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.

Image via Sesame Street/YouTube.

"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.

Photo by Shawn Collins/Flickr.

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.

Also in 2017, a $17 million dollar water park in San Antonio called Morgan's Inspiration Island opened with the goal of being accessible to all people with disabilities.

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.

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less
Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash (left), Kimberly Zapata (right)

Picking a psychiatrist is a precarious situation, one I know all too well. I have bipolar disorder, depressive disorder and anxiety disorder. I have been in and out of therapy for nearly 20 years. And while I have left doctors for a wide variety of reasons—I've moved, I felt better and "been better," I've given up on pharmacology and stopped taking meds—I've only had to fire one.

The reason? She was judgemental and disrespectful. In her office, I wasn't seen, heard or understood.

To help you understand the gravity of the situation, I should give you some context. In the spring of 2017, I was doing well and feeling good, at least for the most part. My family was healthy. I was happy, and life was more or less normal, so I stopped seeing my psychiatrist. I decided I didn't need my meds.

But by the summer, my mood was shifting. I was cycling (which occurs when bipolar patients vacillate between periods of mania and depression) and when I suffered a miscarriage that fall, I plunged into a deep depressive episode—one I knew I couldn't pull myself out of.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Dole
True

As you sit down to eat your breakfast in the morning or grab an afternoon snack, take a minute to consider your food, how it was made, and how it got to your plate.

The fruit on your plate were grown and picked on farms, then processed, packaged and sent to the grocery store where you bought them.

Sounds simple, right?

The truth is, that process is anything but simple and at every step in the journey to your plate, harm can be caused to the people who grow it, the communities that need it, and the planet we all call home.

For example, thousands of kids live in food deserts and areas where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Around the world, one in three children suffer from some form of malnutrition, and yet, up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten.

Keep Reading Show less
via @Kingkeraun / Twitter

Keraun Harris, who goes by the name King Keraun, is a popular comedian on social media who's appeared as an actor on HBO's "Insecure" and ABC's "Black-ish."

On Monday, he posted a video on Twitter sharing the story of how a white woman had his back during a recent traffic stop.

"I just got pulled over, and for the first time, I watched a white woman record my whole traffic stop," she said.

Keep Reading Show less
via Tania / Twitter

Therapy animals have become a controversial issue of recent, even though they've helped over 500,000 people overcome psychological and physical issues that have made it difficult to perform everyday tasks.

It's because countless people have tried to pass off their pets as service animals, making it hard for legitimate, trained animals to gain acceptance in public.

So when people hear about emotional support llamas, they're met with understandable cynicism. However, studies show they are great at helping children with autism spectrum disorder, and they are routinely used to cheer up people residents in retirement homes.

Keep Reading Show less