Disney’s Multi-Sensory Ride Lines

I am the father of three boys, ages 6, 5, and 4. Our family was lucky enough to be able to visit Disney World after the ATIA conference last year. One of our boys’ favorite rides was Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Who doesn’t love their flying elephant to go up and down? It’s a simple but fun ride that many children enjoy.

A few years ago, the Dumbo ride was closed and moved to the Storybook Circus area of Magic Kingdom Park. The new attraction has two identical Dumbo rides. It also has a big, indoor play area for kids to play while they wait to ride. Last year our boys enjoyed playing in the play area.

Between last year and this year, our 6 and 5-year-olds have been diagnosed with ADHD. It has been very interesting to watch and see what they react to now, knowing about their diagnoses. They are both on meds, and their symptoms are being managed pretty well.

This year, again after ATIA we were fortunate enough to be able to take them to Disney World. One of rides they wanted to go on again was Dumbo. When we got there, I discovered that while they were interested in the ride – they just wanted to play. Knowing what I know now, it all made sense. They like physical activity and different sensory experiences. The Dumbo play area offers a variety of these activities. The play area consists of different colors of lights changing periodically, rope walkways for climbing, strings to set off “fireworks” (lights in the ceiling with accompanying sound), and more.

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This area certainly could be overwhelming for some children, it can be noisy and bright at times, but our boys didn’t want to leave – even when it was time to ride Dumbo. Now, I understand why – for some kids, the multi-sensory stimulation is what they need.

Disney has redesigned the ques for other rides as well. I believe their goal was largely to make waiting in line more tolerable with interactive areas in the ques. The Winnie the Pooh ride, Peter Pan and the Haunted Mansion are a few of the other rides with activities in their wait areas. I searched online to see if Disney considered the sensory aspect of their experiences when adding these new ques. I did not find anything about this so I can’t say if the sensory appeal is part of the design or just a fortunate coincidence.

As an educator, therapist or parent how has your view of a child changed as you work with and learn more about that child? How challenging is it to accommodate children in an inclusive setting? What are some solutions you have found?