Photo: Sesame Place
Sesame Place just announced that it's to be the world's first theme park designated as a Certified Autism Centre. The 38-year-old park in Langhorne, PA, will be ready to serve children with autism and their families when it re-opens for the 2018 season on April 28. The park has partnered with International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to create a safer and more sensory-friendly destination for kids on the spectrum.
Although theme parks are naturally a popular place for kids and families, only a few of them do well when it comes to accommodating children with developmental disabilities. For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), loud noises, flashing lights, busy crowds, and waiting in line can be a lot to handle.
So, Sesame Place is stepping up to better serve the autistic community, by making sure that team members take ongoing training to understand areas of autism such as sensory sensitivities, motor skills, and communication. The park will have a ride accessibility program to evaluate the physical and mental attributes required to safely ride each ride. There will also be low-sensory areas, which are less populated areas of the park, and quieter zones for parade viewing. Kids who feel overstimulated by noises can borrow noise-cancelling headphones, and there will be quiet rooms with adjustable lighting available for guests in need of some time to decompress. There will also be quieter dining areas for families who request them, to take the stress out of eating in a busy new environment.
Kids visiting Sesame Place can also meet and take photos with Julia, Sesame Street's four-year-old character with autism. (Julia has proven such a popular character on Sesame Street itself, that the show's creators are also releasing a Julia doll and storybook for Autism Awareness Month 2018. Julia will be the star of a special episode, on HBO and PBS Kids on April 9.) After Julia's popular debut as a walk-around character during Sesame Place's 2017 season, the park will now be adding opportunities to interact with this character.
On learning about Sesame Place's new commitment to kids with autism, many people have been reaching out on Twitter to applaud the initiative.
Here at Today's Parent, we're stoked about the Sesame Place improvements too, and we hope that other theme parks will follow suit and work on being 100 percent inclusive.