Monday, January 2, 2012

DD Special Needs: Visiting Universal Studios Orlando with Down Syndrome


Our family, my 19-year old step-daughter with Down Syndrome, my ‘normal’  (as if) 12-year old daughter, my husband and I went to Universal Studios Adventure Island in Orlando Florida for a vacation.   Universal Studios was amazingly versatile and we all had fun in spite of the major differences between the four of us.  The story of our day at the bottom of this post.

Recommendations for Down Syndrome success at Universal Studios:

·      Get everyone involved in planning, look at the website together, go over brochures together, talk about what you want to do and make sure everyone gets a turn to choose the activity.

·      Bring ear plugs if your loved one with Down Syndrome child is sensitive to loud noises.
·      Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.  Our Anne says ‘no’ to everything except food, crossword puzzles and listening to her ipod.  When we get her to participate in activities she almost always has fun and we have fun with her that’s an important part of being together.
·      Make sure everyone gets to do a little of what they want to do.  Don’t plan everyone else’s day at the park around your loved one with Down syndrome.  Do things as a family but don’t limit others activities because the person with Down syndrome doesn’t want to participate.  Split up take turns going on the big rides and someone skipping the big rides to find fun that your loved one with Down syndrome  can enjoy.  Resentment is not good for anyone or the family.

CCritiques of Universal in our own words:

Anne (19-year old with Down syndrome) says:  Busy and had fun. 

Favorite:  Popeye’s river raft.
Liked least:  Harry Potter.


Kellena (12-year old girl):  Loads of lines, loads of people but it was exhilarating just being there.

Favorite:  Harry Potter
Least Favorite:  Dr. Seuss area.

Dad Cristo:  Despicable, just kidding.  The construction of towers, castles, store fronts, streets was impressive feat of engineering.  The crowd control however was ill-conceived and poorly thought out, nothing like Disney.  The park lacked information, the lines were constructed ad hoc.  (No he doesn't sound like an engineer.)

Favorite:  Parking was nice everything else was just a blur.
Least favorite:  Crowded conditions.

Mom Karen:   Great time, I'm amazed this park could be fun for each of us with such varied ideas of fun and differences in opinion.

Favorite:  We all had fun, really liked meal at Mythos Restaurant-blackened Mahi Mahi with plantains.
Least favorite:  Crowds and lines.

Our day at Universal Adventure Islands:


The day started out rocky.  Anne, our daughter with Down syndrome decided she didn’t want to go to Universal Studios.  She laid in bed and moaned, complaining of a stomach ache.  We went downstairs and got waffles, eggs, bacon and donuts from the breakfast bar in the hotel and set-up a breakfast buffet in the room.  Anne came around real quick. 

During breakfast we showed Anne the brochure for Universal Studios and talked about how much fun it would be to visit.  Anne’s face lighted up and she was ready to go.  We had discussed Universal Studios for the 3 hours it took to drive to Orlando and told Anne it was like Disney World.  We assumed she knew what we were talking about but we should have shown her the website and photos, doh!!

So off we went to Universal Studios, we we’re all caught up in the spirit of the day, my 12-year old Kellena, a great Harry Potter fan was wildly happy.  When we  arrived at the park we found out that we needed a ticket to get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so while we waited for our turn in the Wizarding World we went to Posieden.  Posieden was okay, Anne loved it.  The Poisedon ‘ride’ was a walk through a theatrical venue with lights, water and fire.   Anne kept her ears covered the entire time but she loved it.

Our next stop was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we began in the wizarding world with the ‘Harry Potter Forbidden Journey’ ride.  There was an 80-minute wait to get into the ride.  There was a stone fence that ran along side the ride and Kellena kept climbing on the fence to sit down.  Anne saw Kellena climb up to sit down, Anne wanted to do the same. 

Anne wasn’t as agile as Kellena and it was difficult to resist giving her a boost but she climbed up for a short sit each time Kellena did.  It was fun to watch the two of them and Anne was very proud of herself each time she was able to find a seat.  When they ran out of wall they sat on the handrails, again Anne was very proud it was fun for us all.  

When we finally got into the Harry Potter ride, I realized it may not be a good ride for Anne.  Anne, like many other kids with Down’s Syndrome has difficulty with vestibular movement and hates things that spin and move quickly that she does not control (roller coasters are not her thing.)  We saw signs saying the ride could cause motion sickness and thought about turning back but Anne wanted to participate in Harry Potter. 

The Harry Potter ride had ‘flying benches’ which flew thanks to a flying spell by Hermione Granger.   The benches moved around a bit, and there were special effects on screens, which made you feel like you were flying.  Anne screamed and said she wanted off but didn’t have any problems with motion sickness.  Later she said the ride was stupid.  My husband and I decided to be more careful about what rides we went on, which was difficult because Kellena loves rides.

Our family ended up parting ways for a bit to allow Kellena to go on some of the more wild rides that Anne wouldn’t enjoy.  We met up again in ‘Toon Lagoon’, Anne said she didn’t want to do anything and wanted to leave.  We took her over to look at the ‘Popeye Rafting Ride’ and again Anne lit up, she wanted to go on that ride.  Anne loved the Popeye ride and laughed and squealed.  


Any other stories or venues that parents or loved ones of people with Down syndrome find particularly good or bad?  Any other experiences anyone would like to share?  Please post a comment, inquiring minds would love to know.:-)

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