National Autism Awareness Month

Sesame Place Becomes First Theme Park Ever To Be A Certified Autism Center

“We’re dedicated to providing all of our guests with an exceptional and memorable experience."

April is National Autism Awareness Month. To celebrate and bring awareness throughout the month, we will be highlighting positive stories we love about people with autism, as well as the stories of their friends and families.

In 2017, Sesame Street welcomed a new character to its cast of Muppets: Julia, who has autism.

It was a necessary addition to their cast, considering that one in 68 children have autism, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

"Man, I really wish that kids in my son's class had grown up with a Sesame Street that had a modeling [of] the behavior of inclusion of characters with autism," Stacy Gordon, the puppeteer playing Julia, told NPR at the time

Now, Sesame Place has made another step towards inclusion by becoming the first theme park in the world to be designated as a certified autism center. The project came in conjunction with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), an organization that "provides a series of certifications that empower professionals to be leaders in their field and improve the outcomes for the individuals they serve. These programs are recognized around the world as the leading benchmark for training and certification in the areas of autism and other cognitive disorders," their website explains. 

Now, Sesame Place must continuously train its team to "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," a press release explains. 

"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," the park's president, Cathy Valeriano, said in the press release. "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."

Since announcing the news, people have taken to social media to share their praise and excitement. 

"I am 15 [years old] and autistic and I wish so much that there had been a place like that when I was little! I'm so excited for all the autistic kids that get to experience something like that," one person wrote on Instagram.

"We brought our autistic twins at the age of 3 (undiagnosed at that time) and our entire experience was wonderful from start to finish. Thank you for all that you do to ensure everyone experiences a wonderful time! We will be back," another added.

"As somebody who has autism, it really means a lot, thank you so much," another said. 

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