Six Flags Great Adventure announced it will earn the Certified Autism Cente (CAC) designation from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).
This initiative, across all 26 Six Flags Entertainment Corporation locations, will mark the first-ever family of parks to earn the designation. Six Flags is the world’s largest regional theme park company and the largest operator of waterparks in North America, according to information provided by Six Flags.
“We are proud to partner with IBCCES to ensure that guests on the autism spectrum have the best possible experience when visiting our parks,” Six Flags Vice President of Safety Jason Freeman said in the statement. “The certification process will equip our team members with the tools and training needed to better serve guests with special needs. We want them to know Six Flags stands ready to welcome them with open arms.”
Many individuals and families with children on the autism spectrum or with sensory sensitivities find it challenging when visiting new places or planning family trips. The potential for sensory overload combined with a lack of understanding and awareness at parks and other recreational venues can often be overwhelming.
The CAC designation from IBCCES, the only credentialing board providing these services for the amusement and attractions industry, requires that at least 80% of guest-facing staff at each park complete a training and certification program through IBCCES as well as complete onsite audits and make a commitment to ongoing training. The staff training focuses on understanding the autism spectrum and strategies for communication, guest experience, and safety, while the onsite audit will give each park techniques and guidance on additional updates.
As a Certified Autism Center, Six Flags parks will provide:
- Trained, courteous, front-line team members with the ability to identify visual cues to better accommodate guests with cognitive disorders and help them enjoy their time in the parks;
- A sensory guide for each ride and attraction so guests can make informed decisions about the ride experience and their level of comfort;
- Special in-park sensory spaces, where guests with sensory needs can relax in a less stimulating environment;
- Expanded culinary options to meet guests’ dietary needs (such as gluten-free items); and
- An updated Accessibility Guide available at sixflags.com, Guest Relations and Ride Information Centers at each park.
“IBCCES is extremely excited to work with a family of parks with this level of commitment,” Myron Pincomb, IBCCES board chairman, said in the statement. “So many families just need more communication and understanding from parks and other attractions, so they can make those memories together that we all cherish. In some cases, small changes can make a huge impact, and our certification program ensures each park is committed to long-term growth and understanding, not just a one-time training.”
“As a person on the spectrum, it is exciting to see more parks taking the extra steps to accommodate all guests,” Dr. Stephen Shore said in the statement. “The commitment Six Flags is making to a true certification process is impressive and means so much to millions of individuals and families. Creating family memories and recreation are essential for both individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families as a whole.”
For almost 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in cognitive disorder training and certification for healthcare, education and corporate professionals around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited travel options. In response to this need, IBCCES created training and certification programs specifically for the attractions and travel industry. While many destinations tout “autism-friendly” options, this phrase means something different to everyone and does not necessarily indicate a true understanding or commitment to serving these guests.
Six Flags will also be the first network of theme parks to implement IBCCES’ Accessibility Card. It is designed to help individuals with cognitive disorders or physical impairments identify and receive helpful accommodations at certified attractions worldwide. The cards are free and may be used during all Six Flags theme park visits.
Guests will register for the card at www.accessibilitycard.org. After obtaining the card, they can visit Six Flags Great Adventure’s Ride Information Center for attraction access information that best serves their individual needs.
For more information, visit www.sixflags.com/greatadventure/plan-your-visit/guests-with-disabilities