New Disneyland Report!

Jon & Mom Disney 2014-1I’m happy to report that we survived another 12 hours at “The Happiest Place On Earth” on Saturday, and today Jonathan remembers it as Happy. Fortunately.

He was able to blot out his meltdowns, the closed attractions, long lines, etc. Mom, on the other hand, was cross-eyed by the end, but grateful that, the next day, he remembered “Happy.”

One Diagnosis? Disneyland Is No Problem. Two Or Three? Read On For Help…

On a FB comment, one mom took the time to share with me the excellent experience recently enjoyed by her 19-yr old son and his friend (both with DS), and recommended that it’s good to encourage our kids to learn to wait like everyone else and behave in the process. I heartily endorse that approach when what I call “Plain Vanilla Down Syndrome” is the case. Thumbs up to that mom and her 2 teens who had a blast, and to the many others like them.

But when there are secondary diagnoses, or–as in Jonathan’s case–tertiary diagnoses involved, you’re on a different planet. Parents in that position at Disneyland just try to get through it the best they can, giving their child the highest “Happy” possible within the limitations of those diagnoses. It helps to be able to think on your feet—and have someone in your party with long legs who can hoof it to the next Kiosk or attraction. I’ll explain:

How to Maximize the System and Make it Work for You

Jon & Rapunzel

Rapunzel and Jonathan

For those of you who know your child is going to have difficulty with waiting, with crowds and noise, etc., here is the smartest way to navigate Disney’s new disability program:

  • Go to city hall and get the “disability access service card” (DAS card)
  • “Cast members” will create the card with a picture of your child & note the number of folks in the group.
  • Tell them the first attraction you want to see.
  • They’ll write that on your pass and knock off 10 minutes from the current wait time. It’s not much, but the added benefit is that you can hop on that attraction ANYTIME after the designated time. Not so with Fast Pass: the pass must be used within an hour of the designated return time.
  • While you’re waiting to use the DAS card for your first experience, send someone from your party over to the next attraction you want to see and get a Fast Pass for that one.
  • Work both systems at the same time.
  • After you’ve finished the first ride on the DAS card, that attraction will be crossed out.
  • Then give that DAS card to ANYONE in your party and send that person ahead to the nearest Kiosk to request another attraction; reservations on the DAS card have to be done at the Kiosks, which are usually not far away from wherever you happen to be.
  • Keep working those two pass systems—Disney actually encourages this in the fine print—and you should do well.

I hope this helps others to have a great day at “The Happiest Place on Earth!”

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho!

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  • Heidi Farrow

    Thank you for clearing up the new policy for me. We went about 4 years ago with our 2 daughters (our younger daughter has Down Syndrome, Autism, is on medicine for her heart that makes her super white skin and platinum blonde head burn easily). The way the old system worked gave us a very enjoyable time. I keep wishing they would switch back.

    • Natalie Hale

      I totally agree; the previous system kept my son from meltdowns and gave us all a really happy experience. I wish they would switch back as well. The chance of that happening, I believe, is about zero. But if you have several adults in your party, you can make this work the best it can. Good luck to you and your family!

  • Katie

    There is a big range of behaviour among kids who have DS – just like there is a big range of behaviour in kids who don’t have DS.
    Even without a dual diagnosis my brothers (yes, two) would not manage Disneyland. They both have DS and one has autistic tendencies, but no diagnosis.

    At 12 they are younger than your son but they do not like waiting, large crowds of people or unfamiliar places. They also don’t like people in costumes very much, even their favourite characters (although they did LOVE meeting The Wiggles)

    It is a little sad for you to refer to going to Disneyland with a kid for whom DS is their only diagnosis. Everyone is different and I know for a fact that the more neurotypical of my brothers would not manage Disney.

    • Natalie Hale

      You’re right, of course, Katie; everyone is different and not every neurotypical individual can manage Disneyland. Even if I went to DL with only a best friend, it would not be for me! I go only to make my son happy. In this blog, I needed to specify that going to DL with a child with the single diagnosis of DS could be lovely ONLY because of comments I got from FB parents for whom it was absolutely no problem to take their child with DS there! Those comments seemed to indicate that kids with DS shouldn’t have a problem with DL, and I wanted to honor their experience while still providing help to those individuals for whom this new policy is a disaster.