A conversation with my friend by the pool prompted my curiosity to learn more about what Kings Island Amusement Park offered for guests with special needs. I was sharing about a recent visit to the park and she was wondering if there were resources available for her son with Down Syndrome. This is an issue very close to my heart as someone who had a sibling with special needs and as someone with several friends who have children with special needs.
Kings Island for me personally has always been about making memories and sharing adventures together. My hope is that the following information will help you personally or a family that you know with special needs in your community.
I have a greater empathy for special needs siblings and the challenges parents face because of my brother with special needs. I thought that I knew just about everything about the park as a longtime season pass holder, but I actually learned SO MUCH as I began looking into the resources that Kings Island had available. I feel that utilizing these resources can greatly improve and help special needs families overcome some of the barriers to a visit, making it possible for the WHOLE family to have a great experience at Kings Island.
My friend Micah and his family joined me for the media preview of the Peanuts Celebration. Micah was such a joy to watch as he celebrated all things Peanuts!
Micah’s first ride of the day and very first ride at Kings Island was the Woodstock Glider. As he waited in the line, we observed how quickly his energy level changed due to the heat. Some children like Micah with Down Syndrome have issues regulating body temperature which can cause them to overheat very quickly. This prompted us to visit Guest Services to find out what our options were for the rest of our visit.
The Important Question You Need to Ask
One of the biggest things that we learned during our visit is that it’s really important to ask the following question at Guest Services when visiting Kings Island with a guest with special needs.
“What resources do you have available?”
This is THE question that will help determine what your options are for your special needs guest.
**Employees of Kings Island CAN’T ASSUME what your needs are, so you need to ask and offer as much information as possible.
It’s also important to know that the guest needs to be with you and that the answers to that question are case by case depending on the guest’s physical abilities and specific ride policies.
Before You Visit
One of your best resources before your visit is the Kings Island Accessibility page.
The Guest Assitance Guide will provide you with an abundance of information and will help answer many of your questions including specific guidelines for each ride.
Boarding Pass Program
In Micah’s case, we learned that he qualified to get a special Rider Access form that allowed him to go up the exit ramp to gain access for most rides which created a shorter wait time for him in the heat. This made all the difference! I’m happy to report that I had the privilege of joining him on several rides while the rest of his family enjoyed bigger rides in the park. The highlights for me were joining him on his first two roller coasters, the Great Pumpkin Coaster, and the Woodstock Express. He chose the front car both times which means that I might have a riding buddy for life now. He even exclaimed with a huge smile “hands up” after leaving the line from his first roller coaster.
How the Boarding Pass Program Works
The Boarding Pass Program provides guests with mobility restrictions or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to access rides at specified times via the exit ramp in order to avoid crowds and waiting in the regular queue lines.
Guests who are in possession of a Boarding Pass will obtain a boarding or “ride” time on the Boarding Pass that is equal to the anticipated wait time for a particular ride from the ride associate at the Alternate Access Entrance (usually a ride’s exit). Guests can then choose to rest comfortably away from the queue area, visit a shop, see a show or play a game until their boarding time.
*The Boarding Pass is issued for the guest in question and up to 3 riding companions.
We personally learned more about the policies for guests with casts a few years ago when my son broke his arm. We honestly weren’t sure how it would work for him riding the rides. We visited Guest Services and received a form that checked off the rides he was allowed to go on. In my son’s case, some rides were better than none. For some attractions, where he was seated was a factor. For example, on the “Kite-Eating Tree” attraction in Planet Snoopy, my son had to sit on the end so that his cast could not harm another child while riding.
If you look closely you will notice that my son had two different colored casts on his arm….let’s just say, it was a LONG summer…but thankfully he didn’t have to miss out on all of the fun at Kings Island during his visits.
The Family Care Center
I’ve walked by this building so many times but I had no idea what amazing resources it provided for families in general. The Family Care Center is located centrally, near the base of the Eiffel Tower and toward the entrance of Planet Snoopy and can make such a difference in the quality of a visit for all families and especially those families with special needs.
The Family Care Center has a dining table with high chairs, refrigerator for guests to keep special dietary food or drinks (register those at Guest Services), chairs with privacy curtains for nursing mothers or guests who need to rest, and an area for younger kids to watch tv or color.
This is also a great place for guests who are affected by the heat or who can also become overstimulated and need a place that is quieter to relax before returning to other areas of the park. I was told that many guests with Autistic children, Down Syndrome, other special needs often visit the center.
This allows one parent to ride while another parent waits with the child. When the ride is complete, the parents swap child responsibility at the exit.
Parent Swap forms are available at the Family Resource Center in addition to Guest Services. This is such a great resource when one family member is staying behind with a child but still wants to enjoy bigger rides at the park.
Lost Kids or Parents
The Family Care Center is also the “Lost Parent” center if a child became separated from their family. You can get wristbands and add your cell phone information so that you can be contacted if your child is found while being temporarily misplaced.
(It’s helpful to take a picture of your family members when you arrive in the park which can be really useful for reuniting families if someone gets lost.)
The Family Care Center, in my opinion, is the BEST option for a family who has multiple children or that needs more time and room for changing a diaper. There is also a larger changing table for older guests.
*There are family restrooms located throughout the park and each restroom in the park does have handicap accessible stalls.
First Aid Station
I also learned that you can check in medications that need to be stored in a refrigerator at the First Aid Station located on International Street across from the exit to Boo Blaster. There are over the counter medicines that can be signed out for guests over 18 for issues such as a headache or motion sickness.
There is a private waiting room that is a great spot if you have an elderly or adult special needs guest who may require more room for assisting with changing clothing or adult diapers.
If someone in your party has “an accident” that affects their clothing, there is a washer and dryer available along with clothing, socks, and underwear for sizes toddler to adults so that guests don’t have to leave the park prematurely.
Great Places to Cool Off
There are several places throughout the park that are great for cooling off on a hot day. The Red’s Hall of Fame Grille located in the Rivertown section of the park has lots of seating and American style menu items including local favorite Montogomery Inn BBQ. The Festhaus and Kings Island Theater are two other great options where you can cool off and enjoy a great show. The Family Care Center would be my #1 pick if a guest needed some time away from the crowds or had a sensitivity to lights or strobes.
Call Guest Services if you have Additional Questions
After a phone call inquiring for a friend who is a quadriplegic, we also learned about the Caregiver Season Pass Program that’s available that allows a qualified caregiver to enter the park with a guest with whom they are charged with providing special care.
The guest receiving the care must have their own separate valid means of entry to the park (either a season pass or a ticket valid for park entry).
*Contact Guest Services for more information on the program. (513) 754-5700.
Services that need Advance Notice
- American Sign Language Interpreting is available with requests made at least one week in advance for Kings Island Theater, PEANUTS Playhouse, Festhaus, International Bandstand, and the International Showplace venues.
- Kings Island employees are not allowed to help with ride transfers so you need to plan accordingly with someone who can assist.
- Transfer devices, when requested, can be used to assist a rider out of a wheelchair and into a ride. (Banshee, Beast, Racer, Mystic Timbers, The Bat, Vortex, and Woodstock™ Express are equipped with a transfer device.) Body Harnesses, when requested, allow certain riders with disabilities the ability to ride if they meet the ride criteria. Banshee and Diamondback are equipped with a body harness.
- It’s best to bring your own wheelchair or covered stroller if you have one. There is a limited number of wheelchairs and electric convenience vehicles (ECV) available for rent at the Rental Center on the left just inside the Front Gate on a first come, first served basis and can not be reserved in advance.
You can find out more about policies and procedures for guests with special needs from the Kings Island website.
Disclosure: I’m a Kings Island Ambassador which means that I share my love for the park and enjoy perks and behind the scenes access.
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