As we twirled around the Buzz Lightyear ride at Disneyland Paris, my 12-year-old son Eddie, who has autism, couldn’t contain his excitement. “This is the best ride ever!” he exclaimed, a joyful contrast to the anxiety he used to feel at his mainstream primary school. Diagnosed with autism in 2019, Eddie has come a long way, thanks to his new specialist school and our efforts to create positive experiences for him.

This year, we opted to celebrate Eddie’s birthday at Disneyland Paris instead of throwing a party, hoping our other kids, Jemima (9) and Charlie (15), would enjoy it too. Eddie has sensory processing disorder, which means loud noises and bright lights can be overwhelming. To prepare for our visit, we showed him videos of the rides and provided a visual map of the park.

Upon arrival, we were welcomed by a member of the park’s Accessibility Team, who guided us through the special entrance for guests with disabilities. It felt like stepping into a fairytale, with dazzling pink turrets and whimsical waterfalls. The Accessibility Guide we received was incredibly helpful, offering tips on the best times for rides and which restaurants to avoid due to high sensory input.

However, a hiccup arose the next day when we learned we needed a disability card to continue using the special entrances—something we didn’t have. While Disney’s requirement for a card, which grants Premier Access to 17 out of 54 rides, makes sense, it’s a challenge if you don’t have one yet. We ended up joining the main queue, but thankfully it wasn’t too crowded.

Our ride choices ranged from the Spider-Man W.E.B Adventure to the immersive 3D Ratatouille experience. Eddie had a blast, although the Star Wars rollercoaster was a bit too intense for him. When he needed a break, finding a quiet spot to unwind was crucial. Although the park doesn’t have designated rest areas, we managed to find a peaceful bench.

For anyone planning a visit, I highly recommend securing a disability card beforehand to make the experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Disneyland Paris proves to be a magical destination that can accommodate the needs of neurodiverse children. If you’ve been to Disneyland with your neurodiverse child or have tips to share, leave your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

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