Getting out an about is difficult with a child on the autism spectrum. The lines are full of other people, noise, sounds smells, and they cannot process what it means to wait, for it is never-ending. This is regardless of the reward; most children will forgo the “pay off” because the wait is just too painful. This is the big difference between typical kids and people who hate waiting, and ASD kids.One of our favorite places in the world to take Noah for some family fun is Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA.
Busch Gardens has a special needs program or Mobility Program, that helps these problems for ASD kids, and all people with special needs. There are also other factors which make visiting here, worth the trip. View the additional list photos for more information. You can also click here when you are done to read about special discounts and some specials happening this season.
Getting a Mobility Pass
You get your pass at Guest Relations, right after you enter the main gate of the park. The booth is to the right in England. You explain what you need it for; they will take down a little bit of information including name and address, measure your child’s height and give them a wrist band. They will print you out a paper that will be good for the month. Once you are in the system anytime you return after this, it is a simple print out and measuring the height of your child process that takes about 5 minutes including the wait time. The paper is shown to all ride attendants and they will direct you. Many carnival style rides such as the “Battering Ram” in Italy (pendulum swinging boat ride) or “The Auto-bahn” in Germany (bumper cars) you would go up the exit. This pass allows your child and your party to fast pass all rides, or use the exit for rides that do not have fast pass. Most of the time you are allowed right on the ride through the Quick Queue return, the wait from this point is short, from a few minutes, up to 15 minutes. If it is busy, you will be given a time to return.
Land of the Dragons great for gross motor input
The Land of the Dragons is pretty much in the middle of the park, in the back of Germany. It is a great place for kids to run off energy, or even if you have a longer than normal wait to return to a popular ride (such as Verbolten in Germany, though we have never had to do so.) On hot days there are water sprays for kids to play, smaller spinning rides for young ones, nets to climb and a huge tree house. The area only has one way in and out, so parents can relax while their children explore.
The tree house in Land of the Dragons
The tree house stands about 2 stories tall and connects to roped netting that children can cross back and forth. It is the same way up as it is down, so you don't have to worry about your child getting lost.
Thrill rides help with sensory regulation
Over in the Forest of Fun, a Sesame Street themed area for kids, there is a smaller version of a free fall ride. (There is also a small coaster and some even more gentile rides for toddlers) The free failing aspect works much in the way some Occupational therapy works by helping to regulate the sensory system, especially sensory seeking kids, and those who have problems knowing where their body is in space.
Mining Fun in France of BG
Not all kids are into Minecraft, or all ASD kids, but it seems to go hand and hand. Kids on the spectrum, who are really into the game, will love to go mining in New France of Busch Gardens. You can purchase a bag of sand that contains rocks/gems for anywhere from $6-12 and sift them through an old fashioned sluice. This is also a particularly fun activity for those who are sensory seeking in a tactile fashion since they get to play with the water and touch rocks and gems. This may want to be avoided by those who do not like getting their hands wet.
Plenty of places to just relax
Relaxing is something that is hard to do when you have kids, and almost never happens when you have special needs kids. So finding a place with beautiful scenery like this, and many areas to just sit back and relax is wonderful. You can ride the train, sky ride or take a short cruise down the Rhine River. There are also several places throughout the park to see shows full of musical numbers.
Magic in Ireland
Noah’s favorite place is probably The Magic Shop in Ireland. Here you can catch a few magic tricks from local resident magician Jim. But don’t expect him to give away any secrets, per Magician’s code. However, you can get some tips with purchase of magic items. Regardless, just being here in Busch Gardens has been quite magical; it took some time to find a place where we are able to connect with our child. The combination of affordability, variety of activities, the atmosphere and ambiance and mobility pass make this one of the best places for our ASD family to visit.