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

My family has been to Walt Disney World many times.  My kids are well versed in the different parks there.  However, I have a water park confession.  Despite the many times we have been there and the many different things we have done while there, we have never been to a water park.  I know it’s shocking, but we have not gone for several reasons. One reason was that they where young and, for me, I’m cheap and felt the resort pool was just as good as a water park. The second was that I felt it took time away from the parks.  However, the main reason was I was worried how Josh with his autism would react towards the water park.

Now, he loves to swim and has taken lessons since he was five.  Today, swim therapy is one of his favorite activities.  So that aspect I wasn’t worried about, but water parks are big and busy.  I also know that they don’t have the same accommodations that the main parks have for those with special needs.  Now the time has arrived for us to give them a try.  This upcoming trip in May we’re going to Typhoon Lagoon.

Rachel and I are doing several things to help us and to help Josh get prepared for the experience.   We are doing the standard research at looking at the different water attractions and deciding on what we know he would like and ones that we can do together so we can keep a eye on him.  We are also watching the promotional video that they give out so he is familiar with the park.  We’re also going to our favorite online resource, YouTube, to see what is available.  Also, the Disney Community is a great resource.  They can give great advice and are always willing to help you with ideas.

While we’re there, one of the first things we’re going to do is to talk to guest relations to see what they can do to help us or to give us some ideas to help make the park a nice experience.  Talking to Cast Members is always a good idea when you have questions.  Second, we are going with extra help.  We are bringing a niece to help, as an extra person will provide so much help when needed.  The last thing we’re doing is trying to go at a low crowd time.

As I had mentioned before, water parks were not on my agenda.  However, the kids wanted to go, and the resort pools can no longer satisfy their swimming desires.  I feel that with a good strategy we all can have a fun and wet time.  It will be good for Josh and me to try a new experience.  If you have suggestions for our water park adventure, let us know.  In a couple of months we can report back and let you know how it went.

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


  1. Great post! You’re not alone! I was always worried that my LD son would have a traumatic water park experience even though he’s a good swimmer. We had a wonderful time at Blizzard Beach. The lazy river was fabulous and he was able to take it all in at his own speed:)

  2. If Josh has any sensory issues with his feet, get him pool shoes. I highly recommend them for the whole family. The ground gets hot and burns, bacteria festers (YUCK), and there are some areas where you could stub toes and stuff like that. We get the sneaker style ones from Lands End but we also use them every day in the summer. Cheap ones from Walmart will get you through the day at Typhoon Lagoon.

    Go in double tubes when you can. If he wants to try going by himself, let him!! Oreo cookie him. Mom/Dad go down first while the other stays up top and gets Josh ready to go. Send him down and follow behind on the same slide. Sometimes the CMs may say “step to the next slide” or something I usually “he needs help” or something that indicates that I am assisting my child. They’re great about it.

    BRIGHT ORANGE RASH GUARD!!! Last year Lands End had orange tie dye ones that were awesome. This year they dont but Target has bright orange ones. Get a bathing suit with bright colors that matches. Image the call over the radios “we have two missing boys, once wearing a blue bathing suit with a blue rash guard and one wearing a blue/white/orange suit and a bright orange rash guard.” Which kid do you think gets found first? It also makes it easy to spot them in the wave pool.

    I’m not sure of how verbal Josh is so not sure if this pertains to you. Unless he can understand and follow the directions of “do not kick your feet, just swim with your arms” I recommend not trying Shark Reef. My son was kicking every so slightly and every time he even wiggled a foot they were yelling out for him to stop kicking. We ended up having to tell him to stop swimming all together while my husband and I each took one of his arms and tried to swim him to the end with one arm each. I was sure I would drown and it wasn’t pleasant. But they are very strict about the no kicking in that attraction.

    Get there at opening and go on Crush N Gusher early. I can’t remember if it’s May Day Falls or Keelhaul Falls that always has a long line when we’re there. I’m not crazy about the layout at Typhoon Lagoon and we always seem to have to back track to find the entrance to a ride, so I can’t remember which of those is which. Most of the other lines seemed to move well. Personally I don’t like Typhoon Lagoon, I’m a Blizzard Beach person, but the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon is the BEST and we end up spending most of our day in there!

    There was something else I was going to mention and my mind just went blank. If I think of it I’ll post.

    Most of all, have fun!! I was TERRIFIED to take my son to the water parks so we took him to a local one just to test things out. He loved it and we realized how capable he was when it came to these things. My son can have a hard time waiting on some lines or in stores, but at water parks his tolerance level is so much higher. I don’t know why but I”m happy he does. Now we have season passes to our local one and last year we went about 20 times.

  3. Thanks for the tips. I am going out to look for the bright orange rash guard. Thanks again.

  4. Can’t wait to read about your experiences! We’ve never braved the water parks, mostly b/c of our son w/ autism. But older sister wants to go… same old story! Good luck!

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