Ray Pilgrim (NDD#104) (11 Posts)

Ray grew up with Disney having visited Disneyland several times as a kid, and Walt Disney World once. He had always had fond memories of the trips, but really became a Neurotic Disney Dad when he started to take his kids to the Disney Parks. His oldest child has Autism Spectrum Disorder. So taking his kids to Disney took a little more planning and some lessons learned the hard way. To help others, he and his wife have created Disney for Families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (WDWAutism.com) to help others plan their magical trips to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disney Cruise Line. WDWAutism also has planning aides to help families prepare for their trips. Rachel and Ray also produce a weekly Disney Parks planning podcast called Mouse Travel Tips.

Photo Credit: Ray Pilgrim

Part of the DDL culture is the Sacred Seven.  These are seven principles on how to enjoy the park.  As a “Neurotic Disney Father” I heartily agree with these Sacred Seven, but for my special needs son we have to adjust them.  Here are our Special Needs Sacred Seven:

  1. Thou shalt play only Disney music when en route to Disney.  For us it is a 18 hour drive to Walt Disney World so we definitely listen to music not only to get us ready but also to help the children to get used to the music at the park.  We have all sorts of music from attractions to shows.  We even play games to see if they can guess where the music is from.
  2. Thou shalt ride the monorail when in Disney.  Aside from being an awesome mode of transportation, it is an easy way for Josh to get to Magic Kingdom or Epcot in his special needs stroller.  No need to fold up the stroller, and we even have a ramp to help us get into the monorail.
  3. Thou shalt arrive at the theme park before the gate opens.  This is important for several reasons.  First, it sets the mood for the day with the opening show. The Magic Kingdom show just sprinkles pixie dust for the day.  The practical side being it’s less crowded, and we can get a lot done before everyone else decides to show up for the day.
  4. Thou shalt repeat a ride if you want to before you move on.  This is different from the DDL Sacred Seven where you shalt not repeat a ride until all are done.  However, for us it is easier to do a favorite attraction several times before we move on.  With the picture schedule Josh can know what the order is, but it is okay to do “It’s a Small Word” several times before we go on to a new one.  If we don’t get to them all, it’s okay.
  5. Thou shalt not reject a ride until you get an idea of what it is.  A little different from the normal Sacred Seven where you can’t reject until you experience.  However, for special needs parents it helps to know what type of attractions your child can do or doesn’t like.  Not all attractions are good for Josh, and we have learned that the hard way.  However, with youtube you can get an idea of the attractions, and your child can even watch.  Nothing says fun like when your child decides it’s time to get off of the attraction midway through.  So, if you know the attraction is not for your special needs family member, go ahead and reject it.  There will be time for you to come back and try again.
  6. Thou shalt be photographed with Mickey Mouse at Disney, and Mickey needs to know how you are special.  There is nothing like meeting Mickey and his friends; however, to make it special for everyone, talk to Mickey’s guide to let him know.  Josh is very tactile and loves to touch. Once when we visited with Goofy, we told his guide about Josh and his touching.  She yelled out to Goofy, “Hey Goofy, we have a lover.”  Goofy knew what it meant, and they both had a great time.
  7. Thou shalt leave before it is too late.  When I say too late, I mean before everyone is too tired and overwhelmed.  Better to go before the point of no return for meltdowns.  When it’s just me, I love being there late after a lot of people have left.  With Josh we may have to leave early and take a break.  We can come back after he’s refreshed and ready to do more. We try to do as much as we can, but if we don’t get it done, it’s all right.  The park isn’t going anywhere.

Those are our Sacred Seven.  They are very close to JL’s Sacred Seven, but  a little different so that our trips are magical and special.  Most of them are a little more practical, but it helps to make our trip magical.  After all, isn’t that the point of visiting Disney Parks? So, for those with special needs family members, how close are your Sacred Seven?

Contributed by: Ray Pilgrim (NDD#104) Ray is the DDL Special Needs Blogger. He is also the creator of WDW Autism.


  1. Ray, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!!! Is it OK if I make a permanent page for this on the ddl right under The Sacred Seven? Maybe this will be our ammended bill for special cases?

  2. I am excited you enjoyed it. I would be honored if you did a permanent page. You may do with it what you like.

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