Sesame Place Is the First Theme Park to Be Designated a Certified Autism Center

published Oct 20, 2019
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While going to a theme park is supposed to be fun, for children with autism, the crowds and noise can make the experience overstimulating. One park in particular has taken steps to make itself accessible to a more neurodiverse group of kids. Sesame Place, the Sesame Street-themed park in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, has become the first-ever theme park to earn the designation of Certified Autism Center.

While Sesame Place announced this designation back in April 2018, on World Autism Awareness Day, we wanted to continue to spread the word. The number of kids in the U.S. diagnosed with autism has more than doubled since 2000, and the more spaces take the time and training to make themselves accessible to these kids and their families, the better!

So what does it mean to be a Certified Autism Center? At Sesame Place, it means team members undergo specialized training to ensure they have the right “knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to cater to all children, including those with special needs.” According to the Sesame Place website, this includes training focused on sensory awareness, motor skills, social skills, communication, environment, and emotional awareness.

In addition to trained staff, Sesame Place also provides a sensory guide that describes all he parks attractions and rates them based on how stimulating they are to each of the five senses, so families can plan their visits in advance. The park also uses a ride accessibility questionnaire that helps team members customize each family’s visit to suit their needs. Quiet rooms and noise-cancelling headphones are also available.

“If you have autism or you are in a family with somebody who has autism, the park environment can be very scary and very intense. It’s probably the last place you want to go,” Sesame Place president Cathy Valeriano told Today. “This designation just really reinforces that commitment to our guests.”

About a year before Sesame Place became a Certified Autism Center, Sesame Street the show introduced a new character with autism, named Julia. Here’s how the Sesame Place website describes her:

“The orange-haired girl with twinkling eyes sometimes does things differently, ‘in a Julia sort of way’, but Elmo and Abby help the other kids on Sesame Street understand that even if Julia doesn’t look you in the eye, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to be your friend… Julia highlights that while the differences between children with autism and their peers may seem significant, all children have something far more important: unique qualities and talents that make the world a more interesting place!”