‘Sesame Place’ has become the first theme park in the world to be named a “designated autism centre”.
The park, in Pennsylvania, US, teamed up with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards to achieve the certification. All staff members have completed training in emotional awareness, motor skills and sensitivity.
“It’s our goal to provide every family with an enjoyable and memorable visit, and we are proud to offer specialised services to guests with autism and other special needs,” the park’s spokespeople wrote in a Facebook post.
The theme park now has quiet rooms for children, which have adjustable light settings and a comfortable, cosy seating area to have a break away from the busy attraction.
There are “low sensory” areas around the park, as well as the option to have noise-cancelling headphones so children with autism can enjoy the attractions without being overwhelmed by the noise.
Families attending the theme park will be able to pick up a pre-visit sensory guide to help them plan their day suited to their child’s needs.
Commenting on the certification, Mark Lever, chief executive at the National Autistic Society (NAS), told HuffPost UK: “The National Autistic Society is delighted to see Sesame Street continue to lead the way in improving public understanding of autism and incorporating the needs of autistic children and their families into their operations. We know that it’s often the smallest changes that make the biggest difference to autistic people’s lives, and we encourage visitor attractions in the UK to take inspiration from Sesame Place and explore how they can make them more autism friendly.”
The announcement well down well with families on Facebook. One mum who has a son with autism wrote: “Even before your official training, we think you were pretty amazing! Eric loves it there and is counting down the days to when he gets to return to his favourite place on the planet. Thanks for making him feel so special.”
Another mum wrote: “We have been here a few times. This is an amazing place for all ages and knowing this information makes it that more amazing! Thank you.” And someone else commented: “It’s wonderful Sesame is taking an active role for their autistic guests.”
In 2017, ‘Sesame Street’ introduced its first character with autism. Julia, a puppet with a short orange bob had featured in ‘Sesame Street’ digital and printed storybooks since October 2015, portrayed as a girl who “does things a little differently”.
‘Sesame Street’ writer Christine Ferraro told CBS News 60 minutes at the time: “The big discussion right at the start was: ‘How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?’ Autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.”
The ‘Sesame Place’ theme park will reopen for the summer season on 28 April.