I-Drive attractions offer special event for children with sensory sensitivity

Madame Tussauds, Sea Life hosting special event Saturday

ORLANDO, Fla. – For the first time, both Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and Sea Life Orlando Aquarium on International Drive are jumping on board with an initiative to get results for thousands of families in the Central Florida community.

For parents such as Todd Andrus, who has a son with sensory sensitivity, sometimes local attractions can be a challenge.

"When he goes into attractions, a lot of times, the noises and the lights and that type of thing, it will affect his behavior, so a lot of time we'll have to be cognizant of what the attraction has before we actually take him there," Andrus said.

Karen Thompson, a volunteer chair for the Central Florida chapter of Autism Speaks, explained that these children are just trying to cope with the sensory overload.

"While it looks like bad behavior, they're coping behaviors -- things like trying to shut yourself down and trying to find a quiet place," Thompson said.

To make the experience happy and memorable, on Saturday, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and Sea Life Orlando Aquarium will open their doors at 8:30 a.m. for people who are sensitive to sounds, lights or even touch. 

"We are working with our teams to adjust our sounds and our lighting to accommodate sensory triggers and to make the experience enjoyable for those guests to come in," Jade Sparks, marketing manager for Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and Sea Life Orlando Aquarium, said. 

For 90 minutes, both attractions will provide a sensory friendly environment. The initiative was made possible with help and training from Autism Speaks. 

"It gives families an opportunity to try something new in a very comfortable environment that they may not otherwise try without those accommodations," Thompson said.

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and Sea Life Orlando Aquarium will each have a room called a quiet space. It will be for parents to bring in their children in case they are feeling some anxiety or become overwhelmed by the attractions.

Inside, they'll find things that will help children calm down, like noise-canceling headphones, stress balls, fidget spinners and colorful pipe cleaners with which to make shapes and figures.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, one in every 41 children have autism. Places like Madame Tussauds and Sea Life want to do their part to make it easier for everyone to enjoy their time with wax figures of celebrities and colorful sea life. 

The event will take place Sept. 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tickets will be 20 percent off regular admission. 

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