As autism awareness increases around the globe, more and more public spaces are putting in the extra effort to become autism-friendly. Cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, cruise lines, amusement parks, and even entire communities are pulling out all the stops to be accommodating to their visitors on the autism spectrum. And now there’s even a theme park that’s hopping on the bandwagon in honor of autism awareness month. Happily, their autism-friendly changes are here to stay.
So what can a theme park do to promote autism awareness and acceptance? As it turns out, quite a bit.
Sesame Place, a Sesame Street-themed park located in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, has gone out of its way to become the first-ever theme park to be designated as a certified Autism Center (CAC). Its entire staff underwent special autism training, which included topics like an autism overview, sensory awareness, motor skills, social skills, communication, environment, emotional awareness, and program development.
The park also got a makeover to better accommodate people on the autism spectrum. There are now two quiet rooms in the park, complete with adjustable lighting and comfortable seating areas. There are special areas for service animals to relieve themselves and sparsely populated low-sensory areas for people with sensory issues to regain their bearings.
Every visitor can view an autism-friendly sensory guide that includes a ranking of the sensory intensity of every ride on a scale of one to 10 for each of the five senses, complete with notes about what types of sights, smells, sounds, and sensations you might experience. The guide also includes sensory information for meeting the Sesame Street characters, dining out, and attending other activities that happen frequently in the park (i.e. parades, musicals, and other shows). You can request noise-canceling headphones if you’d like to roam around the park and ride the rides without being over-stimulated by all the crazy sounds.
If you’d like to enroll in the Ride Accessibility Program to be matched to rides that are appropriate for your needs, you can simply fill out the Ride Accessibility Questionnaire and bring it along with you to the Welcome Center. There, you’ll be provided with a personalized list of rides that would be good for you and given priority boarding on them if your disability or disorder makes it difficult to wait in lines.
“Sesame Place is honored to be leading the theme park industry through our commitment to making our facility friendly for families with children on the spectrum,” says Cathy Valeriano, Sesame Place’s president. “We’re dedicated to providing all of our guests with an exceptional and memorable experience.”
The park will reopen on April 28, 2018, following the completion of its makeover.
Are you ready to give this place a try? We sure are!
Click “next” below to read about the first autism-friendly cruise line in existence!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?