A Pennsylvania theme park has just been awarded an important distinction.
Sesame Place, a children's theme and water park based on the television program "Sesame Street," was declared a Certified Autism Center by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).
As part of its detailed certification process, Sesame Place requires at least 80% of its staff to complete rigorous training on autism sensitivity and awareness. The park also installed "quiet rooms" as safe spaces for visitors who may be experiencing sensory overload and offers noise-canceling headphones to attendees throughout the park.
"Sesame Street" character Julia, who has autism, is also on-hand at the park to provide a familiar face and help educate guests who might not be as familiar with autism.
"It is our goal to provide every family with an enjoyable and memorable visit to Sesame Place, and we are proud to offer specialized services to guests with autism and other special needs," the company announced in a statement on its website.
The changes go beyond the actual park as well. It revamped its online resources and the planning process for families too.
In addition, Sesame Place provides information and strategies for guests to better prepare for their visit to the park, with detailed planning tips on their website, including a sensory ranking system for rides, low-sensory parade routes, and other details for related services like travel and dining.
The end result is to give guests and their families "peace of mind" even before they enter the park.
Sesame Place isn't the only park making strides in accessibility either.
While Sesame Place is the first park to earn the Certified Autism Center distinction, other parks are making inclusive strides as well.
Disneyland has received praise for its efforts to expand disability services to guests, including those with autism. And in late 2017, a video went viral showing a young guest interacting with a park employee in sign language.
However, what's actually "magical" about moments like these are how there's nothing magical at all required — just awareness, hard work, and recognizing the value of accessibility and representation for all children and families.