As a mama with a child who has Special Needs, I know how nerve wracking it can be to take on the hustle and bustle of Walt Disney World! There’s so much planning that goes into the PERFECT Disney Vacation already and adding the stress of extra needs can seem unfathomable. No worries, mama! When it come to everything you should know for Special Needs including: dining, lines, and even parking, I’ve got your back!
I’ve been visiting Disney for years with our Special Needs son! Although, we’ve had our fair share of meltdowns mid-ride or in the center of a packed auditorium at the very beginning of a show, our successful WDW experiences FAR outweigh our tougher days! We’ve always had trouble standing for long periods of time, maintaining normal behaviors in over-stimulating environments, and have special dietary restrictions! If any of these are similar to someone in your family, you’re in the right place! These few things can help make your vacation a success with your Special Needs at Disney World!
Everything to Know about
Special Needs at Disney World
DISABILITY ACCESS SERVICE
What’s a DAS Pass?
If you have a Magic Band, your child’s DAS will be linked to their band. With the DAS, guests with disabilities and their party will receive a return time for attractions based on the current wait time of that attraction. You will not have to stand in regular queue lines since your return time will send you through the FastPass+ line when you return at your given time.
Where to get your DAS Pass?
Upon entering any of the parks, make sure to head to Guest Relations and apply for DAS (Disability Access Service). Remember to ask the cast member setting up your DAS Pass to schedule your first ride at this time!
Do I need to bring any special forms to get a DAS Pass?
The members at Guest Relations will not ask for paperwork or proof of disability but, as a Special Needs mom, we know that it never hurts to have those things on hand! Once receiving the DAS, your child will have their photo taken and logged into the system as well as those in your party!
When does a DAS Pass expire/Do I need to get a new one each day or at each park?
Your DAS will expire 60 days after receiving it and at that time, you may head back to Guest Relations to renew! The DAS Pass is good for 60 days within any of the parks. This is especially awesome for Annual Passholders like us or those guests planning on doing several Disney Vacations throughout the year!
Can I use FastPass+ Service if I have the DAS Pass?
Yes! You can also use your DAS alongside your FastPass+ selections!
How do I use the DAS Service?
- Head to the ride your child would like to ride.
- Ask a cast member at the ride entrance to schedule your DAS Pass for a check-back time Your child and their Magic Band will need to be with you in order to schedule the Check-Back Time! *If the FastPass+ Ride is low when you go to receive your Check-Back Time, they often will let you get right into the FastPass+ line without waiting for a Check-Back Time!
- Within minutes, your Check-Back Time will appear in your My Disney Experience account in the app, alongside your regular FastPass+ selections!
- Once the time has come for your Check-Back Time, head to the ride and enter through the FastPass+ queue line! Make sure to scan the band of the person assigned to the DAS Pass first, before the rest of your party enters the ride! The person/child utilizing the DAS Pass must be present when entering and boarding the attraction with their DAS.
Can I get more than 1 Check-Back Time at a time?
No. You are only allotted 1 Check-Back Time on your account per DAS Pass at any given time.
What we love most about Disney as a Special Needs family is that the cast members genuinely want to help in giving Special Needs guests the best overall experience possible! Politely letting a cast member know before boarding a ride that your child needs special care or has certain preferences can go a long way! You may have to wait a few minutes but, in the long run it can make a world of difference! Our son LOVES the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom but, he prefers a larger seat to stretch out and allow him to be more comfortable on those hard seats! Often we will request a front seat, which is larger in the leg area! The cast members are always accommodating and will either immediately queue us to the front seat when they were ready to board us or will seat us on the next boat at the front!
Another awesome thing to know about Disney (not just for their guests for special abilities) is that they offer a Rider Switch option! If you have a special needs child who either does not want to ride something with the rest of your party or who has ritualistic habits and wants to ride repeatedly, you may let the cast member know when entering the ride that you would like to use the Rider Switch option!
- Check here to see which rides offer the Rider Switch option!
- Once at the attraction, approach a Cast Member at your ride entrance with your entire party. At least 1 adult member of your party AND the Guests who are not riding at first, will be issued a Ride Switch “pass” by the Cast Member!
- The first riders in your group ride the attraction. After riding the attraction, they will locate the rest of your group waiting and will switch accompanying riders with the adult who first rode the ride!
- The second group in your family to ride will enter and board via FastPass+ queue line! The cast member will validate the Rider Switch “pass” at this time!
Let’s say you have three children. You, your husband, and your two oldest children want to ride a thrill ride while your youngest does not! Your husband can ride with one child first while you wait with your youngest and once they get off of the ride, you may now switch places with your husband and the one child to ride with your other child while your husband now waits with your youngest!
Sometimes our kids’ only option to find relief when being in an overly stimulated environment is to crouch into the stroller and close themselves off. If you are having a moment like this but, your child still wants to continue on with an attraction, let the Cast Member at the entrance of the ride know and they may be able to grant you permission to bring your stroller into the attraction! If you have any trouble, seek out the Guest Relations inside of the park and let them know your concerns and that you’d like to carry your stroller into attractions with you as if it were a wheelchair (a.k.a Stroller as Wheelchair option)!
When dining with your Special Needs at Disney World, always make sure to let cast members know if you or your child have any special dietary restrictions, especially food allergies! Disney does a great job at seeing that all dietary needs are satisfied and have even started adding more plant-based options to their menus! When it comes to food allergies, there’s no limitation to what the chef’s at Disney are willing to do for a guest!
ADR (Advanced Dining Reservations)
If you plan on making dining reservations for table service restaurants prior to your visit (or during!) make sure to add a note with your reservation if you have any special dietary restrictions or requests!
If you’re dining at one of the many Quick Service locations, make sure to let your cashier know that you have an allergy or any dietary restrictions!
If you’re at a buffet, the cast members will let you know what to stay away from on the buffet line and the restaurant’s chef will often come visit your table as well to satisfy any special requests!
When snacking at Disney World, it can be really tough as a special needs parent to choose between giving your kid an iconic Disney World treat or having a day free of sugar-induced meltdowns or later on! Pop into Guest Relations as you enter any of the parks to ask for where you can find specific items like Gluten Free snack options!
Guess what, friends?! You DON’T have to exit a park and go all the way back to your resort room for a sensory break during your Disney vacation! HALLELUJAH, am I right, mama?! There are several areas in the parks that are less crowded and GREAT for some down time if your little one needs a break! Need more than a quiet park bench? Head to the Baby Care Center in any of the parks! They’re free, air conditioned, and even have TV”s for little ones to chill out!
When entering the parking gate at any of the theme parks, make sure to either use your medical service tag on your rearview or requested to park in the Medical Overflow Parking if you are traveling without your medical service tag! Often times, even if you can not park in the designated Handicap parking, the cast members in the parking lot will guide you towards the Medical Overflow parking area which is still very close in proximity to the park entrance!