By Tangled Diva
A little over a year ago, my son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with a particular problem area being controlling his impulsivity. Anybody familiar with ADHD knows that while it is not a severe disability, it does pose significant issues for normal activities that most parents take for granted. While all children have trouble with waiting in long lines, sitting through long programs, and anything that requires sustained attention; it is severely amplified for children with ADHD. So, needless to say, given my child’s severe lack of patience and self-control, I was a little worried before our first Disney trip. Luckily, Disney is so good at what they do that maintaining his attention during shows or programs quickly proved to be a non-issue. But, there was still the waiting issue (waiting in line, waiting for meals, transportation to/from Disney, etc.), so below I have listed a few tips and tricks for avoiding melt downs while waiting in the long lines. Even if your child does not have ADHD, these tips are still very helpful in passing the time.
1. My best piece of advice is to go in the off-season if at all possible! I can’t emphasize this enough. Avoid crowded times like Spring Break, Christmas, New Year’s, etc. This will significantly cut down on amount of time you spending waiting in lines. For the best times to visit Walt Disney World, click here; for Disneyland, click here. I recognize that this is not always possible with schedules, particularly school schedules, so below are some helpful tips if you can’t avoid peak season.
2. If you plan on eating at a table service restaurant, if possible, go at lunch. Even though you make reservations, at dinner time you are likely still looking at a wait. The wait times tend to be significantly shorter at lunch, and you also tend to get in and out of the restaurants a lot faster.
3. One of our favorite things to do is to look for Hidden Mickeys while we are in line. They are all over Disney Parks and even on Disney Cruises. You can purchase a book or even an app with them sorted by location. For information about purchasing the book or app, click here. My son even tends to create his own Hidden Mickeys around the house, and I even included a Hidden Mickey on our Christmas Cards – bonus points if you find it!
4. Who didn’t play “I Spy” growing up? Well, very few places will you ever go where there is more to “spy” than in a Disney Park. This is a great game to kill some time while waiting. I do recommend limiting your spying area as the guessing part could take forever otherwise.
5. I highly recommend taking a portable electronic device like an iPod, smart phone DS or Gameboy. These are great when waiting in lines or at restaurants. And, if you want to stay in the Disney spirit while gaming, there are a ton of Disney apps to download. For some of the best ones, click here. Also, most Disney movies now come with a free digital download, so that you can download the movie to your device of choice, so I highly recommend taking advantage of these. But, whatever you do, don’t forget to bring headphones/ear buds.
6. If you’ve downloaded the My Disney Experience app (click here, if you haven’t), you can check all the wait times of rides and shows. This will help you know what rides to avoid, or, at the very least, be prepared to wait for. One thing I’ve learned with my son (and a lot of others with ADHD) is that he needs to know ahead of time what to expect. If he knows ahead of time that there is going to be a wait, there is a lot less chance of a meltdown.
7. Use your fast passes wisely. Now that the Magic Bands are in full swing and there are no more traditional/paper fast passes, you can plan your day early. You get three fast pass selections per day, so choose them wisely. Pick the rides that tend to have the longest wait times. Toy Story Mania, Soarin’ and Test Track tend to have, by far, the longest wait times, so if you plan on riding any of these, use them as one of your fast past selections.
8. Pack books–whether they be books to read, crosswords, or word searches. Again, if you want to stay in the Disney mood, there are a TON of Disney books you can purchase. If it is an activity book, don’t forget to bring a pen, pencil and crayons!
9. Break up your day! Plan your day with plenty of non-waiting time. One of the reasons we like to do a table service meal for lunch, is because it breaks up the day and gives us a little rest time in the middle. My son has never required a lot of sleep, so we don’t take/need naps. But, if your child is not like this, take the time to get a quick nap in. And, you don’t have to go back to the hotel to do it depending on the age of your child. When my son was young enough to still be carried or ride in a stroller (and still needed at least a short nap), I would sneak off to a quiet spot to get him to sleep and then tote him around for an hour while he slept. This way I didn’t have to waste the time going to/from the hotel.
10. Plan for melt downs. Particularly for children with ADHD, there are going to be melt downs. But, remember, you are at Disney. There is so much to take in, do, see, absorb, etc., so be a little more lenient than you normally would. If you see one coming (and parents of children with ADHD, are experts at this), don’t panic. Just find the nearest activity, where they can run out all their energy. They need it, and so do you!
As a parent of a child with ADHD, I know the concerns that go into day-to-day life, much less a trip to Disney. But, don’t get overwhelmed. It is very doable, even with all the waiting you might have to do. If your child has ADHD, you are already used to planning ahead, so these tips will come easy (or even natural) to you. So allow yourself and your child to relax and have fun. If they run around like a crazy person–WHO CARES???? You’re at Disney, they’ll fit right in!!!! In fact, I highly recommend joining in as my husband often does.