Friday, June 15, 2012

Disney World with a Special Needs child

Earlier this year we meet my sister's family at Disney World.  It was the first time all the cousins have been together, and the first time our husbands have met (long story).

I admit I was a little nervous taking a child with special need to a busy amusement park.  Her moods can be unpredictable and out of control when she is over stimulated.  I did everything I could think of to prepare her for the trip.  The trip was a success and we all had such a great time.  I cannot wait to do it again or another trip with my family.  

As I was looking on-line to find ideas on how to prepare a Disney World trip for a child with special needs I was surprised there was not a lot of information out there.

Tips for a Great trip to Disney World with a Special needs child:

1. Be Prepared.  As a mom of a special needs child I know you are already used to being prepared for everything.  Remember just because you are on vacation does not mean you do not have to be prepared.   Expect the unexpected and walk through each scenario as to what you and your spouse would do in each one.  The second part of this is to prepare the child as much as you can for what they can expect.  Example our daughter has seizure at least once a week and sometime multiple times a day.  We had to talk about what we would do if she had a seizure in the park or on a ride (which by the way she did and the cast member at Disney World was awesome.  He was calm and got her off the ride as soon and safely as he could.  He was even prepared to call an ambulance.  I send a big Thank You to the cast member on the Leo and Stitch ride that helped us).

2. Medial stuff.  Keep your medical supplies with you in your carry on.  Essential, life saving  equipment needs to be with you at all times.   My daughter has a feeding tube so to save time and money we send some of her cans of food, bags, diapers, and a connector to the hotel using a US postal service flat rate box.  I called the hotel a few day before we left to make sure it had arrived.

3. Hotel-your home away from home.  We asked the hotel what they had available to children with special needs.  They were able to provide her with a bed rail, a refrigerator for her medication, and a room on the ground floor.  Bring things to remind your child of home, like a blanket, pillow and stuffed animals.  Also make sure you scan the room for potential hazards.  

3.  Routine.  Children with special need want as much of the same routine as possible.  I know it is impossible to have exactly the same routine,  but keep the basics.  Try to eat your meals at the same time you normal do. If they have a favorite snack, bring it and give it to them.  If your child takes a nap at the same time every day make sure you go back to the hotel and let them take a nap.  Keep there bedtime as close to the normal bed time as you can. 

4. Don't be ashamed to use the Special Needs pass! Lets face it, we do not get many perks for having a special needs child.  This is one perk that I am glad we took advantage of.  It was so nice for our daughter not to be confined and overwhelmed by people crowding her.  We were also able to use her stroller as a wheelchair and get her as close to the rides as possible so we could transfer her to the ride with ease.

5. Slow Down.  We were not able to see everything, but that was alright.  We had a much happier family when we slowed down and took our time.  Most special needs children do not like to be rushed so if you can slow down, you may not see as much of the park as you want, but it will make your vacation worth it in the long run.  The best tip for us was to hit the park when it opened, then at about 11am we would go back to the hotel for lunch.  I would take the two youngest and put them (and myself) down for a nap.  My hubby and our Oldest would take a swim.  When the kids woke up from their nap around 3pm we would head back to the park.

6. Have Fun.

P.S. If you are traveling with other people be realistic about what they can expect from your family and your child.  Most people are not trying to be rude or condescending,  they just don't get it!  They have no idea what it takes to care for a child with special needs.  Be as specific as possible about what could and will happen to your child if he or she is overwhelmed, and how you will handle the situation.  For example if your child has a melt down, what will you or your spouse do?  What do you want them to do?  When people are informed and communication is open it makes for a happier time for everyone involved.

If you have any questions about traveling with a special needs child, especially one with Rett syndrome, please feel free to e-mail me or post a comment below.

Disclamer:  This is my own opinion about what made our stay at Disney World enchanting.  Each child is unique and will respond differently.