SPD Kids And Amusement Parks?

by Lisa

Our family is planning a trip to Disneyland next month. The last time we attempted this, my 5 year old daughter was 2 1/2, and we didn't understand why she hated everything about Disneyland, and cried the entire time. Wasn't this supposed to be a kids favorite place???

Well, we've learned a lot about our daughter since then, including the fact that she has SPD. She's excited about the trip, and loves Disneyland in theory-- but we're concerned that the crowds, noise and stimulation will be overwhelming to her again.

Any suggestions for helping her (and two siblings) enjoy the trip, withstand the lines and crowds, and make it a good experience for her?

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Aug 14, 2018
some ideas
by: Anonymous

Ah, Lisa... you are indeed a brave one aren't you... lol!

Seriously, I know this might be a difficult time for your daughter.

One thing that could make it less difficult is how long she has been in Occupational Therapy and what kind of progress she has made. From what you say, the worries that you are expressing, I take it she still has issues with the crowds, noises, etc. So... I would be curious to know what therapies they have done with her and at what level her symptoms are still at.

Can she go to a store NOW and not have a meltdown or get too overloaded? Can she wait in a line during normal activities you do from home? When/where/why does she meltdown and what causes it specifically? If she can't do this NOW, at home, be prepared that this trip really may not be fun for her. That said, there are things you can do (see below).

IF she is able to tolerate these things in daily life around home with activities and errands, etc., then there may be some tricks to help her get through Disneyland. If she is still struggling with these things, you will have to make her days at Disneyland very different than your other two kids.

Some things you may have to do or can try at Disneyland...

- Have her wear a weighted vest or backpack throughout the park.

- Give her an Ipod or MP3 player with headphones that she can have on with relaxing music... both to keep her body calm and to drown out some of the crowd's noises.

- IF she is tactile defensive (which is one reason our SPD kids don't like to stand in lines), talk to your OT about starting the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol right away, before the trip. If she has done it in the past, maybe start it up again? OR, if not the brushing protocol do a lot of deep pressure massage and rubbing with textured materials to desensitize her skin.

- If she has not made enough progress in OT yet that you feel she is still going to have major issues, then you will have to spend the day making specific accommodations for her. These may include:

1. Going separate ways often from your husband and your other kids, as she can/can't tolerate various things.

2. Be willing to jump out of line if she can't handle it. But let her know ahead of time... you know it is hard for her to stand in line because..., agree together to try it, give her plenty of deep pressure while in line (her and/or you doing "joint compressions"; ask your therapist how to do them), then agree that you will move onto a different ride if it gets too difficult. Accept her limitations. Help her accept them too.

3. Pick the shortest lines of course and pay attention to the types of rides that DON'T work for her... maybe overstimulate her or that she can't tolerate... and stick with the ones that do, even if she spends the whole day going on the same 5 rides. Some like spinny rides, others like movement such as roller coasters, bumper cars are good for proprioceptive input, water rides can be soothing, the swings can be relaxing, etc. If there is a carnival in your area before the trip go to that and sort out which types of rides are most tolerable.

4. Be willing to stop and do something else for a while several times during the day so she can regroup and get away from the stimulation. Even if it is going back to the car, with the a/c on and talking, listening to soft music, etc.

5. If she is sensitive to smells, give her a vile of a soothing scent to carry around, or put some on a cotton ball that she carries in her pocket. If a smell bothers her, she can smell that to get through it.

6. Be flexible and go with HER needs as much as possible. Be aware of any signs she is getting overstimulated and be willing to change directions. Limit "transitions"... go slower between activities.

7. Go more frequently but for shorter periods and limit the trips to the "less crowded times"... early morning and evening.

8. Make nightime at the hotel soothing. Swimming is a great deep pressure, calming activity... make sure to do that often. Keep lights low, sounds to a minimum. Keep the stimulation down whenever you can. Limit restaurant trips... eat in a park, hotel, or pool/lakeside as often as possible.

- Do some trial runs at local stores to see what helps/doesn't help keep her calm, organized and able to tolerate noises, crowds, and standing in line.

- Try some Epsom Salts Baths at home before you go to Disneyland. If they seem to help/are soothing to her, bring the salts with you and let her have these baths at the hotel.

- I don't think it will work, but you could TRY having a letter from your doctor or OT that states her diagnosis and difficulties, then talk to Disneyland with that in hand and see if she can be included as a "handicapped" visitor with quicker access to rides. Some parks do this, but it may be hard to convince them regarding SPD. Just a thought.

- Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. What to do if...
Do some brainstorming with your OT and your family so you are all prepared to be "flexible".

- ABOVE ALL, talk to your OT for specific suggestions as she knows her best. Get a plan in place, do as much of it NOW, before you go down there, and be consistent.

I do hope this helps some. Let us know what you think and how the trip goes!

Nov 11, 2007
SPD kids and amusement parks--we did it!
by: Lisa

Thanks for the ideas. I wish I had gone to Guest Services (we will next time, for sure!).

We did take a number of these ideas, and it made the trip great. We went early to the park, took a break after every ride and found a quiet spot to relax, and took cues from our daughter on which rides she wanted, and which she couldn't handle.

We also invited Grandma & Grandpa, so we had more adults than children, and could separate from the others and focus on one kid at a time.

Swimming was a great idea, and we did it every night before dinner and bed to relax. We also jumped out of a few lines and visited the teacups many times.

We are planning a trip again next year--a big sign that it was a success! Thanks!

Nov 08, 2007
Just Went to Disney in Florida
by: Cathy -- Cincinnati

You can do this trip with the help of Disney. Go to Guest Relations on your way into the park. They will ask how they can make your trip more enjoyable and tell them your daughter has a sensory disorder and unable to wait in line, handle crowds, etc. They will give you a pass that will give you advance entrance to many if not all of the rides and attractions.

It saved our trip. The time you spend in line can be very stressful and this was wonderful.

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