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HE&R Marks World Autism Awareness Day

5 Tips for a Successful Sensory-Friendly Experience from The Vista School

Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) is proud to partner with Vista, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides state-of-the-art services to children and adults living with autism in Central Pennsylvania. As we mark World Autism Day (#WorldAutismAwarenessDay) today, April 2, 2019, we asked our friends at Vista for information on providing sensory-friendly experiences to our team members and guests living with autism and to increase #AutismAcceptance and #AutismAwareness.‚Äč

For individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the most ordinary situation can be overwhelming and challenging. Environments that are meant for fun and excitement can be intimidating for those who are hypersensitive to their surroundings. With 1 in 59 individuals in the U.S. being diagnosed with ASD, it’s important to make sure that community experiences are just as enjoyable for them and their families as they are for a neuro-typical person.

How can care-takers help customize and accommodate community experiences for those with ASD? So glad you asked! Here are a few general tips and tricks for a successful sensory-friendly experience.

  1. Plan Ahead – Check the website of the location/event you plan on attending. The organization may have a modified experience for those with special needs. Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. Most organizations will understand your challenges and might have sensory-friendly accommodations that are not advertised on their website. Hersheypark has a user-friendly App that helps you plan as you go to maximize fun and minimize distress.

  2. Communicate in Advance – A change in routine can be challenging for individuals with ASD. Predictability allows most individuals to feel secure and informed. Therefore, provide them with detailed information leading up to the outing so they know what to expect. Remember, individuals with autism tend to understand language very literally, so be as explicit as possible in your communication.

  3. Have a Schedule – Having a schedule and sticking to it can make all the difference. Writing out the schedule along with visual representations can bring familiarity to the unknown. Try searching online for actual images of the location and activities to use for the visual representation.

  4. Goodie Bag – Pack a bag with highly preferred items you can use to re-direct, reinforce, or occupy an individual’s time (sensory items, snacks, etc.). Try doing this activity together. This can help put an individual with autism at ease knowing some of his or her favorite items are packed and available when needed.

  5. When It All Becomes Too Much – At times all the preparation in the world can’t prevent someone with autism from becoming overwhelmed. If this happens, having both de-escalation and exit strategies to use could be very helpful.

If you’re considering taking an individual with autism out for a sensory-friendly community experience, I don’t know, let’s say to…Hersheypark – do your research in advance. Hersheypark provides online resources and in-person accommodations for those with autism so they have a sweet experience.

If you are a care-taker who would like more information about the autism services that Vista offers, please visit our website www.VistaAutismServices.org (#VistaAutismServices).