Today, Discovery Cove, in conjunction with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), announced the completion of a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training as well as an onsite review of the park property and guest experience. The completion designates Discovery Cove as a Certified Autism Center (CAC) as distinguished by IBCCES, making 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 is SeaWorld Entertainment’s day resort park, where guests can enjoy a one-of-a-kind opportunity to swim with dolphins, snorkel among thousands of tropical fish and rays and other unique animal interactions, all in a tropical setting of rocky lagoons, lush landscaping and white, sandy beaches. Working closely with IBCCES, the staff at Discovery Cove will be continually trained to assist guests with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families, to help ensure a positive experience during their visit. Guests will also be provided with specific information about each of the Discovery Cove experiences, along with in park accommodations to help them plan their day and make informed choices best suited to their individual needs.
“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. “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.”
For almost 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism training for licensed healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited travel options, and in response, created training and certification programs specifically for the hospitality and travel industry. As a Certified Autism Center, Discovery Cove is required to provide ongoing training to ensure that team members have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament and expertise to interact with all families and children with special needs, specifically on the autism spectrum. Training takes place 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. The autism training must be taken every two years in order to maintain 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 and parent with a son on the autism spectrum 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.”
Robust pre-visit planning resources will be added to the park’s website including a sensory guide developed by IBCCES. This sensory guide will make it easier for parents to plan activities that satisfy their child’s specific needs and accommodations by providing insight on how a child with sensory processing issues may be affected by each sense for each attraction. Added IBCCES’ Pincomb, pre-planning is vital for families in the autism community. “Having a comprehensive resource that allows families to plan their day and avoid the element of surprise is vital. Understanding what the park offers, from its experiences to available food selections, helps in making their day a success.”
The park will also have a quiet space inside the park with adjustable lighting and a comfortable seating area for guests to take a break.