Anyone that has a child with differences will know, it’s not always easy.
In fact, it’s really really hard sometimes.
It’s hard physically dealing with children that just don’t understand like everyone else, it’s hard emotionally knowing that your kids have been robbed of being ‘normal’ and it’s hard when it comes to changing your expectations of all the things you thought parenthood would be like.
So when you think ‘family vacation’ with a kid that has autism, you have a lot of questions- maybe some doubt. It’s not at the top of the ‘fun’ things you want to do!
But, it looks like it can be done now, at least a little easier.
We’re going to explore how Seaworld is certified as an Autism Theme Park, and what that means for those of us with a child with ASD. Since SeaWorld Orlando joined Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove to become the first family of parks, in the world’s leading theme park destination, to be certified.
Signs on every show and ride
I think this is the coolest thing about Seaworld. There is a indiscrete warning sign on every ride, show and attraction so you know what to expect based on what the triggers are.
No two people are alike when it comes to Autism, so I am very glad they did this and posted several keys so that people can make an informed decision (instead of testing it and having to leave halfway through the show)
This are my favorite thing and a total life send. Seaworld has quiet rooms, one at the front of the park and one in sesame place. These rooms are low light, insulated, and designed for those with sensory issues in mind.
They have a lock on the door so you can use it by yourself or you can choose to share it. The room is outfitted with simple sensory equipment and large soft seating (floor seating and floor pillows).
Wasn’t as allergy friendly as I had hoped
I know that many in the community have made diet changes, so I was surprised that it wasn’t quite as allergy friendly or gluten free friendly as Disney World/Universal, but I also didn’t dine at the main restaurant (where they direct you to go when you have allergies) My husband has shellfish allergies (and the main restaurant serves fish/shellfish) so I plan to go there one time on the solo trips.
The main restaurant is also a sit down, which my ASD kid doesn’t do the best with, so I was hoping there was somewhere that could accommodate him that was more fast food based.
We end up bringing in a lot of snacks because of his diet. I’m hopeful they will take this feedback and make some considerations in the future for those that can’t do a sit down restaurant and need a quick place to grab a bite to eat!
Play areas and play spaces
We all know that kids, especially those with difference, need a physical outlet. Seaworld has a wonderful area for kids to run and play in Sesame Place. In fact, Seaworld is one of my kids favorite places to go!
It’s super close to the quiet room, and very accessible if you have a mobility device! Lots of fake grass to hang out, lots of seating, and some play areas for kids to enjoy (no swings or slides)
Options for not waiting in line
If you’ve been to the theme parks with someone with ASD, you’ll know that they have a ‘pass’ of sorts that allows you to come back to the ride without having to wait in line. Disney, Universal and Seaworld ALL have this pass, you just need to go to guest services to get it.
Florida LAW prevents them from asking you for a doctors note, and I’m almost positive they can’t ask you for a diagnosis. We’ve gotten the passes at Disney and Seaworld (haven’t taken my sweet boy to Universal yet- one step at a time!) and they’ve never pried or wanted sensitive information.
We just tell them that he can’t wait in line and that he could be disruptive to other people in tight spaces, and they give us the pass without any other questions. You can also request a tag for the stroller to be used as a wheelchair- this is very helpful if you have someone that needs the stroller for one reason or the other.
No super loud fireworks every night (they closed at 8 and we left at 745 with no issue)
One of the things that really does those with ASD/SPD is loud noises! Other theme parks have fireworks (and not just at night! During the day too. Many times you wont have any warning and then BOOM!) and other very loud noises on rides and attractions.
Seaworld, with all the animals, is extremely mild in comparison. They do have some special nighttime shows, but you will know ahead of time if they are going on that night(and then I normally leave before then). They don’t have loud noises during the day, which I really appreciate. The music isn’t blaring, the fireworks are almost nonexistent and the noise stimulation just isn’t there like at some other parks.
Crowds weren’t as packed as Disney World
Disney World has come a long way for Children with ASD/SPD and we do go there frequently, but the crowds really do a number for my son. Epcot is our favorite park there, but during the festival season we can’t go because of the packed crowds.
It’s just too much, especially if you have anxiety.
Seaworld isn’t like that. Rarely do people gather in large numbers, and when they do, we just kind of wait to the side for a few minutes and it clears out quickly.
At other theme parks we could wait for 20-30 minutes, and then wait again in lines for food and bathroom. It’s such a headache to wait when my son can’t stay still and gets overstimulated by the amount of people.
Before their certification, Seaworld was already a favorite park for my son, but even more so now that the changes have taken place for their certification. If you want the change at a ‘normal’ vacation, I highly recommend Seaworld.