Florida: theme parks designed for families with children with special needs

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Central Florida has a generally warm climate year-round. Water parks attract tourists equally, including the brand new Volcano Bay (part of Universal), but also theme parks.

Receiving help for a family member with special needs can be stressful and frustrating. Luckily, most parks in Florida have accommodations so everyone in the family can have fun together while on vacation. All Disney parks offer handicapped access service, and Universal offers a ride-hailing pass to attractions in Florida and also Universal Studios Hollywood.

Disney and Universal park passes

Universal’s Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) works the same way as Disneyland Disabled Access Service (DAS) or Disney World Disabled Access Service, although that AAP still uses a paper-based system, while DAS has gone digital.

The AAP is intended for customers with a cognitive or physical disability or a condition that prevents them from being able to wait in a conventional queue. Universal’s Attraction Assistance Pass allows the person with a disability and their party to wait in an alternate queue (such as the Universal Express queue) when weather permits.

The main theme parks are wheelchair accessible, although each varies in how many rides children can actually ride. Most require you to move around on a manual wheelchair at a minimum, and often directly from the chair to the ride itself. However, shows at all parks have special wheelchair seating, as each park also has its own policies on how to line up for rides.

Here are some picks from the newer parks:

LEGOLAND® Florida Resort at Winter Haven

Located in Central Florida, Legoland becomes the first themed resort to achieve Certified Autism Center (CAC) certification. This designation is valid for the entire resort, i.e. it includes hotels and parks, including the recently opened Peppa Pig theme park. The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) assigns this moniker to organizations that complete employee training and certification, as well as other requirements, including accommodation for visitors with cognitive disabilities.

Peppa Pig Theme Park

When the Peppa Pig theme park opened on February 24, 2022 in Winter Haven (adjacent to Legoland), it was certified autistic-friendly and also includes a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk.

This park hosts a wheelchair-accessible ride, the Peppa Pig’s Balloon Ride. It has been specially designed to allow children in wheelchairs to be able to ride without having to be lifted from their wheelchair. You can see how it works with the video below:

Florida’s Chlidren Museum

The newest Florida Children’s Museum in Lakeland is the perfect place for children of all ages and abilities to experience innovative hands-on learning. The museum is located in the new Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland. With two floors of interactive exhibits, your child can spend hours exploring fun learning opportunities. They have something for babies all the way up to 12 year olds.

In order for everyone to feel comfortable playing and learning, families can request a sensory kit during their visit. Just go to the reception where you buy tickets to request one. Kits include noise canceling headphones, sunglasses and a pocket toy.




Catherine Mills Avatar