Universal Studios Guest Assistance Pass for Autism
Universal Studios Guest Assistance Pass and How it Works
Lights, Camera, Action! We finally made it to Universal Studios Hollywood! This was to be my daughter's first time and also our maiden voyage using their Attraction Assistance Pass (formally known as their Guest Assistance pass). My daughter who is nine, has what would be referred to as "high functioning" Autism. We frequently use the other amusement parks systems, but this one I totally went in not knowing how we would fair. I'll break down how the system works and some tips on getting you through the park while enjoying all the movie making magic to be had along the way.
First things first, visit Guest Relations located within the entrance of the park on the right. You can ask for one or both of their accommodations based on your needs. Both passes are good only for the day and will need to be reissued if returning another day. TIP: Keep your old one and this will make getting a new one much simpler on your next visit.
- Return Time Card: This pass can accommodate up to 6 guests. Present this pass to any Team member at the entrance area of the attraction you are looking to ride and if the conditions require, you will get a time to go back to the ride as to not wait within the rides queue. This pass is used if you don't have a stroller. Here's the great part! If the rides wait time is 30 minuets or less, you will be boarded right then and there. Anything over, you get a return time.
- Stroller As Wheelchair: This pass can accommodate up to 6 guests and allows you to use your childs stroller as a wheelchair entering through the rides designated handicap line. It is not necessary to take the stroller into the ride/attraction queue to use this pass in most cases but to be issued one you will need a stroller. Utilizing this option not only keeps your child comfortable but is a more secure way of transporting all of your belongings.
Getting on a ride: You will be asked how many in your party, your card will be scanned and you will be guided to the boarding area. If you do take the stroller up to the boarding area it will be relocated to a holding area ready for you after exiting the ride. I'll say if you have the Stroller as a Wheelchair Card, it will be the only one you need in my experience, trumping the Return Time Card. We used it with and without the stroller and had not issues boarding with the exception of Shrek 4D. Here we had left the stroller outside the attraction and were instructed to wait within the regular queue whereas if we would have had the stroller, there is a separate holding area that allows you to enter the theatre first and with very minimal crowds.
Where to enter the rides: I can't stress enough how impressed I am with the amount of staff Universal has on hand. Look for the designated handicap sign for boarding or simply ask a team member. You can always find one in front of the attraction. The great part about their handicap entrances, you are not going against the flow of people exiting as you do at most amusement parks with their disability pass, I loved this!
Auditory processing issues/Sensory issues: Here is where it can be an issue if your child has a real problem with either of there areas.
- Auditory/ Sensory Issues: It is loud at Universal, every ride, attraction, the crowds, there is no escaping it. Easy fix, If your child has a sensitivity to this, bring their noise cancelling headphones and you will be fine. My girl wore hers the entire day and did great!
- It would be easier to say which rides didn't have some amount of water feature to them. From a little mist like on The Simpsons Ride to a huge splash like on Jurassic World, there is water involved on almost every ride it seams. As for the 3D rides, my daughter had zero issues with them, I on the other hand did experience slight motion sickness on several. Some rides have very intense sounds, movements and some are very dark and can be scary. If you are concerned about any of this refer to the Universal Rider's Guide . It has a complete description of each ride and attraction along with their ride height requirements and info on transitioning from wheelchairs.
Sensory Play Areas: Need a break from the fast pace of the rides and the park? Stop into one of these two places and decompress for a few.
- Super Silly Fun Land: Got a Minion lover? Head to this seaside carnival straight out of the Despicable Me Movie and get your water fix! With more than 80 water-play features your kiddo is bound to get soaked. Don't worry mom and dad, there is a dry zone nearby.
- Dino Play for Kids: Step into this Jurassic themed playground where kids can explore, play and learn while getting their yayas out.
Tips on making the most of your visit:
- Bring a stroller if you can. Strollers are also available to rent (single or double)
- If it's your child's first visit, prime them by watching videos to prepare them for the rides and shows and to get a feel if they have nerves regarding any of the attractions.
- Bring noise cancelling headphones if needed.
- Get to the park early to enjoy less crowds for a few hours.
- The escalators between the upper and lower park levels are very high and the incline very steep. There is an elevator where you can catch a tram if needed to travel between the levels.
- Get your tickets in advance to avoid the ticket booth lines.
- There is a security check before entering so bring only what you need. Plastic beverage containers are okay, no glass. Snacks are fine too.
- Go directly to Guest Services upon entering the park to get your Attraction Assistance Pass.
- If you feel you will be limited as to the time you can spend in the park, make a plan of must do's and then add from there.
- Download the park app for showtimes, wait times and to locate attractions within the park.
- Get the City Pass if you can, it's almost the same cost as a one day ticket and allows you to break up your visit and not rush it (I got mine at Costco for $109). Most of our kids can't stay long due to over stimulation, sensory issues or exhaustion so this is a great option that won't break the bank.
- Handicap parking is conveniently located directly in front of the Main Gate/ Security check in area, just know it fills up very quickly. If that area is full the Frankenstein parking structure is a great backup option.
- Special event meet and greets: The Attraction Assistance Pass works for these! Just find a cast member and show them your pass.
- Separate entrance for shows, early seating just show your pass to a cast member at the entrance.
Child Switch Program: Have a little one too young to ride your favorite attraction? Take advantage of their child switch program, which allows one member of your party to wait in a designated area along with any children who are unable or unwilling to participate.
Our experience overall: I was beyond impressed! The system works extremely well. I can compare it to the old GAC at Disneyland less the rampant abuse it was experiencing. Our wait times were very minimal, the queues were not crowded and there were many team members along the way to guide us to the rides boarding. We visited on a very crowded Saturday and got on all the rides within minutes of lining up. A great thing about Universal Studios is their ride queues, they are large, move relatively fast and are very entertaining making the wait to board much less boring.
With so much to see and do we can't wait to go back and explore more. We really loved hanging out in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Check out my post below to get tips on what to see there if you haven't visited yet.