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Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World with Special Needs

So many memories were made at Magic Kingdom while we were there.  Some were fabulous.  Others were awful.  But ultimately the good far outweighed the bad.  Visiting Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World with four special needs children amazing.  It doesn't matter the diagnosis, it's still doable.  Just look at he list of diagnoses we have in our family!
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder
  • PTSD
  • Mood Disorder
  • Food Allergies

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Our last day of vacation, before flying home was supposed to start a little bit later, and it did in the fact that the kiddos slept in until 8 AM.  

But having gone to bed at 1:30 AM, an 8 AM wake up meant very little sleep for all four kiddos.  And even less sleep for Jason and I, as we woke up at 7 AM, to pack everyone's bags up for the day etc.

Surprisingly the kiddos woke up happy and excited, once they finally got themselves out of bed.  We did our usual breakfast routine at the hotel, and then headed to the buses.  Princess was super excited about her outfit for the day.  The only thing lacking was her sunglasses that were lost in the park the day before.

Be Our Guest Restaurant

We had a super early (10:35 AM) lunch reservations at Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom.  This actually turned out to be a good thing. This was the only day that the kiddos weren't falling apart before lunch.  We all fell in love with the restaurant the minute we walked inside.
The ordering process was fairly simple. The chef we worked with was great.  He has an autistic son, and was so sensitive to the kiddos' needs.  He expressed more than once that we were his heroes, as he only had one special needs kiddo, and we had four.  It's amazing how much the chef influences the meal.

The atmosphere of Be Our Guest Restaurant can not be adequately shared in pictures, at least from my camera.  It was absolutely beautiful and so enjoyable.  The kiddos loved being in Belle and the Beast's castle.  They loved the music and the lights.  Both Jason and I agreed that this was our favorite restaurant by far. We definitely want to come back and enjoy dinner here.
Everyone enjoyed their meals and had fun looking around when they were finished.
Princess and I both fell in love with the "stained glass" window.


Once out of the restaurant, we headed to Adventureland in Magic Kingdom.  We hadn't made it there the night before and had a ton to accomplish!  

Meeting Aladdin and Jasmine

First on the list was meeting Aladdin (and Jasmine).  Aladdin is Dinomite's favorite Disney movie. He couldn't wait to meet his favorite characters, especially as we'd missed them in Epcot.  This was our first and only meet and greet with characters outside of meal reservations, fast passes, and the Halloween Party, with the exception of Pocahontas, Baloo and King Louie in Animal Kingdom.  

The wait was quite long, (over an hour), and it was HOT.  In the future if the kiddos want to meet characters in Magic Kingdom that can be scheduled with fast passes, we will definitely schedule them.

Surprisingly, the kiddos did great with the wait and felt that it was worth it to get up close and personal with some of their very favorite characters.  Dinomite was able to meet them first. I loved how Aladdin and Jasmine came to us, and literally pulled Dinomite from the line for some intimate time.
Dinomite was quite smitten and had quite the in depth conversation with Aladdin, planning out carpet rides etc.
Bulldozer was Bulldozer.  He posed for the pictures and says he enjoyed himself, but the heat was hard for him to handle, so hugs were just not in the cards at that moment.
Princess loved her time with the characters. She watched the movie for the first time the day before we left on vacation.

Princess had fun with Aladdin and Jasmine too.

And here are all the kiddos together.

The Rides

Next on our itinerary for the day was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  We had a fast pass for the ride, so we didn't wait barely at all.  With our wheelchair tags, we were able to take the strollers with us up to when the kiddos got on and off the ride.

Sunshine was a bit nervous about this ride and became a little anxious and upset when she saw things that were coming ahead that she couldn't quite understand.  But once she understood what was going on and that she was safe, she had a blast and loved singing along with the pirates.

After that ride we headed to Carpets of Aladdin.  We were a little early so we took a detour to The Tiki Room, and then went to our ride.  Carpets of Aladdin was enjoyable for everyone.  Sunshine and Dinomite road together again, which worked fabulously well.  Bulldozer and Princess road together, and had the time of their lives.

Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial

After we were finished there, we headed to Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial.  We were a bit early, but it gave us a minute to eat a snack, drink some water, and find a good place to stand.  Today was all about Dinomite and checking off the things on his to-do list.

He did NOT want to miss Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial and had been looking forward to it for months.  Our biggest issue was prepping him to NOT be chosen to participate.  He had it in his mind that he would, and I didn't want him to be devastated.

Bulldozer desperately wanted to be chosen as well.  The boys had watched the youtube video of the show several times so they would know what to do if they were chosen.  (They were that nervous/excited about the possibility.)

Before the show a photographer came out and started taking pictures of the kids. He gave us a card, so we could have the photos added to our memory maker package.
At that point, Bulldozer wasn't out of his stroller yet and was so hot. He does not do well with heat at all.
When the show started, to Dinomite's delight and sheer excitement he was chosen by Captain Jack Sparrow himself to be part of the show.
Bulldozer was doing his best to smile and show excitement despite the heat.  The girls were also eager to participate.
Four children from the audience were chosen to be part of the show.  Three were chosen by Jack Sparrow, when his pirate partner pulled Princess out of the audience to be the forth participant.
She was ecstatic.  I was DEVASTATED.  Now let me explain.  I was thrilled up to this point to see Princess selected almost every single day to participate in shows, etc.  She was having the time of her life.  Before we left she was so afraid of characters and cast members.  It was so awesome to see her doing so well.

However, poor Bulldozer had not been able to do ANYTHING he had so desperately wanted to do in Disney World due to issues completely beyond his control.  And now, he was left out AGAIN.  I seriously wanted to cry for him.  But, I couldn't because Sunshine was going into one of her screaming rages over not being chosen and not being able to sit on the ground with the other kiddos.

So, instead of comforting Bulldozer, I had to leave and completely miss the whole show.  Instead of watching Dinomite's dream come true, I was walking Sunshine up and down the walkways as she raged, everyone's heads turning.  All I could do is give a smile. If they said something, I just smiled some more and shared that she could go on for eight hours without losing her voice.

In all seriousness, I was exhausted and very emotional at that point.  The smiles were holding back the tears.  I was so upset I was missing the show.  But, at the same time, I knew Sunshine's rages and Jason don't go well together, so if anyone could calm her, it would be me.

Thankfully she did calm down after about 15 minutes.  We worked our way back to the show, as we had walked all the way into Frontierland etc., only to find it had ended.  Bulldozer was looking better by that point.

Since I wasn't at the show, I'll leave the fabulous details for Jason to share.  From what I've heard our kiddos were quite the entertainment and definitely the stars of the show.  I don't think I've ever been so thankful to a photographer for taking so many photos.  Thankfully Jason had my camera as well and was able to capture even more precious moments.
Jason's description:  The four participants were given their instructions in pirating from the captain. He and his fellow pirate had a hard time getting through their speeches, however, due to the high-energy level of a certain Princess bouncing everywhere.

When the captain gave sword fighting instructions to Princess, she couldn't stop moving and jumping around, chatting excitedly, which caused him to proclaim to everyone, "Your mother must be so exhausted!."  (If only he knew!)  The entire audience laughed.

Then, it was Princess' turn to face off against the pirate. Jack's instruction was to distract the pirate and flee, after three sword movements, by saying, "Look over there, it's Blackbeard's ghost!", or something. I wasn't sure what the line was exactly, because Princess ad-libbed her own little reply.

So, when it was time to distract the pirate, she said,. "Look over there! It's the Little Mermaid!" and fled the scene. Both Jack and his mate laughed out loud, right along with the rest of the audience.

It seems that Princess remembered someone joking about that when we were watching the youtube videos to prep the kids beforehand. That was probably 3-4 months before we left! Princess, as we have noted before, forgets nothing!
After two more children fought with the pirate under Captain Jack Sparrow's direction, it was Dinomite's turn to join in. When asked for his name, our little buccaneer proudly exclaimed,  "I'm Captain (Dinomite)! Jack must have been impressed, because, he decided that he was being challenged by a fellow captain, and chose to duel with Dinomite himself!
Once again, our kids' anticipation of the moment was evident, because when the time was right to distract Jack and flee, Dinomite yelled, "Watch out! It's Davey Jones! (a villain from the Pirate movies). Jack, whirled around, confused, saying, "I thought he was dead?" and Dinomite fled the scene. Everyone cheered. It was so funny!
After the tutorial, the pirates asked the audience if anyone else wished to join the crew and be initiated by the Captain on stage.
Several more kids now were chosen to join the others, receive their official pirate pledges, signed by Captain Jack, and shout out the Pirate Cheer. Bulldozer now had his chance and he didn't miss it. He seemed to have as much fun as the others, cheering and hollering with his fellow pirates.
The picture are a little blurry because I had to crop the rest of the kiddos' out, since these were my pictures, not those from Memory Maker.
Still you can see his fabulous facial expressions.
I love the one of him smiling so much!
It was such a special moment for Bulldozer.

Cinderella's Royal Table

After Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial, we headed to Cinderella's Royal Table for dinner.  We had reservations there for 4:15 PM.  The girls were so excited.  Dinomite and Bulldozer were excited as well, as they found out that they'd receive swords at dinner.

Before heading upstairs to the royal table, the kiddos posed for pictures with Cinderella.  We loved this Cinderella compared to the one we had met the first day.  Princess was so excited, as Cinderella is one of her favorite princesses. She had picked out a Cinderella dress for the day and was sure to bring he crown as well.
The two chatted and giggled together.
They hugged and compared shoes.
It truly was a dream come true.  Sunshine enjoyed time with the princess as well.
The boys posed with Cinderella as well but those pictures didn't turn out.

Once upstairs, the girls received wands and the boys received swords.  They were all beyond thrilled about this, but it definitely led to some not so fun behaviors at the table.  Those wands can really hurt someone.
Part of the dinner was a special make a wish ceremony.  The kiddos really enjoyed it.
Then came some more princess meet and greets.  We were hoping to meet some new princesses, but sadly all of the princesses were ones we'd already seen.  Still the kiddos had fun.
Dinomite was more into princesses at this point and wanted pictures, so that was nice.
Even though we did see princesses more than once, the kiddos still enjoyed it. It was all about being surrounded by so many of their favorite characters.  Each one came with their own unique personality and characteristics.
Sunshine didn't do too well during dinner again.  Sigh.  I spent time with her in the bathroom, going up and down the stairs, and trying to keep her calm.  In her defense, I know she was exhausted, hot, and hungry, but out of all the challenges I thought we'd have with her on vacation, I did not anticipate so many issues at meals.

We did get to enjoy our meals for a moment before all chaos broke out.  Sunshine overstuffed, gagged and vomited in her stroller.  Thankfully none of the vomit landed on her and it was easy to clean up.  She had no diarrhea that day or anything, so I know it was just her usual gag reflex and gorging habits.

Not two minutes later, Princess spoke up and said she didn't feel very well, holding her stomach.  Literally 30 seconds later she vomited A LOT at Cinderella's Royal Table.  Thankfully we caught it in time and she was able to vomit in a bag and not all over herself or anything else.  The reason for her vomiting...  She chugged a large cup of chocolate milk as fast as she could and then was eating way too fast.  Sigh.  Gotta love my RAD girls!

Needless to say I got the girls out of there as fast as I could.  We waited outside for Jason and the boys to finish.

Meeting Elsa and Anna

Next on our list of things to do was meeting Elsa and Anna.  I knew Sunshine wasn't doing well, but I also knew she had been looking forward to meeting her two favorite princesses ALL day and if we left before seeing them, there would be HECK to pay.

Princess was beyond done for the day, but now that she had vomited she felt much better and was ready for more.

The boys had absolutely NO desire to meet Anna and Elsa.  In the end, Jason took the boys to go have fun on rides and to stay in the park for as long as they wanted, while I kept the girls and took them to see Anna and Elsa.  After that I would take them back to the hotel.

With our fast passes, we did not have to wait at all to meet Elsa and Anna.  However, when we did get there and Princess went to meet Elsa, to my surprise, she wouldn't go near her favorite princess.  Elsa literally had to ask her to come close for a photo.  I was shocked.
Eventually Princess did get close to her and pose for a photo, but you can tell she was still trying to keep her distance.  Now I admit, the Elsa we saw wasn't that great, but it still didn't make sense.
Sunshine on the other hand was all over Elsa.  Lol.
Even when both girls were with Elsa, Princess kept her distance.
I asked her why she wouldn't get close to her, when we were waiting to meet Ana.  Her answer,

"I was afraid she'd get me with her ice powers."  I tried really hard not to roar in laughter, but seriously?  Oh my goodness! What a girl!

The greetings were much more pleasant with Anna.  I LOVED the Anna that we met. She was so full of spunk and so much fun.  Her take on the character was fantastic as you can see in the pictures.

Sunshine met her first.  She was pretty crazy at this point, and tried dancing with Anna, but fell and hit her head on the back wall behind the curtains. Anna took it with stride. Sunshine didn't really think anything of it.  (She falls a lot!)
When Sunshine finished with Anna, she decided she wanted to go back to see Elsa before I was able to get her in the stroller and totally interrupted someone else's special moment with the princess. Thankfully they were understanding and I was able to bring her back to Anna in time to see Princess meet her.
Then the girls both had fun with Anna giving hugs etc.
Once finished with the princesses, it was time to head back to the hotel.  Sunshine was not functioning enough to keep going.  Princess needed to rest as well.  So, we started working our way out of Magic Kingdom.  

Odds and Ends

On the way out I was able to pick up an ornament for our Christmas tree to remind us of our vacation.  (My one tradition of spending on vacations.)  Sunshine was melting down again, so I was thankful there were no lines before checking out.  Our last stop was to have the photos from the pirate show uploaded to our Memory Maker account.

Little did I know this would mean going through every photo taken during the show, looking for my kiddos.  Sunshine was not happy and was making it known.  Thankfully she calmed down eventually and by the time we were walking out of the park, she was fine.

I'll admit, as I was making my way out of Magic Kingdom with the girls on the last day of our vacation, I was sad and upset.  There was so much we hadn't done that day yet.  As a little girl, my favorite ride was It's a Small World, and I had desperately wanted to take the girls on the ride that day.  

Instead, I was having to return to the hotel with them because of their behaviors and miss out on something I had looked forward to doing.  I wasn't able to spend the evening with my boys.  It had been decided that the night would be all about Bulldozer and what he wanted to do, since he had faced disappointment after disappointment with stride during our trip.  

I wished I could have been there for that.  By the time we were on the bus and back at the hotel, I was over my little "poor me" moment.  We had had so much fun today and after such a busy last night, it was foolish of me to expect more from my girls. Quite honestly, I was surprised they did as well as they did.  I had so much to be thankful for.  And besides, there's always next time.

The night wasn't over though, not even close.

Getting Ready to Leave

We had to make sure all of our plans for flights and check out were in order for tomorrow.  Endless snack credits needed to be cashed out as well as a quick service meal for everyone.  Sunshine needed to spend her $25 gift card.  I had to pack everything and be ready to leave our room by 6:30 AM the next morning.  

It was already about 6:30 PM by the time we returned to the hotel.  Meanwhile, Jason and I were messaging back and forth as he enjoyed his evening with the boys.
The boys had a blast riding some of their favorite rides a second and third time. Then they decided they were ready to go back to the hotel.  Dinomite wanted to go to the arcade.  Bulldozer wanted to play his Nintendo 2DS.  

As far as I know, the only upset about the night was that Dinomite would not go on the Seven Dwarf's Mine Train, because it was too fast, and Bulldozer had desperately wanted to go on it.  Without another adult to watch Dinomite, it wasn't possible for them to pull it off.

Unsure of when Jason and the boys would make it back to the hotel I was preparing to take the girls to the food court to pick up snacks and to the hotel store to spend Sunshine's gift card.  I made the mistake of telling Sunshine of the plans.  

She could not WAIT to buy a BIG Stitch stuffed animal to bring home with her and pick up grapes to eat at the food court.  When I did learn Jason was coming back I realized he could run the errands, but Sunshine was still planning on doing what I had said.  In the process of all of this Princess had fallen asleep.  Lol.

An Evening Walk and Goodbyes

When Jason and the boys did return at about 9 PM, I took Sunshine with me to get her Stitch and to pick up her grapes.  I figured if I did this and returned, she'd finally go to bed.  

Just that little walk from the hotel room to the hotel store and food court was such a delight with Sunshine and made up for all that had happened that day.  She was absolutely adorable and our time spent together was so enjoyable.  It was the simple things that made it so special.  

While at the food court with her, the chef from our very first night came to greet us and give us a hug goodbye.  He knew Sunshine by name and thanked us profusely for the pleasure of helping our family during our stay.  

The cashiers at the store melted over Sunshine's affection towards her new stuffed animal Stitch. Everyone that saw us walking that night just smiled as they listened to Sunshine babble on while trying to carry her grapes and Stitch at the same time.  I hadn't brought the stroller as it was drying out after being washed from the vomiting episode earlier.

When I asked Sunshine about her favorite part of the day, as we walked back to the hotel, she didn't hesitate to say it was her walk with Mommy to get Stitch.  And quite honestly, that was my favorite moment with her from the day too.  It didn't take Sunshine 5 minutes after eating her grapes to fall asleep in her bed, holding Stitch.

The Arcade and Snacks

With both girls asleep, Bulldozer was left to play his Nintendo 2DS, while Jason and Dinomite headed to the hotel arcade to play games and then to the food court to cash out all of our snack and quick meal credits.  From what I was told, Jason and Dinomite had a blast at the arcade.

It had been our plan to use the snack credits in the parks each day, or when we returned to the hotel each night, but it never happened.  Lines for snacks at the parks were long, and we didn't want to waste time trying to figure out snacks, when we had brought our own, and we had spent two hours per meal during the day already.

I figured if we did things right, we'd have all the food we needed for the travel day ahead by cashing out that last night.  Sure enough we had more than plenty and a late night meal to eat as we were packing everyone's things up.

The boys ended up going to bed around midnight.  Jason and I finished packing and were in bed by 2:30 AM.  We were all beyond exhausted and couldn't wait to get home.  The vacation was fabulous, but none of us anticipated such a lack of sleep.  It would be so nice to be able to sleep in as late as we wanted in our own beds upon returning home.  What a day it had been!

Lessons Learned from our Day in Magic Kingdom

1.  Keep to your regular sleep schedule while in the parks.  If you wake up early and go to bed early, do so there. If you wake up late and go to bed late, do so there.  Otherwise you will be exhausted and miserable and so will your children.  Do not burn your candle at both ends.

2.  It's not a bad idea to schedule meals earlier than usual. Between the heat and all of the walking, kiddos get hungry much faster.  By scheduling early, you also beat the big crowds!

3.  When meeting characters know that some are aboslutely amazing to spend time with, interact with, etc., but others aren't as great.

4,  Schedule fast passes for character greetings and/or make reservations for character meals.  They are always worth it!  Otherwise there's a good chance you'll be waiting over an hour (and sometimes much longer) just to meet a character.

5.  Sometimes it can be a really great thing to purchase Disney's photo package, especially if you have more than one kiddo to take pictures of, and if you know there's a chance you may miss something because you have a child who meltsdown often.

6.  Prepare for your kiddos to be disappointed.  Try to have a back up plan in case something doesn't go as planned.  Disappointment with a special needs kiddo can really make or break your day.

7.  Always carry at least one puke bag with you, especially if you have a kiddo who tends to gag, over stuff, or vomit often.  You will not regret your decision to have it on hand.  I PROMISE!

8.  Make plans ahead of time, in case you need to split up and/or one or more kiddos need to return to the hotel for some reason.  Plans made ahead of time will definitely pay off in the moment when someone is sick, melting down, or has had enough.

9.  Know you'll never accomplish everything you want to.  There will always be things you didn't get to do and be okay with that.  Try to prioritize your day, if you can to reflect what's most important.

10.  Plan for at least one down day at your Disney hotel to take advantage of everything there is to do there.  And then be sure to plan time for packing before you have to leave, especially when flying.  Between the exhaustion you feel from your trip and the dread of having to pack everything up, it definitely takes more time than you think.

For those interested in busy bag ideas for Magic Kingdom, be sure to check out our Princess themed ones.  I don't know what we would have done without them!

If you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World with special needs children and are interested in learning more about our experience, be sure to read about our trip below!

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