Life can sometimes be difficult for children with autism. Their parents may also struggle, especially when it comes to planning a day out with the family. At times, however, there are places where you can enjoy the day with your children without quite so much worry.
Dollywood, the amusement park owned by Dolly Parton is now one of those places. They have a room designed for the special needs of autistic children and their families. The park, located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee has added a ‘calming room’ to allow guests to relax in a calming environment.
The room features a soothing design, including comfortable chairs and low-level lighting (including fiber-optic string lights). Autistic children do not typically like being in locations where it is excessively loud or bright. They also do not tend to like crowds. Other autistic children may not respond to any of those factors. Raising Children says that “Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be oversensitive or undersensitive to noise, light, clothing or temperature.”
It adds, “Their senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste – take in either too much or too little information from the environment around them.” You can see why the calming room is such a welcome addition. One parent spoke about the need to have dedicated areas for those with autism. Jamie Pacton, stated in an article in Parents, “While this calming room may not sound like much, it could make a huge difference for kids like my autistic son and for our whole family.”
She wrote further, “Normally when my son gets overwhelmed, we seek out refuges in public spaces-be it some shade under a tree in a quiet corner of a park or a corner booth in a restaurant- but the idea of having a dedicated space for kids to work through sensory issues is so appealing. I would love to see more of these in many public spaces, and I applaud Dollywood for its vision and recognition of the need for such a space.” She went on to say that a lot of parents like her also greatly appreciate the effort that Dollywood has undertaken. “Parents who have used the calming room are also singing its praises,” she said.
She added, “According to notes they’ve written to Dollywood, they’re getting to stay at Dollywood longer, and their kids are having a better time. Although this is the first calming room of its kind at any theme park, others-notably Legoland-are beginning to follow Dollywood’s example…I can’t wait to take both my kids there for an afternoon of fun at our own pace!”
Talking about the concern of parents like her when it comes to visiting parks, she said, “Going to a theme park can be tons of fun-but it can also easily overwhelm any child. For a child with autism or other sensory issues, the rides, loud noises, flashing lights, crowds, new smells, and the general atmosphere of theme parks can quickly become too much.”
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