When I was little, we lived fairly close to Sesame Place and would visit every so often on the weekends. To a bunch of 5 and 6-year-olds, it was fun to jump in the ball pit and make new friends with other kids for the day.

I haven’t been there since then, but I know the park has undergone many cool changes. Last spring, the Pennsylvania amusement park became the first one in the world to receive certification as an autism center. Guests are in for a special experience!

Sesame Place – based on the popular children’s show Sesame Street – worked alongside The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education to earn their certification. Staff members underwent special training so they can provide adequate care and services for children with autism and special needs. It was a rigorous curriculum but each team member is prepared to offer the best service.

According to Sesame Place’s website, training includes:

“Sensory awareness, motor skills, autism overview, program development, social skills, communication, environment, and emotional awareness.”

New and existing staff will continue to receive ongoing training so that the park can maintain its certification. A number of amenities have been added to the theme park so that autistic guests can have an enjoyable experience.

Two quiet rooms have been installed near Big Bird’s Rambling River for those who want to relax or take a break. They are private and feature seating, adjustable lights, and require a code for entry. For kids who have a hearing sensitivity, noise-cancelling headphones are available for use while at the park.

With the knowledge that sensory sensitivity is an issue for many children with autism, Sesame Place notes that it has a few low sensory areas, including one just behind their Sesame Street Neighborhood. But parents don’t have to feel clueless when they walk through the gates because they can use the park’s sensory guide to plan their activities before their visit.

The guide’s purpose is to help parents learn about each attraction at the park so they can figure out if it will impact a child with sensory issues.

Sesame Street has worked hard to promote inclusion and in the past few years, has introduced new characters such as Julia, an autistic girl, and Lily, a child facing homelessness. Both characters were created to encourage empathy and awareness as reflections of real-world experiences.

It is no surprise the company is extending these practices into all parts of how they work. Park president Cathy Valeriano is excited about Sesame Place’s distinguished designation and told NBC News:

“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. 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.”

Should you decide to visit Sesame Place during its open season, be sure to say hi to Julia, Big Bird, Elmo, and all the other folks at the park.

Do you have a child in your family with autism? Are you excited about Sesame Place’s certification? Do you know of any other places that are certified autism centers?


Sesame Place