Most people love to go to Amusement parks, including those with special needs. Southern California is world famous for their amusement parks: Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Universal
Studios and Magic Mountain for example. The key is to be safe, comfortable, have fun, and avoid frustration when you attend the park with your special needs’ attendee. The Valley Socials team have been to many amusement parks and we have annual passes at some
of those parks. Some parks are much more accommodating than others. Experience and trial and error have taught us all the essential survival techniques so we can fully enjoy the parks.
Prepare ahead of time! Call the park or check online for park hours, weather condition, what rides might be closed. Tell your special needs attendee about what rides are closed
ahead of time so they don’t become upset at the park. Avoid going on really hots days. A blazing hot day is miserable for those with special needs. It is a good idea to pack a few survival items to make the day go smoothly. Some ideas we recommend are: headphones
(in case there are issues of excessive noise stimuli), the most comfortable, broken in walking shoes, hat or visors, sunglasses (but be prepared to pack them away on fast rides), snacks, water bottles (which can be refilled at the drinking fountains of course)
sunblock ( which needs to be reapplied every 2-3 hours for fairer skin), band aids, backpacks or purses that have straps that go around the body for security. Of course, wearing shorts are great on warm days, but be forewarned that items do fly out of pockets
if the material is polyester and silky slippery! We have experienced this as well. It’s best to fully secure all personal items.
One time, for example, Pauline was at an outdoor, mild roller coaster and her cell phone flew out of her shorts pocket on the ride! She was upset after the ride ended. We asked
the employees at the ride to look out for the missing cell phone. We started walking away to other rides. Fortunately, a man with his children ran up to us and said he found Pauline’s phone! He said he saw Pauline’s cell phone fly into HIS cart on the ride
behind us and he retrieved it. He happily gave it back to Pauline. The staff can be good at finding missing items after a ride is finished as well. Sometimes the staff can ask you to fill out a form at Guests Relations when you are missing an item. The employees
inform you that when the park closes, the staff will clean up the rides and find missing items and turn them in to Guest Relations. You can go back to the park to retrieve your items, or they can mail it to you.
Upon arriving at the amusement park, go to Guest Relations to discuss what accommodations you will need. It helps to get the name of the staff that gives you service in case you
need to contact them if you have any issues at the park. Get a map of the park. Find out where bathrooms are and the First Aid stations ahead of time. You can ask where a quiet section of the park is in case you need a restful break. Go on the most popular
rides first (if you can) because they get very crowded. This will reduce some of the stress of wading through mobs of people with your special needs’ family member or friend. Don’t eat before going on the fast rides or roller coasters to avoid upset stomachs.
Have a very relaxing meal afterwards. It works out well if your party goes to quieter rides after a meal. Have frequent bathroom breaks and water, snack breaks. Another tip is to teach your special needs family member or friend about how to stay safe. Show
your special needs attendee what security personnel looks like (often they can have the word ‘SECURITY” on their shirt or jacket or badge. Let your attendee know that if they have a problem, they can go to security, or even an employee at the park who works
in the stores or at the rides. Let them know that they will help and protect your special needs attendee.
Valley Socials really appreciates some of the employees who we frequently see at parks we visit. They often remember the Valley Socials group and give outstanding service. NEW
employees can be worrisome for us because some of them do NOT know very much about accommodations for special needs. One time we had an issue about having access at a ride. Some members of our group were becoming agitated, and one member started crying. The
employees offered no assistance, only cold stares. A female employee came over and happily assisted our group to access the ride. We saw her having a chat with the other employees and telling them that special needs attendees must have better service and accommodations.
We often receive excellent assistance from some civil right-minded employees, and we are deeply grateful. All employees should understand accommodation and proper treatment of customers with special needs. The Valley Socials group often finish the day about
3:30-4:00 if we get to the parks early. Some individuals with special needs tire out more quickly and can become cranky. We like to end the day still happy and not overly fatigued.
Overall, amusement parks can be a successful outing and a favorite activity for the special needs’ population. The tips and ideas presented in this article should help make the
day go smoothly. It is vital that the employees know how to provide accommodations and understand how to take care of special needs families. Having a good day at the amusement park just takes planning ahead and having them join the Valley Socials “Special
Needs Friendly Establishment” program as well!