Amusement parks like Story Land in Glen, N.H. can be a never-never land for children with autism spectrum disorder. The loud noises and commotion can be too much.
And it’s hard to be excluded from such fun, says Ashleigh Lowe of Merrimack, whose 12-year-old son Alexander has autism.
“It is very disappointing in the normal – not-autism world – to see something that you know your son or daughter would really enjoy but not be able to experience that,” she says.
But last week, Story Land made some crucial changes and held a “sensory sensitive” weekend.
The park was open to everyone, but the loud music usually playing over park speakers was turned off. There was a special quiet area. And there were special VIP lines because some children with autism can’t tolerate waiting in line.
Amanda Parenteau was thrilled to hear about the changes. She’d gone to Story Land as a child but taking her 7-year-old daughter Mackenzie had been problematic.
On Saturday, she drove with her daughter from Rhode Island and soon, Mackenzie was happily touring the park.
“She was super excited and hasn’t stopped talking about it the entire week,” she said.
Story Land has held several “autism awareness” weekends but decided to do more, said Lauren Hawkins, the director of marketing.
And Story Land is not alone in changing its operations.
Amusement parks and theaters nationwide are increasingly catering to the millions of families affected by autism, said Wendy Fournier, the president of the National Autism Association.