Babysitting and Special Needs Child

Hello all,
Been enjoying reading the forum and this is my first post! Planning a trip to Disney in November and was interested in the babysitting programs (like the Sandcastle or Dolphin). My son just turned 7 and has Down syndrome. He’s verbal, has no significant behavioral problems, and is potty trained, but would need more assistance than the typical kid his age. He would potentially need reminding to use potty and may need help with his pants, he wears orthotics on his feet that he can’t take on and off by himself, or he might need some extra supervision to make sure he’s safe with physical tasks. Plan was to call them in the next few weeks and see what they can do, but I thought I’d check to see if anyone has things to say about their experiences with special needs kids.

My 5 year old daughter is developmentally delayed. In some ways her issues are the opposite of your son’s – she has issues communicating and sometimes behavioral meltdowns. It sounds like they share physical safety needs; and both need assistance with shoes, etc.

We took her to Simba’s Cubhouse at Animal Kingdom Lodge on several evenings. Honestly, the kids’ club was an absolute highlight of the trip for her. She loved it. The experience brought out the best in her, too. She was eager to please the CMs in the club. Each time I dropped her off, I mentioned her communication issues. Everyone seemed to go with the flow on that. The facility was secure and I wasn’t concerned about her safety, even though she’s a daredevil. You should know that there are lots of small toys around. If your son tends to mouth little toys, that could be an issue.

I suggest that if you’re using one of the kids’ clubs (I know of the ones at AKL, the Polynesian, and Beach Club), that you dress your son in his “easiest” pants or shorts to enable him to operate as independently as possible. The pottying issue seems to be a lightning rod at kid drop-off spots like the one at IKEA. My daughter is potty-capable like your son; and also like your son, sometimes has problems getting her clothes on exactly right afterwards. In my experience, the carers are always willing to button a button or straighten out pants; but the facilities tend to get skittish if they think you’re being half-honest about the potty-training issue.

With that sidebar – I again want to emphasize that our experiences at Simba’s Cubhouse were incredible. The CM team was awesome and really helped our daughter feel welcomed. They understood that she wanted to bring in a comfort toy. We were having a little trouble getting her to eat during vacation, but she enjoyed her dinners at the club. The kids’ clubs are going to be a big part of my planning for the next visit.

FYI, if you’re interested in dining at Boma or Jiko or Sanaa, your first hour at the AKL kids’ club will be comped. Each additional hour is $15. I was staying at AKL but didn’t learn that until we were a few days in. I had invested something like $25+ on an uneaten kid’s buffet at Boma! She could have eaten dinner for free that night at Simba’s Cubhouse. She would have had a better time, I would have enjoyed a meal with my husband and older daughter, and it would have cost us a lot less.

If you call the dining reservation number, which is the line you call to make kids’ club reservations, they may not be able to give you a lot of detail. They had only the sketchiest information about drop-off and meal windows. To be honest, I’d make a reservation and then show up to talk it out with the CMs on duty. I suspect everything will work out wonderfully!

I hope this helps!

Very helpful advice! I appreciate you taking the time to write such a thoughtful reply. I’m encouraged by your positive experience! I always get nervous about how these types of settings will work for him-- is he going to eat? is he going to have a potty accident even though he hasn’t in a year? In the end, it usually ends up going well, but you just never know. I think we may give it a go! I know my husband and I will for sure appreciate having even just a couple hours to ourselves.