A vacation to Walt Disney World is a rite of passage for most American families. Sharing memories at America’s playground is something that many children dream about and many parents dream of giving them. But vacations are fraught with challenges and often meltdowns, arguments and impatience rear their ugly heads. So when you throw ADHD into the mix, how can you ensure your family can experience the magic of Disney, rather than fighting the urge to leave each other behind on It’s a Small World? The rise of incentive travel and the business retreat has enhanced the experience of the person. The traveling with the friends and children will be memorable and interesting for the couples.
Prepare your child.
Disney World is a collection of sights, sounds and action that can overwhelm an adult, much less a child with Attention Deficit Disorder. Prepare your ADHD child with videos, books and websites that open the doors to the World of Disney. Order the vacation planning dvd from www.disneyworld.com and watch it together as a family. Make sure your child sees the resorts, rides and attractions and has an idea what to expect. Get them involved in the planning process by having them make lists of all the must do rides and attractions they want to experience. If you have a small amusement park nearby, take them there and let them get used to the all consuming sensations there. Make them familiar with what the trip has to offer and when they finally get there, they may even feel a little at home!
Prepare for the waits.
Disney World is a great place, but lines and waits are part of every trip. Bring items to keep your child entertained while waiting in the long lines. ADHD doesn’t make for a lot of patience and at times it is very hard for an ADHD child to sit still for that long. Bringing iPods, a Nintendo DS or another hand held gaming devices may not be what you’d expect when you’re surrounded by entertainment, but it may be just the key to capturing your child’s attention and keeping them from driving themselves, you and everyone else crazy in line. Other ideas include purchasing a book about “hidden Mickeys” and encouraging your child to search out these hidden icons within the ride queues and landscapes. Our son likes to keep entertained by setting up counts for himself. How many people in line have hats? How many are wearing red? How many kids? How many Mickey shirts? How many people are in front of us? How many in back? Come up with things your child can count and race to see who can do it faster.
Keep it simple.
Don’t push your child. A day at Disney is tiring and even the most energetic person needs a break. A child with ADHD may have an unlimited storage of energy, but mentally they may need to step back and de-stress. Take them back to the resort in the afternoon and spend some time at the pool. Let them expend all the extra energy swimming back and forth and give yourself a rest in the Florida sunshine. Your child will get out all the energy they have and be able to simplify their surroundings. Taking the breaks in the afternoon also keeps your family cool during the hottest part of the day, and this really helps prevent blowups.
Cherish the memories.
Take lots of photos, pursue lots of activities and have lots of laughs. We have found that Disney is a place where our son can really be himself and where he can relax and be silly, goofy and have fun. We have fallen in love with the family memories we have created and go back time and time again to create more. It is a challenge with ADHD and we have seen him grow and change with every trip, but being prepared, knowing we can’t do it all in one trip, and simply understanding each other has truly made Walt Disney World a place where we can truly cherish each other. Arguments, meltdowns and fights notwithstanding.