Wednesday 22 May, 2019

Theme park gets world's first autism centre award

A US theme park has become the first in the world to be certified as an autism centre.

Sesame Place, in Philadelphia, is an amusement park based on the popular US TV show Sesame Street.It received the autism accreditation after all its staff completed sensitivity and awareness training, the US-based IBCCES autism-certifying body said in a statement.

The announcement coincides with World Autism Month, which began on 2 April.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a range of similar conditions, including Asperger syndrome, that affect how people interact, communicate and behave.

People with ASD might repeat certain behaviours and dislike change in their daily activities. Many also have different ways of learning, paying attention or reacting to things, US public health body the CDC says.

People with ASD may also have difficulty processing everyday sensory information, which can lead to sensory overload – which can manifest as stress, withdrawal and difficult behaviour. Theme parks, with their noise, queues, colours and lights, can be particularly hard for people with ASD.

At Sesame Place, staff must undertake comprehensive training to ensure they know how to interact with families and children with autism-related needs.

The park, when it reopens late this month, will provide a sensory guide for each attraction and how it might affect a child with autism so parents can plan which activities will work best ahead of their visit.

It will also provide two quiet rooms where parents and children can take a break, and kids will have the chance to meet a walkaround Julia, a character with autism introduced into Sesame Street in 2015.

Sesame Place said it was dedicated to providing all guests with an “exceptional and memorable experience”.

In recent years, more places have been working to accommodate children with autism as understanding of the condition has grown. Last year Legoland Florida introduced quiet rooms and “Hero Passes” allowing children with autism to skip queues at popular attractions.

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