MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP >> Sesame Place, the nation’s only theme park based entirely on the award-winning show Sesame Street, has been designated a Certified Autism Center (CAC) making it the first theme park in the world to receive such a distinction.
The certification aligns with National Autism Awareness Month and comes as the park readies for its 38th season, opening on April 28. It also follows the completion of a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training program at the theme park led by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).
For almost 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism training for licensed healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited travel options, and in response, created training and certification programs specifically for the hospitality and travel industry.
As a Certified Autism Center, Sesame Place will be providing ongoing training to ensure that team members have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament and expertise to interact with all families and children with special needs, specifically on the autism spectrum. Training takes place in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development and emotional awareness as well as a comprehensive autism competency exam. The autism training must be taken every two years in order to maintain the certification.
“As the first theme park in the world to complete the training and become a CAC, Sesame Place is better equipped to offer families inclusive activities for children with autism and other special needs,” said Sesame Place park president Cathy Valeriano.
Robust pre-visit planning resources will be added to the park’s website including a sensory guide, developed by IBCCES. This sensory guide will make it easier for parents to plan activities that satisfy their child’s specific needs and accommodations by providing insight on how a child with sensory processing issues may be affected by each sense for each attraction.
The park will also establish two quiet rooms located on Sesame Island. These rooms will have adjustable lighting and a comfortable seating area for guests to take a break.
Sesame Place’s certification aligns with Sesame Workshop’s commitment to increasing awareness and understanding of autism.
Sesame Workshop launched the “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children” initiative in 2015 and Julia, a Sesame Street Muppet with autism, came to life on the award-winning broadcast last spring, signaling a strong, continuing commitment to the autism community. Julia made her debut at Sesame Place in 2017 as a walkaround character and is available for guest meet and greets. The park is developing in-park programs that will be implemented this season giving guests additional opportunities to interact with Julia.
“Since her debut, Sesame Street’s Julia has touched the lives of millions of children and families around the world and we’re proud that partners like Sesame Place are committed to providing autism-friendly experiences,” said Scott Chambers, Senior Vice President and General Manager, North America Media and Licensing, Sesame Workshop. “We applaud them for earning this distinction.”
“IBCCES works with leading travel destinations to create safe, sensory-compatible travel options for parents and individuals on the spectrum. Our Certified Autism Center designation is awarded to premier organizations around the globe that have completed rigorous training and meet the highest industry standards,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman. “Sesame Place is ideal because of its accessibility to families and convenient location, as well as everything the organization has done to be inclusive for all. The CAC certification helps give parents and other guests on the spectrum peace of mind when visiting a new destination or attraction.”
“Sesame Place is honored to be leading the theme park industry through our commitment to making our facility friendly for families with children on the spectrum,” added Valeriano. “We’re dedicated to providing all of our guests with an exceptional and memorable experience. We look forward to applying this training and expanding our commitment to help spread awareness about autism.”