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A Sesame Street-Themed Amusement Park Designed For Kids With Autism Now Exists

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder know the drill all too well: be wary about bringing your little ones to places with a ton of environmental stimuli, be careful about changing their routines, and make sure you can provide them with a safe space to recharge and get some quiet time should they become overwhelmed. 

 

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No doubt, it can be challenging to be a parent or guardian to kids with special needs like these and a question often asked is, how do we let them be kids—running around, laughing, playing for hours, and yes, enjying theme park, too—while making sure that they're protected from stressors and irritants at the same time?

Kids deserve to be kids after all, despite the conditions they were born with. 

For families facing this situation, their prayers have been anwered. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Sesame Place—the United States' only Sesame Street-themed amusement park—has become a certified autism center—a first in the entire world—which means it's not only home to rides and attractions like most kid-friendly theme parks are, but is also equipped with special play areas and activities specially designed for children (and teens and adults) with autism, too. 

Most impressively,  80 percent of the park's staff were required to undergo intense and in-depth training to prepare them for welcoming and interacting with guests with special needs. During the program, staff learned all about "sensory awareness, environment communication, motor and social skills and other areas," according to today.com. 

 

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Proving its commitment to excellence in this area, staff will need to update their knowledge and undergo new  training every two years to retain the park's certification from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.

If you've yet to familiar yourself with the intricacies of caring for a child or family member with autism, here's why Sesame Place is so great: 

  • Children with autism have a tough time processing external stimuli and are easily flooded by unfamiliar sounds, sights, faces, and general happenings all around them. Ordinary things—like all the fun stuff in theme parks—that other children might be excited to experience can be incredibly scary for them, and can even cause trauma. Sesame Place provides them safe, yet enjoyable places so they too can get in on the fun in their own way, at their own pace. 

 

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  • Aside from their mental limitations, people with autism may also have physical handicaps and a theme park—with hundreds of guests per square meter and simultaneous events happening all over—naturally poses risk in this way. Sesame Place's autism-centric areas are low-traffic, low-sensory, and non-threatening, which means visitors can move freely and explore, with no danger around. 

 

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  • An important thing to know about people with autism is that their disorder is on a "spectrum." That is, the severity of the condition can vary from one person to another and can be easily manageable or quite difficult to handle (i.e.: one child may be unfazed by the sound of a thunderous roller coaster overhead, while another may be triggered by something smaller, like the much gentler sound of an ice cream trolly passing by). To help address this, Sesame Place's website helps parents prepare for their park itinerary by offering a "sensory guide" for attractions that ranks them on a scale from 1 to 10, so that they can decide beforehand about which attractions are most suitable to their family's situation. 

 

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  • As mentioned, the staff manning these special areas have been trained extensively by autism experts and can enhance an autistic person's visit by providing them with educational and meaningful experiences. Staff aren't just there to stop and start rides, or to watch the timer until a child's turn is up; they are sensitive to each guest's unique set of needs and can help parents figure out a tailor-fit set of activities for the day in order to make the most out of the visit.  

 

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Sesame Place is the latest of parent company Sesame Workshop's efforts to become more inclusive of children with different needs. 

In 2017, a new muppet with autism named Julia was added to the recurring character roster of children's show Sesame Street, much to the delight of parents and families all over the world. 

Sesame Place is locted on 100 Sesame Rd, Langhorne, PA 19047, USA, and is in its second year of operations. 

 

Images from @sesameplace