SeaWorld Orlando’s day resort park, Discovery Cove is now a Certified Autism Center as distinguished by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). It the first all-inclusive day resort and animal interaction park in the U.S. to be certified.
The certification follows sister parks Sesame Place, the first theme park in the world to reach this accreditation, and Aquatica Orlando, the first water park in the world to be accredited.
“Discovery Cove has long been recognized for its adventure-filled yet relaxed environment with a variety of open, clear spaces that make attractions and services more accessible and reduces sensory overload for guests with cognitive disorders,” said Kyle Miller, President of Discovery Cove in a press release. “Autism certification is a natural step for us as we continue to create safe and meaningful experiences for all of our guests. We have seen how well received this certification has been at our Sesame Place and Aquatica Orlando parks, and we are committed in our efforts to offer families inclusive activities for children with autism and other special needs.”
To receive the distinction, the park worked with IBCCES to give staff sensitivity and awareness training. The board also conducted an onsite review of the park and guests’ experiences. Employees are trained in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development, and emotional awareness as well as a comprehensive autism competency exam.
Discovery Cove staff must undergo training every two years to keep the certification.
According to Myron Pincomb, Board Chairman of IBCCES, "We're thrilled to see the commitment and enthusiasm of the team at Discovery Cove and its sister parks in serving guests on the spectrum and with sensory sensitivities. Certification and review are so important to ensure all guests feel welcomed and safe in these environments. This should be the industry standard, and we're working with leaders in the field to make that happen."
Larry Celzo, a member of the IBCCES community said of the Discovery Cove certification, “After so many years of learning how to integrate our 15-year old son with autism into our community, it is refreshing to witness society becoming more aware of how hard we work to provide the same type of recreation and entertainment families without special needs enjoy. I really applaud the organizations who go above and beyond to become trained and certified in autism and other special needs.”
A sensory guide and other pre-planning resources will be available on the park’s website. The park will also have a quiet room that features adjustable lighting and seating.