I have to agree with, it is a very real representation of Radiator Springs.  If I had known just how accurate I would have done Social Stories or some pre-teaching to show reality/make believe a bit.  Just a precaution but if your kiddo has trouble with being overwhelmed by items being “too real” prep them.

Near Radiator Racers and by Flo’s V8 Cafe – There is a road back this way that allows you to watch the Racers behind a fence. This walkway also has seating on your left as you face the Racers.  There are restrooms nearby and shade.  If you were to continue walking on this path you would end up at the Pier, so again a shortcut that not a lot of people take if you need to get away from the population for a bit.

Near Luigi’s Flying Tires – Again the same road but going to opposite direction.  I noticed that you can watch the ride from this location, but also it seemed less crowded than the main drag in Radiator Springs.

Back by the Stanley Statue – Oh Stanley.  The area near the fire house/station is a good spot, in the shade most of the day and you can wait here as well if you have someone on Radiator Racers.  Not a lot of people come to visit Stanley from what we saw, and in a pinch it’s a good spot to be out of the way and calm down.

Paradise Pier

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When you think of quiet, calm places, the last thing you probably think of is an area full of people, screaming coasters, lights, music, smells, sounds, you know your basic Carnival atmosphere. Yeah, I know it’s not optimal.  But, if you should find yourself in Paradise Pier and your child is starting to stem here are some places we found helpful.

Benches on the Water – Again if your child wants to run, maybe get away from the water.  But, if they want to sit, rock, play on their iPad or other electronics I found the benches by the water to be ideal.  There are food courts a plenty nearby, water, restrooms near the California Screamin’ entrance and yes, I even caught a few folks napping here so it can be quieter than on the actual boardwalk.  My son and I sat here for some time to calm, eat a hot dog and look out over the water with the boardwalk in the background and I found it refreshing.  He did too as soon after he asked if it was time to go on Toy Story yet.

On the other side of the water there are more benches facing Paradise Pier with it safely in the distance.  So if your child shows trepidation going into the boardwalk this may be a good transition area to sit and watch the happenings from afar and allow them to make that call.

Golden State Area

Near Grizzly River Rapids – I discovered this as a happy accident.  See, this past time to Disneyland was my first time to Disneyland and well while I knew Walt Disney World like the back of my hand, I got turned around plenty in Disneyland (ergo why I now know all the shortcuts!)  But, on our first venture into Disney’s California Adventure I took a left instead of a right and ended up on this path around Grizzly River Rapids.  It’s a quiet, cool, shady spot that wraps around the attraction.  There are photo spots a plenty and yes, you can go near the water for some spray and to watch other guests come down the falls.    But also if your child prefers to walk out their stemming it’s a good spot to do just that!

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Near Soarin’ – There is a WIDE path here at the entrance to Soarin’ that yep we stemmed and ran around in for a good 5 minutes until our son processed through the fact that Soarin’ was an entirely different experience than Mickey’s Philharmagic.  Once we got him on, all was well and he asked to do it again, which we did.  But, it is a nice open area after populated paths that can give your kiddo room to roam.  As well please note that this area in higher crowds will be used as more line capacity, so can disappear in peak seasons.

So that’s about it!  If I think of anymore spots I will be sure to post them, but feel free to let me know any areas at Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure that have helped your family tour in the Comments or message us.  As well if your child is stemming and you’re in an unfamiliar area don’t hesitate to ask a Cast Member to point a quiet spot out.  I did many times for nursing moms, family’s whose children needed quiet or otherwise needed a break!

We’re always on the lookout for information that helps other family’s and guests with special needs tour more effectively!