When diagnosed with autism, children often also receive a diagnosis of having a sensory sensitivity, meaning that they want to reduce or avoid loud noises, bright lights, and other over simulating events. When presented with over-stimulus, some children with ASD may shut down, become alarmed or agitated, or have other outward or inward behavior to express their discomfort. Given that the rates that children diagnosed with autism are rising, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo and Pacific Science Center wanted to create spaces that are designed for children with sensory sensitivity so they can enjoy these classic Seattle attractions.
The Woodland Park Zoo has created a Woodland Park Zoo Sensory Map which points out areas for the children to escape the crowds if needed (aka quiet areas), areas where they can run or move, and other attractions that cater to those with sensory sensitivities. Along with the sensory map, the zoo has also built a Sensory Garden in which children can play with different textures and different instruments.
Once a month the Pacific Science Center has a special early opening or late closing for those with sensory sensitivities in order to provide a calmer experience not only for the children but also for their caregivers. When sites provide accessibility to those living with disabilities, it opens the door to many opportunities that these families might have otherwise avoided. We are grateful to the Woodland Zoo and Pacific Science Center for taking initiative in making these attractions more accessibility for children with diverse needs.
Local Komo News covers how these classic Seattle attractions have adapted to accommodate children with special needs. Watch the video here.