SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove animal interaction park in Orlando has earned certification for being friendly for autistic guests, the park announced Tuesday.
Awarded by the Jacksonville-based International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), the Certified Autism Center label means park employees have completed extra training on autism sensitivity and awareness.
“Discovery Cove has long been recognized for its adventure-filled yet relaxed environment with a variety of open, clear spaces that make attractions and services more accessible. and reduces sensory overload for guests with cognitive disorders,” Discovery Cove president Kyle Miller said in a press release. “Autism certification is a natural step for us as we continue to create safe and meaningful experiences for all of our guests.”
Two of SeaWorld’s three Orlando parks have now earned the certification, following Aquatica Orlando becoming the first certified water park earlier this year. Another SeaWorld-owned park, Pennsylvania’s Sesame Place, became the first theme park awarded the certification in April 2018.
Like Aquatica, Discovery Cove will offer autistic guests and their families a sensory guide with information about how those with sensory processing issues may be affected by the park’s attractions. For example, using a 10-point scale for each sense, the park’s Shark Swim experience is given a 1 in the “Taste” category (because of the potential for water to get in a guest’s mouth while swimming) and an 8 in the “Touch” category because of the up-close interactions with sharks while swimming and using a snorkel.
For those needing a break from stimulation, Discovery Cove will offer a “quiet space” near the park’s first aid station.
“We’re thrilled to see the commitment and enthusiasm of the team at Discovery Cove and its sister parks in serving guests on the spectrum and with sensory sensitivities,” said Myron Pincomb, board chairman at IBCCES. “Certification and review are so important to ensure all guests feel welcomed and safe in these environments. This should be the industry standard, and we’re working with leaders in the field to make that happen.”
SeaWorld spokesperson Lori Cherry told Orlando Rising to expect SeaWorld Orlando to earn the same autism-friendly certification in the future.