An amusement park, filled with roaring coasters, loud music and crowds, can be out of reach for many children on the autism spectrum.
Children with autism or other sensory difficulties can become easily overwhelmed and overstimulated in the noisy, crowded and chaotic environment that’s often typical of an amusement park.
Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., is hoping to change that by offering a sensory-friendly opportunity to visit the park on May 3.
Park officials are billing Autism Day as the first sensory-friendly event planned at a major U.S. amusement park. Helping organize the event is the Custom Education Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to changing the lives of individuals with autism, and the Gersh Academy for Students on the Autism Spectrum, based in Huntington, N.Y.
Among the accommodations that will be made at the park on May 3:
* The park will have short lines and a “hold-the-spot” policy for kids who are unable to stand in line.
* There will be a system for rating the park’s rides based on sensory and thrill levels.
* Designated quiet areas, stocked with sensory-friendly items such as iPads and bean-bag chairs to sit on, will be set up throughout the park, available only on the event day. These places are designed to give kids a quiet place to decompress when their surroundings become too much to handle.
* Lights and music will be adjusted.
In addition to having a bit more quiet of an environment, special education staff from the Gersh Academy will be available throughout the park to assist families in whatever they may need.
Families who visit the park will also be able to learn more about support, resources and services available to families with children on the spectrum as well as listen to presentations from experts on autism.
Six Flags Great Adventure is about an hour and 40 minutes away from Allentown.
Entertainment venues across the country are working to make more accommodations for families with children on the autism spectrum. Kids on the spectrum and those with sensory difficulties can become overwhelmed in an unfamiliar social setting, with too many people and sounds around them, preventing them from being able to focus on one person’s question or one activity at a time.
Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S., affecting 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys, according to Autism Speaks, a nonprofit advocacy group that aims to increase awareness, resources and research for autism spectrum disorders.
* What: Autism Day, an event for those on the spectrum at Six Flags Great Adventure
Where: Six Flags Great Adventure, 1 Six Flags Blvd., Jackson, N.J.
When: 10:30 a.m.to 6 p.m. May 3
How much: $32.99.