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Moms Panel Monday: Traveling with Guests with Cognitive Disabilities

Lisa Mendillo

by , Sr. Manager, Digital Integration

Disney Parks Moms Panelist, Jackie P., loves nothing more than spending time with her family at the Walt Disney World Resort. Her family of four makes the pilgrimage from Canada to Orlando several times a year, as do many of our guests. However, when Jackie plans her vacations she must consider the needs of her autistic, teenage son. She finds this a much less difficult task thanks to the services for guests with cognitive disabilities that Walt Disney World Resort offers.

“The Walt Disney World Resort takes great strides to afford all guests a safe and enjoyable experience through many online planning guides directing attention to extensive services keeping guests with special needs in mind,” she said.

Jackie explained the services for guests with cognitive disabilities offers suitable strategies and services for the benefit of guests with cognitive disabilities, including Autism, such as:

  • The Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities containing helpful tips, information for Wheelchair and Stroller rentals, the Rider Switch service, advice for utilizing Disney FastPass+ service, the Disability Access Service (DAS), as well as additional individual service needs that can be discussed with a cast member at any theme park Guest Relations. Pages 12 and 13 of this guide offer excellent sample itinerary planning from the perspective of a ‘Visual Schedule Board’ so often used by many caregivers of family members with Autism, or any cognitive condition requiring visual aids to ease transition and aid with acclimatization. This guide also contains useful suggestions for acclimatization and comfort to decrease the impact of any external triggers, or stressors. Great care was taken for the development of this guide, taking every possible consideration in mind to afford guests on the Autism spectrum a more comfortable experience. Of great value are the suggestions for quieter areas for de-escalation near select attractions, rides and direction to all Baby Care and First Aid Centers in all Walt Disney World Resort theme parks, as well as suggestions for Companion Restrooms Resort-wide.
  • The link includes Walt Disney World Resort Attraction Details which stipulates attraction specifics such as scents/smells, flashing lights, loud noises, periods of darkness, bumps, speed, lifting off the ground, wet, elements of surprise, types of restraints, amount of time and FastPass+ service or not.
  • Special Dietary Request information is also provided in consideration and awareness of most food intolerances, dietary needs and food allergies.

For more advice regarding planning your trip with a special needs guest, or to ask questions about planning your upcoming Disney vacation, please be sure to visit for a personalized response from our knowledgeable panel.


  • We got DAS for our ASD child on our last visit but never ended up using it. We planned well, and utilized fast pass. The only difficulty we had were long character meet and greet lines. No fast passes for these, so no DAS option. Also, for us noise cancelling headphones are a must.

  • Disney has been truly magical for my son on the autism spectrum. It is the only place in the world (not an exaggeration – not even Grandma’s house) that he doesn’t ask to go home after about 20 minutes. We typically spend 8 days, and he is still disappointed to go home! Thank you, Disney, for making this possible.

  • Great information! Seeing Jackie’s son at the top of the story made me smile! I have known her for years and she always tells everyone how Disney makes things so much easier to travel with him.

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