Lonely Planet Writer

Sesame Place becomes the world’s first theme park to be officially autism-friendly

Sesame Street has long been the most inclusive and welcoming place on children’s television. Now their Philadelphia theme park has followed suit by becoming the world’s first theme park to become an official Certified Autism Centre.

The theme park has now become more accessible for all children. Photo by Sesame Place

Theme parks naturally come with loud noises, new smells, incredible sights and lots of crowds. It’s thrilling for many but for children with autism spectrum disorder, this can sometimes become too much. Now with staff training and additional resources, Sesame Place wants to be a place that all families and children can fully enjoy.

The first step is rigorous and ongoing training for all staff, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and temperament to cater for all children, with a special focus on the needs of children with autism. There are also extensive resources available online to help families plan their trip to the park, including a sensory guide for every attraction and information on the accessibility of every ride.

Julia has autism and has been a huge hit on Sesame Street. Photo by Sesame Place

When at Sesame Place, guests can avail of quiet rooms, low sensory areas, low sensory options for viewing the parade or dining with characters and the use of noise-cancelling headphones while at the park. Becoming a Certified Autism Centre is not the first step Sesame Street has made to become a more welcoming place to all children. Last year it introduced Julia, a muppet with autism, to the show. On the show, Julia’s friends help Big Bird understand why she expresses herself differently. The park has promised that there will be plenty of opportunities for kids to meet Julia herself.

“Since her debut, Sesame Street’s Julia has touched the lives of millions of children and families around the world”, said Scott Chambers of Sesame Workshop. “We’re proud that partners like Sesame Place are committed to providing autism-friendly experiences.”

Sesame Place will reopen on 28 April for the 2018 season and other new attractions for the year include Oscar’s Wacky Taxi, a family-friendly wooden rollercoaster. A second Sesame Place theme park is also in the works and is planned for the USA by mid 2021.