ORLANDO, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - SeaWorld Orlando announced on Tuesday, which is World Autism Awareness Day, that they are now a certified autism center.
The theme park was designated as a certified autism center by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove were previously certified as austim centers, making them the first family of parks in the world to be certified.
"We are incredibly proud to be the first family of Orlando theme parks to achieve these certifications," said Mark Pauls, SeaWorld Orlando park president. "We want to create lasting memories for all our guests. As families start planning their summer travel, the resources and tools that our parks now offer can provide peace of mind for families with members that have autism and other special needs. Our parks and staff are now equipped to offer families inclusive activities, helping to ensure meaningful experiences for everyone."
The IBCCES reportedly worked with SeaWorld Orlando on the completion of a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training, as well as an onsite review of the park property and guest experience. Once completed, the park was officially designated as a Certified Autism Center (CAC).
"We think the training and the park specific sensory guides provide useful information to ensure that our guests are armed with all the information they need to prepare, be informed and enjoy their time at our parks", continued Pauls.
As a Certified Autism Center, SeaWorld Orlando will provide ongoing training to ensure that team members have the necessary knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to interact with all families and children with special needs, specifically on the autism spectrum.
The training that employees undergo deals with sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor skills, social skills, program development, and emotional awareness. Employees must also take a comprehensive autism competency exam. The training must be done every two years to maintain the certification.
Pre-visit planning resources have also been added to the SeaWorld website, including a park specific sensory guide developed by IBCCES. The sensory guide can be used to plan activities that will satisfy the child's specific needs and accomodations by providing insight on how a child with sensory processing issues may be affected by each sense for each attraction.
There is also a designated quiet space in SeaWorld's recently debuted 'Sesame Street Land.' Adjustable lighting and a comfortable seating area for guests to take a break from the sensory overload of theme parks can be found here. There is an additional quiet space near the front of the park. Both locations can be easily found on a park map.
Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman, stated that "Thousands of hours of hard work and training have been completed by SeaWorld's dedicated ambassadors, and they are opening doors for all individuals to engage in the different activities the parks have to offer. Having conducted an onsite review of the park property and guest experience, we have seen firsthand SeaWorld's commitment and contributions to education and animal care and their enthusiasm for sharing those experiences with all guests."
Kerry Magro, a IBCCES Board member, also made a statement, saying that "to see SeaWorld Orlando continue to want to make an impact and be a leader in the industry and in the autism community is wonderful. We need more groups like them."
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