Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Beverage Stations Aboard the Disney Cruise Line Ships

One of the many aspects of sailing with Disney Cruise Line that you do not have to worry about, is your beverages. You don't need to buy a soda or water package or wear a wrist band. Most beverages aboard Disney Cruise Line are complimentary.

Disney Cruise Line has twenty-four hour Beverage Stations near the pools and you can have as much as you wish. The Beverage Stations come equipped with soda/water cups and hot beverage, insulated cups, lids and straws. At these stations you'll find an abundance of soda, coffee, fountain water, ice, hot water. For the hot water, they provide a variety of tea and cocoa mixes.

photo: Magical Kingdoms
photo: WishUponAStarwithUs
 photo: DisneyCruiseLineBlog
You are allowed to use your own mugs, but they prefer that you use the cups they provide for hygienic reasons, which is number one on Disney Cruise Line's list. 

Soda, coffee, milk, juice, fountain water and tea are also free in all the main dining rooms. If you use Room Service, m…

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and The Pirate's League on the Disney Fantasy

Disney Cruise Line will not leave anything out of your vacation. You'll never miss out on the magic and pixie dusting when sailing on the Disney Fantasy because your little girl can be transformed into a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and your little boy can become a pirate at The Pirate's League, for which I will outline in the latter half of this post. In fact, everyone can become a pirate over at The Pirate's League. Photo: The Walt Disney Company Photo: Disney Cruise Line  Your own Fairy Godmother in training will greet your child and will create a transformation of magical proportions. You can select one of many treatment options, such as: Disney Diva, Pop Princess or Fairy Tale Princess. All of the Princess costumes are available and come complete with the wand, shoes and crown. There are also a variety of costumes available which are exclusive to Disney Cruise Line such as: Captain Mickey Mouse, Princess MinnieMouse, and FirstMate Minnie Mouse. The boutique…

Walt Disney Studios Tour, Burbank, California.

Never in a million years did I ever imagine walking the backlot streets of the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank. Yet, there we were over Christmas vacation in December 2011. It was all real, I couldn't stop pinching myself, I was awestruck! I could not believe my eyes or the ground that I walked upon. Just the mere thought of being where Walt Disney was, was enough for me. Looking at the items he touched or dealt with was mind blowing. I was even able to hold.....are you ready for this? Yes, hold a REAL Oscar. Not only a real Oscar, but Walt Disney's Oscar for his Nature Documentary. My whole body tingled, I was shaking with excitement and boy, oh boy did I make sure my hands were clean. I don't know how many times I asked if I should wear gloves. The ever so friendly Cast Member, an Archivist, smiled and said it was okay, bare hands were fine. I was completely BLOWN away! The whole experience began with us pulling up to the security guard booth at Walt Disney Studios in Burban…