SeaWorld's Aquatica Orlando Becomes the World’s First Certified Autism-Friendly Water Park

iStock.com/Image Source
iStock.com/Image Source

Water parks are filled with splashing, screaming, and fast rides—all potential triggers for autistic guests prone to sensory overload. This problem is baked into the design of most water parks, but as the Orlando Sentinel reports, SeaWorld's Aquatica Orlando park in Florida is taking steps toward being more inclusive of guests across the autism spectrum. It is officially the first park of its kind to be designated a Certified Autism Center (CAC) by the International Board of Credentialling and Continuing Education Standards.

After arriving at the park, groups can plan their day using an autism-friendly guide that rates how much each ride stimulates the five senses. A water slide with lots of hills and turns ranks high on the touch scale, for example, and a colorful playground area ranks high on the sight scale.

If guests ever decide they need a break from the excitement of the day, they can retreat to a quiet zone with dimmable lights and comfortable seats. Aquatica staff members have also been trained to serve the needs of park guests with autism.

Families may be hesitant to take kids with autism to loud, overstimulating places like pools and water parks, but giving them those experiences early in life can be valuable. Between 2009 and 2011 in the U.S., accidental drowning was the cause of 90 percent of deaths for children with autism spectrum disorder under age 14. Gary Weitzen, executive director of POAC Autism Services, told Aquatics International in 2016 that "Getting them exposed to water, teaching them to swim, and showing them the proper way to act in a pool literally can be lifesaving for these children."

Aquatica Orlando is just the latest family attraction to receive the CAC stamp of approval. In April of last year, Sesame Place in Pennsylvania reopened for the season as the first-ever theme park to double as a Certified Autism Center.

[h/t Orlando Sentinel]

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You Can Now Buy Your Own Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak 

Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001).
Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001).
Warner Bros.

Harry Potter fans, prepare to go nuts. Toy group Wow! Stuff has officially come out with an invisibility cloak and pre-orders begin on July 1.

According to CNET, the cloak works like a green screen and uses an app to show the wearer disappearing in photos and videos. The user can then save the photos and videos to their phone and show everyone their vanishing skills. The toy company felt compelled to warn users that they won't actually disappear, which is hilarious but worth clarifying in case someone thought they now had access to invisibility cloaks and real magic.

The creators actually examined the original cloak used on Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, now housed at Leavesden Studio, to make sure it was as close to the real one as possible.

The cloak, which is not transparent to the wearer, comes in two different versions: The standard cloak costs $70 and includes a stand to situate one’s phone for pictures. The deluxe version, which costs $80, has a serpent-themed border and a tabletop tripod so you can really go wild with photos.

The cloaks are set for an August 1 release, and have already made an impression on toy lovers, winning Innovative Toy of the Year at Sweden’s Toy Awards.

[h/t CNET]

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