Universal Orlando Resort can be a stressful place for autistic people. I should know—I love the parks, and I’m autistic.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot while attempting to enjoy my time and also preventing myself from getting too stressed out. These are the twelve important Universal Orlando Resort with autism.
1. Go On Less Crowded Days
Huge crowds can be a major cause of stress for autistic people in the parks. Luckily, there are some tools that can help you pick the perfect, low-crowd days to visit. Companies like Undercover Tourist have created calendars that predict when the parks will be the most and least crowded. Judging by attraction wait times is another way to determine how busy each area is on that day.
2. Take Breaks When You Need Them
From my experience, breaks are a must for everyone, not just neurodivergent people. Still, I believe it’s essential that autistic people take some time to step away and decompress when everything becomes too much. My family likes to take a couple of hours back at the hotel to cool down and even have a nap if we need it.
3. Use Ear Protection in Loud Areas
This tip is vital for those who want to attend Halloween Horror Nights. The scare zones are filled with things that go bump in the night, chainsaws, and screams. The mazes can be even worse by adding tight halls filled with blaring sounds. Having a method to make things quieter can make your time way more fun. However, it’s not just for that spooky time of year. The shows and rides can get pretty loud. I’d highly recommend bringing some sort of ear protection.
Heads up, though! Many of the rides at Universal will not allow you to wear earmuffs on the rides, but we’ll go over that later.
4. Take Advantage of Sensory Friendly and Quiet Spaces
Like Disney World, Universal has areas that tend to be less crowded and quiet throughout its parks. Unlike Disney World, Universal Orlando has a quiet room in Universal Studios Florida in the Family Health Services building. Universal has also released an online booklet for those with disabilities that includes a complete guide to the quiet spots in each park.
5. Be Aware of Loose Article Restrictions
A lot of the more intense rides require all loose articles to be stored in a locker before you enter the queue. This includes earmuffs, headphones, and any item that is not attached to your person. Luckily, most of the rides will allow “spongy” earplugs.
6. Lookout for Possible Sensory Issues
Universal can be a pretty intense place. Rides and shows can have different smells, motions, and special effects that might make some uncomfortable. Before going, it’s a good idea to identify what makes you uncomfortable and check what has what in terms of special effects. Thankfully, the previously mentioned guide released by Universal lists their rides for each park, including a description, requirements, and special effects used.
There are also signs at the entrance to the attraction that’ll give you a rundown of what to expect. But just between you and me, if you’re sensitive to smells, I might want to stay clear of the E.T. Adventure ride. I personally love it, but it’s pretty old and has an odd smell from the water.
7. Use the Park App to Your Advantage
Using Universal Orlando’s app for the parks is quite a handy tool. For one, you can check wait times for rides and attractions. The app also lets you check restaurant menus and mobile order your food. Maps are also included to help you navigate more easily.
8. Bring Someone With You
I have always found comfort in having a loved one with me in stressful situations. Whether it be to help ground you, get you out of the situation, or ensure you’re taking care of yourself, having someone with you can make a world of difference.
9. Check Restaurant Menus
If you, or someone you’re visiting with, requires certain safe foods, looking ahead at the menus for restaurants you want to go to is a good idea. Menus can be viewed either online or in the Universal Orlando app. It’s also okay to bring snacks you know will be safe for you into the parks if necessary.
10. Download Apps To Use in Line
You may not always have something to fidget with or take your mind off of being in line. However, more often than not, you’ll likely have your phone. Downloading a couple of apps to take your mind off the wait isn’t a bad idea. Heads up—phones count as loose articles and must be put away before entering certain rides. As long as you have a pocket deep enough, and you’re not going on something like VelociCoaster or The Incredible Hulk, you should be in the clear when bringing it in line.
11. Make the Most of Your Premier Pass Perk With Universal Express After 4 p.m.
This is a tip if you already have a Premier Pass or are considering one. Premier Pass is the premium annual pass at Universal, so unless you visit frequently, I wouldn’t recommend buying it just for this tip. With the disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk Express Passes. They are the “fast pass” at Universal, and they allow you faster access to the ride through a quickly moving line.
You can buy a single Express Pass that will let you skip the line once per ride or an unlimited Express Pass that will allow you to skip the line as many times as you want. Both can be pretty pricey. If you already go to Universal a lot and have the Premier Pass, then you have unlimited passes after 4 p.m. included! Seriously, the Express Pass is something that I feel Universal does better than Disney World.
There is almost always no wait with Express Pass, and everything turns into a walk-on. Take it from someone who’s had a Premier Pass for a few years; you do some things in the morning, go back for a break in the afternoon, and then come back for four o’clock passes, and you’ll be in business.
12. Consider the IBCCES Individual Accessibility Card
The Individual Accessibility Card (IAC) is Universal’s version of the Disney DAS Pass. It’s handy for those who cannot wait in conventional lines. IACs require more steps than the DAS Pass, but it may be precisely what you need for your trip. You’ll also need to register for the card within 30 days of your trip. Proper documentation and a talk with a Universal Team Member about your requested accommodations are also required.