Research shows that outdoor play can be therapeutic for kids on the autism spectrum. Exciting news, then: Pittsburgh-area theme park Kennywood just became autism-certified.
Working with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, the popular theme park in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, is one of just a handful of destinations in the United States to be awarded the qualification of “Certified Autism Center.”
If you’re curious what that means for the park, allow us to explain. For starters, Kennywood staff will receive special training in areas that will help them work better with children who have special needs (including sensory awareness, motor skills, social skills, communication and emotional awareness, to name a few). The park will also offer noise-canceling headphones and sensory bags to guests, which, according to a press release, include earplugs; a fidget toy; squishy ball; and coloring books and crayons. The park doesn’t have a designated “quiet room”(yet), but has already identified quieter areas of the park on their website. And soon, Kennywood will have a sensory guide to help parents choose rides and attractions for their kids.
Fun fact: Kennywood is actually one of the oldest theme parks in the U.S., having opened in 1899. Yeah, you could say it’s a designated National Historic Landmark. (It is.) While Sesame Place was the first theme park to become autism-certified, the hope is that Kennywood will be another catalyst for theme parks in the country to follow suit.
The park’s general manager said of the move, “When we looked at ways to improve guest service over the offseason, becoming a Certified Autism Center was at the top of our to-do list. Our mission at Kennywood is to provide the finest in family fun and entertainment, and ensuring we’re on the front lines in understanding and serving our guests who are on the autism spectrum is critical to achieving that mission.”
Best of all, a lot of the changes have already gone into effect at the park. (You can find even more nitty-gritty details on the Kennywood website.)