Six Flags America in Bowie, Maryland, has become the DMV area’s first certified Autism Center Park, according to a statement on their website Tuesday.
“We’re really excited to be able to extend that thrilling experience that we’re known for to more people,” said Joseph Pudlick, an employee at Six Flags America and Hurricane Harbor.
Six Flags America has received accreditation from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, an international body that offers training and guidance in being equipped to serve guests with autism and others with sensory sensitivities.
“The crowds, the noise of the rides and noisy things, autistic people tend to have issues with sensory processing, so a lot of the sensory input can be overwhelming,” said Zoe Gross, a member of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Six Flags plans to have sensory sensitive days to make the experience a bit quieter for those, such as people on the autism spectrum, who may be sensitive to loud, abrupt noises like bells, whistles or alarms. On those days, the park will still be open to all patrons.
“Over 85% of our staff has received specialty autism training, and it’s obviously an ongoing learning process,” said Pudlick.
The park said on its website that on sensory sensitive days, announcements and music will be kept to a minimum.
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The park also said certain rides such as the Fireball will not operate because of their noise levels. The trains that run through the park won’t operate either, because the crossing gates, necessary for safety, feature bells and flashing lights that can be problematic.
Other measures the park said it’s taking includes available free noise canceling earphones and training for ride operators to soften the timber and tone of their announcements.
Six Flags has also come up with a special harness that will give people who normally can’t use the rides an enhanced level of protection, according to the website.
“Essentially it works as a vest, and once fitted with it for the ride, our rides team can secure a guest into the seat using the harness and then the primary harness would be there as well,” said Pudlick.
Park President Rick Howarth said more families will be able to enjoy the park with the changes.
Signage will be included on rides to let people know how they can affect sensitive riders, according to the park. The park's website will offer details and a way to register for the new enhancements.
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