ORLANDO, Fla. – One in every 44 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.
As World Autism Awareness Month is about to begin, we highlight what Central Florida has to offer with multiple sensory-friendly activities, as well as resources for families with members on the autism spectrum. Here is a list of some of those places, ranging from theme parks to resource centers.
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The new theme park, which opened in February, has multiple attractions developed for those with special needs, including the sensory-friendly Peppa’s Pedal Bike Tour. Before its opening, staff received autism sensitivity and awareness training, officials said.
The Brevard Zoo offers an Exceptional Nature Space. The Exceptional Nature Space is a modified natural habitat that is described as both safe and stimulating. It is designed to be flexible so that it can be easily reset and reprogrammed to best serve children with different challenges. For more information about program offerings for individuals, groups or school groups, please contact the zoo’s education registrar at email@example.com.
Dinosaur World has hands-on, tactile displays such as fossil digs and playgrounds. It’s a good spot for younger children, especially on weekday mornings when it’s not too crowded. You can also find guides on their website you can read with your child to prepare for your visit.
The Glazer Children’s Museum is certified as an Autism-Friendly Business by the Center for Autism & Related Disabilities at the University of South Florida and was honored as the 2019 Employer of the Year from the Mayor’s Alliance for Persons with Disabilities.
Sunshine Sunday is a special bi-monthly event for children with special needs and their caregivers. Guests can explore the museum with lights and sounds turned down and sensory adapted tools, special programs and community resources. Regular admission for this offering is $5, and free for members.
Walt Disney World Resort offers a host of services to help guests with cognitive disabilities — including those on the autism spectrum — maximize their resort experience. Services include: strollers as wheelchairs, stroller/wheelchair rentals, rider switch, break areas, dietary accommodations, downloadable guides and attraction accessibility options.
Sesame Street Land at SeaWorld Orlando has partnered with The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, a global leader in online training and certification programs, to become designated as a Certified Autism Center. Park leaders said it’s their goal to provide every family with an enjoyable and memorable visit to Sesame Street Land.
The park also provides a sensory guide, a resource for guests with cognitive disabilities.
Discovery Cove staff go through autism sensitivity and awareness training to guide guests through sensory experiences at their own pace. The park offers a tool for families visiting with autistic children where parents can pre-plan a sensory guide that details low-traffic, low-noise areas for for guests to take a break. In the guide attractions receive a rating according to how loud they are so families are made aware early on in their visit. The park’s quiet area is right next to the first-aid area, in case a guest needs something that’s temperature-controlled, or an area where they’re able to adjust lighting.
AMC partnered with the Autism Society to offer movie showings where the theatre turns the lights up and the sound down during the film to promote a more comfortable environment. The family-friendly Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday of the month, while the option for mature audiences is offered on Wednesday evenings. For participating theatres, visit AMC’s website.
The stated mission of the ASGO is that all individuals within the autism spectrum will be provided a lifetime network of opportunities to become fully accepted, included and actively participating members of its community, through family support, education, advocacy and public awareness.
ASGO will be hosting the 17th annual Family Fun Day in the Orange County Convention Center’s North Concourse on Saturday, April 16, from 8 a.m. to noon. The event’s goal is to raise money for the Central Florida autism community.
The UCF CARD’s primary service is to provide individualized, direct consultative assistance to individuals with autism and related disabilities in Central Florida and their families. Other services include technical assistance and consultation, professional training programs and public education activities.