Autism-friendly amusement parks help to normalize lives for families

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Autism-friendly amusement parks help to normalize lives for families
Sandra Bookman has the details on the autism-friendly amusement park.

MASSACHUSETTS (WABC) -- Amusement parks can be full of thrills and fun, but that's not always the case for families dealing with autism.

"It's so overwhelming," mom Jerry-Ann said. "There's so many different sounds and smells, and then there's a lot of people. Sometimes for them it's just too much."

Jerry-Ann and Christian's 7-year-old son Desmond struggles with crowds and has little patience, though his older brother loves thrill rides.

"Usually we end up having to split up," Christian said.

Desmond's frequent tantrums makes that sort of outing difficult.

"Or we just leave," Jerry-Ann said. "We want to be able to do normal everyday things that people do with their kids, with both kids, not just with one."

Now they can, thanks to more-inclusive parks like Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver, Massachusetts.

If the family needs a break from the stimulation, there's a quiet room. A cool, darkened refuge to decompress, with puzzles, books and blankets to help calm a stressed child.

For Desmond, even the velvet-covered walls are soothing. To help pass the time waiting in line, small toys can do the trick. One popular attraction is a 1940s-era train with a quiet car for the 20-minute ride.

Even bathrooms are quieter too, with manual toilets and paper towel dispensers instead of the noisy automatic ones.

Autism-friendly spaces are a growing trend. With one in 68 kids on the autism spectrum, businesses across the country are now embracing families who often feel unwelcome. Restaurants, movie theaters, even Broadway are making adjustments to lighting, sound and even a safe space away from the action.

These sensitive touches allow families to feel whole and children with special needs to feel accepted by society.