Sesame Place Designated as Certified Autism Center, Develops Sensory-Friendly Resources
Sesame Workshop extends its commitment to autism awareness and outreach to Sesame Place.
When Sesame Place opens for its 38th season at the end of the month, it will be the world’s first theme park to be designated as a Certified Autism Center. In conjunction with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), team members completed a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training at the theme park, and have worked to develop resources for kids with special needs and their families to create a more accessible and enjoyable visit for all.
This is yet another step that Sesame Workshop has taken recently in its effort to increase awareness and understanding of autism, as they began with their “See Amazing” campaign.
Sesame Place team members went through extensive training in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development, and emotional awareness in order to be better able to interact with all families and children with special needs, specifically those on the autism spectrum.
In addition, they worked with IBCCES to develop a thorough Sensory Guide to Sesame Place, explaining how a child with sensory processing issues may be affected by each sense for each ride and attraction. The guide measures sensory stimulation on a scale of 1-10 and details the features at each attraction that may affect kids — whether it is noise level, crowds, or a particular sensation the ride elicits.
They also created a park accessibility guide, to provide an overview of services and facilities available for guests with disabilities. Sesame Place also wanted to create ways for kids to see and interact with their favorite characters in a way that would be comfortable, so they have recommendations on their site for activities like parade viewing and character dining without direct character interaction (such as hugs or high fives).
In addition to the guides, Sesame Place also created Quiet Rooms, with adjustable lighting and a comfortable seating area to provide relief from sensory stimulation. Guests with hearing sensitivity may pick up noise-cancelling headphones to use in the park at the Family Care Center.
The goal with all of this is to help parents to plan activities that satisfy their child’s specific needs, and make the visit as relaxed and fun for the family as possible.
“Sesame Place is honored to be leading the theme park industry through our commitment to making our facility friendly for families with children on the spectrum,” Sesame Place park president Cathy Valeriano said in a press release. “We’re dedicated to providing all of our guests with an exceptional and memorable experience. We look forward to applying this training and expanding our commitment to help spread awareness about autism.”
In 2015, Sesame Workshop launched the ongoing “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children” campaign and accompanying web resources which offer families ways to manage common challenges, simplify everyday activities, and grow connections and support from family, friends, and community.
Last year, Sesame Street introduced a new character, Julia, a little girl Muppet with autism. In her premiere episode, Elmo and Abby learned how a friend with autism might play in a different way, might experience things more intensely, and how a social cue like eye contact isn’t always the best indicator of affection.
The “Julia” Muppet was even built and performed differently, to allow her arms to flap when she gets excited. Julia was quickly introduced as a character at Sesame Place for meet-and-greets, and the park is currently developing programs that will be implemented this season to provide additional opportunities to interact with Julia.
Sesame Place opens for the season April 28, and is located at 100 Sesame Road in Langhorne.
Photographs courtesy of Sesame Place.