Florida’s Aquatica Orlando, which has earned the title of being America’s No. 1 water park, is now the first water park in the world to become a certified autism center, the attraction announced Tuesday.
To earn the certification distinguished by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, at least 80 percent of the staff must complete meticulous training on a variety of topics related to autism, including sensory awareness, motor skills, social skills, emotional awareness and more.
IBCCES training ensures staffers have the expertise, temperament and ability to assist all children, including those with disabilities. The organization is considered a global industry leader in autism training.
“As the first water park in the world to complete the training and become a CAC, Aquatica Orlando is proud to provide fun and memorable experiences through exceptional service,” David Heaton, vice president of Aquatica Orlando, said in a statement. “We continually strive to create safe and meaningful experiences for all of our guests, and we are committed in our effort to offer families inclusive activities for children with autism and other special needs.”
The Orlando, Florida water park features a ride accessibility program, a private quiet room with adjustable lighting for guests seeking relief from sensory stimulation and a low sensory area.
The water park itself includes sandy beaches, a lazy river, water rafting, beginner-friendly body slides and water spouts, splash pools and an up-close view of Commerson’s dolphins. Guests also have the option of staying at Aquatica Orlando’s all-inclusive day resort, Discovery Cove.
It’s also preparing for the opening of its newest attraction, KareKare Curl, this summer. The adventurous new ride “could be described as a ‘curve shaped wave’ which riders will experience when climbing the vertical wave wall,” according to the park website.
Last year, sister park Sesame Place became the world’s first CAC theme park.
The designation offered “peace of mind” to parents, families and individuals, Meredith Tekin, IBCCES vice president of sales and marketing, told CNN in April.
According to Tekin, sites must “meet the highest industry standards, including onsite reviews to make grounds and activities more accommodating as well as staff awareness and sensitivity training” to earn the title.
Both Aquatica Orlando and Sesame Place offer downloadable sensory guides, which offer insight into how a child with problems processing senses may be affected on various rides and attractions, on their websites.
“IBCCES is proud to work with Aquatica Orlando and other leaders in the industry to increase the availability of certified options and help individuals have a safe and enriching experience when traveling or visiting a new place. With the rise in diagnosis rates of cognitive disorders, there is a huge need for these options and for organizations to make a long-lasting commitment to their guests,” IBCCES board chairman Myron Pincomb said in a statement.
According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that may cause significant social, communication and behavioral changes. While more people than ever before are being diagnosed with ASD, “it is unclear how much of this increase is due to a broader definition of ASD and better efforts in diagnosis,” the CDC notes.
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