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Old 04-12-2013, 04:04 PM   #1
cwasil
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First time going with Autistic son

My son is high functioning PDD-NOS and, to be honest, he may do just fine with us having more issues with his other siblings. That said, I really don't know how he is going to handle the stimulation and so we've gotten a letter from his doctor basically stating as such. In reading the FAQ here it sounds like that doesn't matter much. The only thing we need to do is go to guest relations at the first park we go to when we get to Orlando and they will decide/issue a GAC. Does this sound correct? What exactly does the GAC get you...according to the FAQ it states it's for attractions only, so would we, possibly, have a separate waiting area? Will our wait be shorter? Can we still all ride together? We've got an infant son coming also who, obviously, can't go on some rides. How will that work with a GAC if my wife goes on a ride with some of our kids while I wait with some of the kiddo's and then vice versa happens. I forget the term for that but I don't know how that works with a GAC.
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Old 04-12-2013, 05:25 PM   #2
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My son and I went last year for our first disney vacation and he loved it!! My son is 12 and he too has autism (HFA.) I also was very concerned about sensory issues, lines, crowds etc. There are many tools to use, which will help make your son's vacation enjoyable.

First I have to say that Disney is extremely accommodating to people with ASD. Also, the staff in the parks, hotels, and restaurants were so good to my son! Below I will list some tools we used which were helpful and may be to you as well.

- That is good that you have the Dr's note. When we brought ours to GUest relations for the GAC they did not even look at ours, but I have heard things may be changing with that so, it's good you have it.

- Once you have the GAC, you will use that for all parks. I recommend having it in something that has easy access due to the amount of times you will need to show the pass. We bought a lanyard with a clear pouch and placed it in there. My son loves to pin trading and he placed all his pins along the neck portion of the lanyard. We also placed a card in the lanyard with the hotel name we were staying at, our son's name, and our cell phone number just in case he was to get separated from me.

- For us and again it may be different based on each child's own special needs, we used a separate entrance to wait in line and board the rides. The wait time was sometimes shorter compared to the main entrance but, more important to us was that it was far less crowded. Having too many people close by to my son can set him off. (The GAC can not be used in the water parks.)

- For the times that there are waits, we had either a hand held game player, with ear phones or his IPod with ear phones to listen too music. It kept the loud sounds muffled, which calmed him; and, it kept him distracted. You could also use, mini etch a sketch, silly putty, etc. which ASD kids usually find calming for sensory needs.

- I HIGHLY recommend you take a break mid day for a nap or down time at the hotel.

- Anything you know your son will have difficulty with, you can have your son's school work on creating social stories for. They can then practice those with him to prepare for trip.

- I know that family can enter with their child when using GAC, I'm not sure if there is a limit on how many though.

- I am not sure about Fast Pass. I know that some People on these forums recommend using the FP rather than GAC. I personally would not, there is a reason Disney offers the GAC; and, if it can help your child through the challenges which would arise I say use it! There are some ASD kids who would not need the GAC card, which is great, hopefully my son will be there some day. For us it was so helpful to have the GAC, without it, due to our son's specific needs, we would have missed out on a lot.

- If your trip is not yet booked, I highly recommend going in Sept. It is so much more crowded the rest of the year.

I hope you and your family have a great trip!
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Old 04-12-2013, 06:55 PM   #3
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The limit for GAC is the holder + 5 (so up to 6 people)
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Old 04-13-2013, 07:33 AM   #4
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Legally Disney cannot ask for medical proof of disability for the GAC. I don't see this changing any time soon unless the ADA changes (unlikely). They also cannot look at any letter or proof you bring with you. It doesn't mean much to them anyway since the have no way of varifying that any letter is actually legitimate.

Since you're not really sure what a GAC can do for you, you might want to try touring for a day before getting one if you need it. Many families with autistic kids say that the most useful things they do are using fastpasses and a good touring plan to figure out where the lines are going to be shortest at a given time. There's nothing that says you have to get a GAC as soon as you get there and telling Guest Services that you don't know how your son will handle stimulation will tell them nothing. Things to think about when you think about a GAC are how does he do waiting with other people, does he do better in some sort of protective coccoon (i.e. stroller or wheelchair), what might other triggers be for meltdowns, and other similar questions. You can't necessarily answer any or all of them until you are at WDW and have seen how he responds to being there.

They do not give GACs based on diagnosis, but on need. There are different stamps that give different accommodations, but the moderators here ask that we generally not discuss the stamps in public because there are people who have non-disabled kids and will take info posted and use it to obtain a GAC because they see it as some sort of "fast-pass" (it's not).

The GAC is not meant to shorten your wait and states so on it. For some rides it may do so, for some rides some of the stamps may in fact lengthen your wait. For some rides you'll wait about the same. Even GACs with the same stamp won't necessarily be handled consistently, either. It will depend on the cast members, queue, and specifics of each particular ride. Depending on things like number of CM or length of queue, it may not even be handled the same way all the time on the same ride.

One thing that I will mention is that the GAC (if you do ultimately get one) can only be used for attractions that your son is planning on doing. For example, if he's too short for a ride (you don't say his age) his GAC can't be used. The poster who said that the GAC covers the disabled person plus up to 5 other members of their party is correct, however they may not split you up if it was your wife, you, and 5 children (so 7 people total; 5 of whom are children).

Some of the suggestions given about ear plugs/headphones, toys for queues, and other distraction techniques are good ones.
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Old 04-13-2013, 10:25 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WheeledTraveler View Post
Legally Disney cannot ask for medical proof of disability for the GAC. I don't see this changing any time soon unless the ADA changes (unlikely). They also cannot look at any letter or proof you bring with you. It doesn't mean much to them anyway since the have no way of varifying that any letter is actually legitimate..
I am curious. I have observed many times on the forums when the issue of a Dr's notes come up the legality of it is discussed. This is merely my curiosity and nothing else please do not take it as an attack. Unfortunately, sometimes questions are misconstrued as attacks!

In our state of CT we go to an amusement park that offers a special pass to those individuals with autism. It allows them to bi pass the lines on certain rides a certain amount of times per hour. It also offers a separate entrance which drastically reduces the congestion. This park even has a day of autism awareness, which I find so helpful to the autism community!

It is mandatory that you provide a Doctors letter, on letterhead from the Dr's office, explaining your child's specific needs and the diagnosis of autism noted. If you do not have this, you can be denied the pass. You are then given an ID with your photo on it.

Are the laws different in FL and that is why they cant ask you for the Dr's letter?
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Old 04-13-2013, 10:40 AM   #6
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I think that the difference is that GACs are not designed to let individuals bypass the lines or shorten the wait time. (it says that right on the card) In spite of people saying that they waited a shorter time, it has not been my experience. In spite of one poster saying that my longer wait must be for the wheelchair car--I transfer and I use an ECV not a wheelchair. (I use the ECV daily in my life and have my own.) In my apartment I use a rolling desk chair for low things and have a bar stool with a back that I use in the kitchen.

Also most of the lines at WDW are mainstreamed. That means wheelchairs and ECVs go in the same line as everyone else. Even when the line splits off to avoid stairs or to go to a special loading area, the wait is often longer or just the same. People just think they are loading faster because they do not see the other line. I have had family in line the same time as me and they sometimes rode twice in the same time it took me to ride once. They almost always were waiting for me at the end of the ride (even when I was sure I had "beaten" them!)
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Old 04-13-2013, 02:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bocaj1431 View Post
I am curious. I have observed many times on the forums when the issue of a Dr's notes come up the legality of it is discussed. This is merely my curiosity and nothing else please do not take it as an attack. Unfortunately, sometimes questions are misconstrued as attacks!

In our state of CT we go to an amusement park that offers a special pass to those individuals with autism. It allows them to bi pass the lines on certain rides a certain amount of times per hour. It also offers a separate entrance which drastically reduces the congestion. This park even has a day of autism awareness, which I find so helpful to the autism community!

It is mandatory that you provide a Doctors letter, on letterhead from the Dr's office, explaining your child's specific needs and the diagnosis of autism noted. If you do not have this, you can be denied the pass. You are then given an ID with your photo on it.

Are the laws different in FL and that is why they cant ask you for the Dr's letter?
The ADA is a national law. Sue or someone whose read more can probably direct you better to actual wording, but part of what the ADA states is that for reasonable accommodations in public places, medical documentation is not required.

I suspect the difference is that the pass at the park you use in CT sounds like it's set to specifically provide shorter waits rather than just alternate measures for having the same waits. WDW's GAC is very specific about not intending to shorten wait time. That can be seen as changing from a "reasonable accommodation" that include a "typical" experience to a "special accommodation" because of the reduced wait time. The fact that it's autism-specific may also have to do with how they can ask for documentation It is possible that it could legally be challenged and the park would lose a lawsuit. It is possible they could even be challenged on the fact that it's autism-specific. I'm not sure which park it is (I'm also in CT), but it's possible that there are other ways they could provide accommodations that wouldn't inherently shorten waits and where they wouldn't legally be allowed to ask for the medical documentation. To be honest, I can't see how they could verify that the letters they do get are actually legit on the spot. It's possible to buy or create medical letterhead and I doubt they're sitting there checking the doctor's ID number unless they require all the documentation quite a bit ahead of time. It is also possible that the park in CT does know that they may be violating the ADA by requiring documentation for whatever their autism pass is. As I'm sure you've experienced, many places only think of the ADA in terms of wheelchair access, if they even understand what wheelchair access is!
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Old 04-13-2013, 05:03 PM   #8
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NOTE FROM MODERATOR:
FOR CLARIFICATION, THIS POSTER IS TALKING ABOUT A PARK IN CT, NOT DISNEY WORLD.

To the wheeled traveler. Thanks for the info. Since you are from CT I am talking about LC.

The pass is offered for other medical or special needs as well. I don't remember what it is called, but I think it allows for bypassing the line something like twice per hour. Do you have a special needs child?

We love how accommodating they are for our kids at LC. Having a child with Autism is so challenging. The amount of suffering my son has on a yearly basis breaks my heart. The challenges they have from their Autism, makes life a daily struggle. Having a few times a year when things are made a little easier for them just means so much to them and us as parents!

I hope no one brings a law suit and ruins what is such a generous offer to people with medical and special needs.

By the way, I do not want you to think I was saying the GAC was for reducing line waits. I do not want any one to be confused. I was just explaining that the LC offers that and was questioning the letter part only.

Thanks again for the info.
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Old 04-13-2013, 11:07 PM   #9
TBMommy
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We got a guest assistance card last year when we visited with my then 4 year old son who has Aspergers. He has a lot of sensory issues and anxieties. The pass was great for us because on many of the attractions meant we went in an alternate line. We still had to wait as people went through the regular line, but what it did was save us the time of waiting in the long line only to get to the front and have my son see the actual ride and decide he did not want to go on. There were several attractions that once he saw them, he just wanted to leave. I am so glad we didn't wait in line for a half hour to then try to get back out. Also, on some of the shows we were sat close to the doors which gave us easy access if we needed to leave before the end.

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Old 04-13-2013, 11:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
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We got a guest assistance card last year when we visited with my then 4 year old son who has Aspergers. He has a lot of sensory issues and anxieties. The pass was great for us because on many of the attractions meant we went in an alternate line right to the front. We still had to wait as people went through the regular line, but what it did was save us the time of waiting in the long line only to get to the front and have my son see the actual ride and decide he did not want to go on. There were several attractions that once he saw them, he just wanted to leave. I am so glad we didn't wait in line for a half hour to then try to get back out. Also, on some of the shows we were sat close to the doors which gave us easy access if we needed to leave before the end.
YouTube has lots of pov videos for Disney rides not sure if that will help but he could watch at home and if he dose ot like you could turn off then your know before hand which ride he like and dose not.
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Old 04-14-2013, 08:27 AM   #11
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YouTube has lots of pov videos for Disney rides not sure if that will help but he could watch at home and if he dose ot like you could turn off then your know before hand which ride he like and dose not.

We did this for weeks before our trip and even did a few on my phone while in the park. But sometimes the image on the screen and the actual experience of the ride are not the same. The Buzz Lightyear ride was one in particular he watched over and over and talked nonstop about going on. But when we got there, he couldn't get away from the ride fast enough.
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Old 04-14-2013, 10:02 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by TBMommy View Post

We did this for weeks before our trip and even did a few on my phone while in the park. But sometimes the image on the screen and the actual experience of the ride are not the same. The Buzz Lightyear ride was one in particular he watched over and over and talked nonstop about going on. But when we got there, he couldn't get away from the ride fast enough.
Sorry yeah sometimes seeing it online and then on person are different.
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Old 04-14-2013, 10:45 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bocaj1431 View Post
I am curious. I have observed many times on the forums when the issue of a Dr's notes come up the legality of it is discussed. This is merely my curiosity and nothing else please do not take it as an attack. Unfortunately, sometimes questions are misconstrued as attacks!

In our state of CT we go to an amusement park that offers a special pass to those individuals with autism. It allows them to bi pass the lines on certain rides a certain amount of times per hour. It also offers a separate entrance which drastically reduces the congestion. This park even has a day of autism awareness, which I find so helpful to the autism community!

It is mandatory that you provide a Doctors letter, on letterhead from the Dr's office, explaining your child's specific needs and the diagnosis of autism noted. If you do not have this, you can be denied the pass. You are then given an ID with your photo on it.

Are the laws different in FL and that is why they cant ask you for the Dr's letter?
As was mentioned by Wheeled Traveler, the ADA is the law whatever state you are in. The reason that Dr's letters are not required is that the ADA states people with disabilities cannot be forced to provide proof of a disability in order to get accommodations they need because of their disability.

WDW and DL GACs are not designed to give shorter waits, but to give reasonable accommodation.
The park in CT is giving more than reasonable accommodation by allowing skipping of lines or shorter waits. Places that do that are allowed to require a doctor letter or some documentation to access that extra accommodation.

And, as was already mentioned, it would be pretty easy to fake.
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Old 04-14-2013, 01:50 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by SueM in MN View Post
As was mentioned by Wheeled Traveler, the ADA is the law whatever state you are in. The reason that Dr's letters are not required is that the ADA states people with disabilities cannot be forced to provide proof of a disability in order to get accommodations they need because of their disability.

WDW and DL GACs are not designed to give shorter waits, but to give reasonable accommodation.
The park in CT is giving more than reasonable accommodation by allowing skipping of lines or shorter waits. Places that do that are allowed to require a doctor letter or some documentation to access that extra accommodation.

And, as was already mentioned, it would be pretty easy to fake.
Sue thank you for the information.

It is sad that people would even think of faking something like a doctors letter; but as with anything in this world, there is always someone trying to take advantage of something. I truly believe in karma and some day it will come back their way.

What's important is that there are services, which offer accommodations to those with medical or special needs. Those services can really make a difference!
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Old 04-14-2013, 03:49 PM   #15
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Our DS is high functioning PDD-NOS also.
He is 9 and has been to WDW a half dozen times. And cruised with Disney 3 times.
We get the Official Birnbaum Guide for kids and let him have at it. We watch lots of POV ride videos on youtube and give him as much information as possible. We haven't done a GAC card. With fastpass and a bag full of things to help him regulate/handle the stimulation - this has worked well for us.
I found a few websites with WDW social stories that are good.
http://www.wdwautism.com/node/191

We used the pin trading ones last year.
Side note: I was soo proud of him! We all tried pin trading that trip and while it isn't something he is interested in continuing, he traded all his pins to pins he wanted to keep and was done. This was huge for us.
(I am now addicted to pin trading... be warned, its addictive )

My best advice is plan on breaks from the parks. I found that knowing when and where the meals will be helps him know when a break will come. And letting him handle the map

Have a great trip!
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