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Dining Tips with an Autistic Child on a Disney Cruise and Walt Disney World.

I'll never forget taking my three year  old daughter to a Chinese buffet restaurant for the first time. We thought, no problem, we'll be in and out in no time...ha! While eating our meal, she picked up her fork and tossed it. It landed on the next diner's glass, shattering it to pieces all over the person's meal and the lady was completely drenched.

We were mortified, apologized profusely, offered to pay for her meal, but she was so gracious she let us off the hook. We vowed to not take our daughter to a restaurant until she was more settled and not so squirmy.

Now, fast forward to when my son turned two and was diagnosed with autism. We were in the throngs of acute and frequent Disney travel, as our daughter was now obsessed with Winnie the Pooh, Snow White and Cinderella. Now I had to figure out a way to enjoy character dining at buffets and table service restaurants with minimal upheaval, chaos and cacaphony.

When he was in the high chair phase I figured it was best to place both kiddies on the outside of the table, where the characters passed. The characters would then pose in between the kids and sign autograph books. No one got out of their chairs, not even me. I simply snapped the photo right from my seat in total comfort. Having autograph books/pens open and ready was always helpful, as was a fully charged camera.

If I had even attempted to take my son out of his high chair it would have been a disaster because it wouldn't have been only once, but as you all know multiple times. It would have been very difficult to get him back into the high chair and then he would have gotten all excited and tried to run around. No thanks.

Going up to the buffet would mean splitting high chair duty. So my husband would go off  and plate up while I took care of my son and then we would switch. Whoever went up to plate their food, would bring back a small plate of food with my sons faves. My son would always have a full plate of his foods (I learned to pick my battles) his DVD player running with his headphones on so as not to disturb other diners. People would still stare and some even commented that we were teaching poor table habits. My response would always be, we're doing our best, thank you for your advice. There was no point carrying on arguments, it was wasted effort and time.

When he became older I would always ask for a table near a wall, a window or any barrier type of place to prevent him from jumping in and out of his seat or even bolting. At Biergarten in EPCOT's German pavillion, we are placed right above the dancing area so my son is right up close to the show. Over at 'Ohana's a window seat enabled some privacy and a lot of gazing for my son. There are many power outlets along the window side enabling us to plug in his DVD player or charge his i-Pad giving him the freedom to watch his videos and enabling us to eat without stress. I always brought an extension cord. At Whispering Canyon, it was either a window seat or a seat at the rails overlooking the main lobby. Basically, anyplace near a wall or window really helps. Once, while attempting to eat breakfast at 'Ohana's, we were seated in the middle and that was a big mistake because he tried to leave his seat many, many times.

Here is my son and daughter at the Crystal Palace during our Christmas 2010 vacation. My son is captivated.






No matter where we dined, I would always speak to the hostess and explain our situation and we always got placed nearest the buffet table or restroom depending on the circumstances.

It really helped  speaking to the waitstaff and explaining our situation, I always called Disney Dining ahead of time and made my quirky requests. Then when I checked into the podium, I would inform the Cast Member of these dietary and seating needs.  This way I would always have my sons favorite foods and he would be content. French fries would magically appear, even if they weren't on the menu. The waiter would say, let me take care of it, don't worry. They always did. At 'Ohana's, we even have a favorite waiter named Simo, who brings forward a plate of chicken strips and fries without my asking. That's pampering!

Our wonder waiter, Simo at 'Ohana's. We always make sure we are seated in his section and visit 'Ohana's multiple times on each trip, we love it that much.



In order for us to have visited Walt Disney World, Disneyland and cruise with DCL so much, over nineteen trips to the resorts alone, means that we have fantastic trips that are  stress free. Everyone goes well out of their way to make us feel at home, and Disney is our 'home away from home'. It's the only place where we truly feel like a typical family and can really enjoy ourselves and make life-long memories.





Enjoying dinner aboard the Disney Dream at Enchanted Garden, August 2011.



He was surprised and delighted by the soda's size at Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge. He drank the whole thing, don't even ask about one hour later.

At a booth table seating, aboard the Disney Dream at Royal Table, that placement helped me a lot.


Celebrating Andrew's 12th birthday at Animator's Palete, aboard the Dream. See the DVD player? It really helped having armrests on the chairs....stopped the sporadic jumping out of the seat and bolting.



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