Meltdowns and tantrums – the two things that parents will do anything to avoid, especially in public places like a theme park. It is definitely possible to keep tantrums at a minimum, and I have found some tricks and tips that help keep children with sensory sensitivities more relaxed so that everyone can enjoy the experience!
Timing is everything
Go early. At Disney Land and Disney World for example, it usually cooler in Anaheim and Orlando early in the morning, and a lot less crowded, too!
The ability to sound-proof
Pack headphones or earplugs for the shows that are noisy and carry them in your bag so they are easily accessible at short notice.
Carry dry snacks if your child is on GF/CF special diet and pay for water/drinks as you need.
Carry a change of clothes with you, including underwear and socks, in case your child gets sick, spills food, or gets wet on a ride. Take a sweater as it can get very chilly at night and a pair of slippers in case your child gets blisters from their shoes or just gets tired from the extensive walking that is required in the theme park.
Beware of the wet rides
Bring or buy a plastic poncho for wet rides – it will be well worth the money to keep your child dry and can become a cute souvenir from your visit in the park!
Waiting for rides can be an issue with children with autism, especially when the line are indoors or covered since it can get hot and stuffy. A mini fan is very helpful, and most theme parks sell a decorated version with a logo. You best bet is to bring one from home – it is a lot cheaper ($3 vs. $10 or more), smaller, and less heavy to carry around.
If your child wears glasses carry along an extra pair in case the first one breaks (happens to us all the time). Best tip for roller coasters is to either secure the glasses with a sports strap or just remove the glasses all together for that ride. Pack a pair of sunglasses if your child is light sensitive or get pair of transition lenses glasses that become darker in the sunlight and revert to clear inside buildings.
Pack or purchase a thin blanket to sit on the ground. Many parades will have viewers standing or sitting on the ground for a at least an hour (you need to find a spot in advance and wait there patiently until the parade starts), which might be uncomfortable for some kids (or adults!).
Bring your child’s medication for the entire day, in case you decide to stay longer than you’ve originally planned. If your child has been prescribed special medication to calm him or her during an outburst make sure you bring that too!
Avoid unnecessary heartbreak
It is a bad idea to bring any toy or object your child cherishes to the park as it can easily be forgotten, misplaced, or even taken. You will likely encounter resistance or a meltdown at home, but stay strong and insist that those toys or items stay home.
How has your theme park experience been? Do you have any additional advice to add?