Roger Williams Park Zoo Joins Sensory Initiative
Individuals on the autism spectrum take in information from their five senses as do neurotypical people. The difference is they are not able to process it in the same manner as their neurotypical peers and can become overwhelmed by the amount of information that they are receiving and withdraw as a coping mechanism. Additionally, it may be that an autistic person is actually taking in more sensory information and is merely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of input. As such, they may experience difficulty in public settings due to inhibited communication, social interaction or flexibility of thought development.
This is why sensory friendly efforts are so important as are organizations like Kulture City. They provide tangible help, fulfilling the here and now needs for these children and their families. The journey of autism and any other special needs diagnosis can be isolating. Furthermore, resources are hard to find and limited. Families often struggle to fit into the community. Kulture City created programs aimed at serving these children and families directly. This helps them realize their potential and guarantee them a future that is not limited by their medical diagnosis.
I’m happy to share that Roger Williams Zoo is the first Zoo in New England to collaborate with Kulture City on a sensory initiative. The following are areas of Zoo that will be designated as part of the sensory initiative:
- Sensory bag area – guest services
- Headphone area – Serengeti Cage
- Quiet area – on the Wetlands Trail
The zoo will offer a variety of ways for visitors with unique abilities to enjoy experiences at the park through the creation of designated quiet spaces, as well as offering “sensory bags” that will contain noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, and other helpful items.
“Collaborating with Kulture City ensure everyone, no matter who they are, will have daily accessibility to the Zoo in an inclusive environment,” said Dr. Jeremy Goodman, the zoo’s Executive Director. “All of our staff are trained to understand and respond to those with sensory needs as a result of the online training Kulture City designed.”
The newly designated areas, as well as the zoo, ‘s Hasbro’s Our Big Background area on the first Tuesday of every month April to August from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. The hour is restricted to 70 participants and the zoo strongly recommends pre-registration. Also on the first Tuesday Carousel Village offers Sensory-Friendly Days. We invite those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and sensory processing differences to explore and enjoy Carousel Village. For maximum comfort, there will be no music or indoor lights.