The Magic of Disney and your Special Needs Child

Guest Blogger: Michele Boroughf, Renee’s Mom

Michele is the mom of an 11-year-old daughter with special needs.  She is always seeking out fun activities and adapting them to create new experiences for Renee and her family. She shares how she planned an accessible and memorable Disney vacation.


I won’t deny that for the longest time as a parent of a special needs daughter, I had put off a trip to Disney World. Why?  I said to myself, how could she enjoy the rides?  How would she manage the travel?  How would she do in the heat?  She has seizures!  How will we manage?  Well this past May we went on a family trip to Disney.  First & foremost was to honor the memory of my Dad who was such a fan of Mickey.  My mother has had this on her bucket list for some time now and all the stars were aligned this May that eight members of our family decided to make the trek to Disney.

I’m happy to say our family survived the trip.  Disney was magical for so many reasons, but for our family it has a different meaning.

I have a friend who summed it up best.  Disney’s motto (although not official and appears nowhere in print).  “It’s not our fault, but it is our problem”.  Disney bent over backwards in every way to ensure our trip was not only enjoyable, but memorable.

Why is it magical?  Because I have never been on a vacation where everyone is NICE!  Not just nice, but pleasant, cordial, and can’t do enough to help you.  Assistance is everywhere!

So here are a few helpful hints for those of you who might be considering a visit to this magical place:

  1. Traveling with a wheelchair? No problem!  The bus transportation for Disney on the property provides two spaces for a wheelchair and scooter.  There are retractable seats.  There’s a handicapped lane for boarding.  You’re accommodated first on every single occasion.  If it’s overlooked, just pleasantly bring it to your bus driver’s attention.  And everyone else has to wait until you’re accommodated.
  1. The Monorail also has a separate boarding line for those in a wheelchair or scooter. They even pull out a ramp for easy boarding.  You’re first yet again!
  1. With regards to accommodations, we stayed at Art of Animation in a family suite and we set up a mattress on the floor to accommodate Renee’s need for sleeping.
  1. Groceries? Who needs special food?  We do!  Coconut milk is what she drinks.  And I was able to find an online grocery store that delivers right to the Bell Hop at the hotel.  Order early enough and you qualify for a discount.  Not only will they deliver to the hotel, they’ll actually put the groceries in your room and perishables in your fridge.  Our mini refrigerator and microwave helped with feeding her daily meals.  Did I mention wine?  Yep, they have that too!  gardengrocer.com
  1. For our family, meal plans don’t work for us. But for a lot of people they do.  Either you’re all on a plan or you’re not.  May was still a very hot month for our daughter and what we learned is we need to go earlier in the season.  At best, create an itinerary so that a sit down meal can be experienced at lunch & dinner which allows time for your special needs child who’s sensitive to the heat index a time to cool off inside.
  1. By using the Disney app on your phone you can avoid wait times for dinner by booking ahead! Definitely do this!  This gets you in and seated right away.
  1. You already know that your child might not be able to keep up with a busy schedule. So check out booking fastpass+ early in the morning hours.  Your options are to cool off with lunch indoors or perhaps head back to the pool to cool off.
  1. Our visit to Magic Kingdom resulted in a trip to the Emergency Quick Care. With a personal escort from the Castle’s Princess Breakfast straight to the walk-in clinic.  Thanks to the heat, Renee suffered from dehydration.  They offered us a private room without hesitation to cool her off and use it as long we needed it.
  1. No matter where we dined, all we had to say was “wheelchair accommodation” on the app and they gladly accommodated.
  1. Lastly, we needed an emergency run to a CVS Pharmacy for Renee. We have no car!  Were on Disney property…what to do?  Call UBER!  Yes, UBER picked up my husband in minutes to take him to the CVS in downtown Disney area.  Just load the UBER app on your iphone, and you’re good to go!

I’m so very happy we finally made this journey and we look forward to our return soon.  The time spent with family and Renee with her cousins are priceless.  Would we change some things? Absolutely, but I say find the itinerary that works for your family.  But know that it will be magical for your family because nowhere else on earth will someone go to the ends of the earth to make sure you’re are one hundred percent happy.  I hope these tips are helpful to you.  My biggest lesson is it doesn’t have to be perfect, but just learn to live in the moment!  Good luck to you on your travels!  May you enjoy every minute of the magic!


The social services staff at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can recommend resources and pointers to help you plan your family’s next trip.  Click here to get in touch.

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One thought on “The Magic of Disney and your Special Needs Child

  1. Thank you so much for your very candid experience….if your considering a visit please reach out to the social service team we can help.

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