Disneyland with ADHD
We just returned from an amazing trip to Disneyland, which is an absolutely perfect introductory Disney experience for kids: totally compact, walkable, and, of course, magical.
My family are Disney Vacation Club members so we’ve been to Walt Disney World many times. Holden’s been there twice: when she was 10 months old and again when she was three and GB was 1 and a half. Needless to say, they don’t remember the trips.
What *I* remembered about that last trip were Holden’s complete and total meltdowns. That trip occurred early on in our journey with Holdy’s ADHD and ODD diagnosis, something we still struggle with everyday, though we’re all getting better at navigating it. But this time around, we were prepared.
My friend Sarah at Savoring the Good let me know about the Disney Disability Access Service (DAS) Card, which was 100% a lifesaver on this trip. During our five-day stay, we only had two minor (really minor) meltdowns. It was a Disney Miracle.
The DAS Card is designed to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). The card allows guests with special needs to schedule a return time at an attraction so they don’t have to wait in a line for extended periods of time. The guest’s party is also covered under the DAS card.
Here’s how it works:
When you enter Disneyland, head right to City Hall; when you enter California Adventure, head right to the Chamber of Commerce. Be warned: there is usually a line, which kind of sucks to wait in line to avoid waiting in lines, but trust me, it’s worth it. You need to have the guest with special needs with you.
Tell the Cast Member that you’re interested in a Disability Access Pass. You don’t need any “official” documentation of a diagnosis (and technically, they can’t ask); they’ll just ask you what your concerns are for your guest.
In my case, I did share that my daughter has ADHD and ODD, does not have a lot of patience, is easily frustrated, and gets anxious in loud and overly stimulating situations, which can all lead to massive meltdowns.
The Cast Member will add the DAS to your child’s ticket (you can use either your paper ticket or the ticket in the Disneyland app, which is helpful if you, ahem, lose your paper tickets).
The Cast Member will most likely give you a map and circle all of the Info Kiosks for you, but be sure to ask for one if they don’t - it’s super helpful!
Tell the Cast Member what ride you’d like a “return time” for. They’ll do some Disney Magic in their little scanny tool thing and tell you what time to show up at the ride.
The wait time they give you is usually about 10 minutes less than the current attraction wait time, but you get to wait elsewhere and enjoy other park stuff (or get your fifth churro of the day) instead of standing in line with an antsy child.
When you get to the attraction, you’ll enter either through the FastPass Lane or the ride exit, depending on the ride. There’s always a Cast Member posted by to help you. You’ll scan your ticket or app like you would a FastPass to enter.
You can only have one active return time at a time, but you CAN use FastPass in addition to the return times.
Once you’ve ridden the ride, you can visit any customer service kiosk around the park to get another return time. There are several and they’re conveniently located:
If your kids have similar diagnoses, I can’t recommend the DAS Pass enough. They also, of course, have DAS at Walt Disney World, which I will definitely be using during our next visit there.
I can honestly say we would not have had the same trip had it not been for the DAS Pass. Any behavioral issues (for both kids) were minor and I actually got to *enjoy* being with my children (which is not something I can often say). Holden and I even spent a late night in Disneyland alone together.
Call it cliche, but our trip truly was magical. I couldn’t help but think, “oh, so THIS is how Disney is supposed to be!” I’m already having Disneyland withdrawal.