SeaWorld Orlando has earned the title of “Certified Autism Center,” matching its two sister Orlando parks after park employees completed extra training on autism sensitivity and awareness.
SeaWorld Entertainment has placed a special emphasis on these autism-friendly certifications over the past year. In April 2018, Pennsylvania’s Sesame Place became the first theme park to earn the distinction. The Aquatica Orlando water park and Discovery Cove animal interaction followed suit earlier this year.
When the designation was given to Discovery Cove in February, SeaWorld spokesperson Lori Cherry told Orlando Rising to expect SeaWorld Orlando to earn the same certification in the near future.
“We are incredibly proud to be the first family of Orlando theme parks to achieve these certifications,” Mark Pauls, SeaWorld Orlando park president, said in a press release. “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 certification comes from the Jacksonville-based International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). Along with the employee training and an onsite review by IBCCES, the park will offer several resources to guests with sensory processing issues, such as a sensory guide for each attraction and show at SeaWorld and “quiet rooms” where those guests can “take a break from the sensory overload often found in theme park.”
One of these rooms is located in the park’s new Sesame Street section.
In order to retain the certification, employees will have to repeat the autism training every two years, including a “comprehensive autism competency exam.” IBCCES board chairman Myron Pincomb hopes other theme parks follow SeaWorld’s lead in offering additional resources to guests on the autism spectrum.
“This should be the industry standard and we’re working with leaders in the field to make that happen,” Pincomb said. “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.”