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Kennywood Earns Designation as Certified Autism Center

With noise-cancelling headphones and sensory bags, park officials hope its summertime fun can be accessible for more families.

photos courtesy kennywood

Kennywood has earned a new title, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the new Steel Curtain roller coaster coming this summer. The West Mifflin amusement park has been granted the designation of a Certified Autism Center to serve park-goers with sensory needs or on the autism spectrum.

“When we looked at ways to improve guest service over the offseason, becoming a Certified Autism Center was at the top of our to-do list,” said Jerome Gibas, Kennywood’s general manager, in a news release.

Sensory bags will be available upon request this season at four locations: the rider safety center, guest relations, first aid station and the service center. The bags include ear plugs, coloring book and crayons, a fidget toy and squeezable ball. Noise-cancelling headphones can also be requested on a first-come, first-served basis.

An ADA-approved, adult-sized changing table is planned for the family restroom near the Star Refreshment Stand next to the new Steelers Country area and looping coaster.

The park is also examining the addition of a quiet room but for now encourages visitors who might like a calmer space to stop by the Dancing Waters shaded fountain near the Gran Prix bumper cars.

As part of the designation, Kennywood staff members have completed a training and review process through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards. Eighty percent of the staff are required to complete online training and pass a test on the material, which includes videos simulating what it’s like to have autism, says Kennywood spokesman Nick Paradise. The park’s goal is to have all incoming staff members pass the test as part of the orientation process.

Once the park opens for the season, a representative from the autism training organization plans to walk the park with Kennywood officials to do a full assessment and develop a sensory guide for each attraction. The park also plans to continue its relationship with the IBCCES as a resource for best practices in specific situations as they arise.

As in years past, ride admission passes are available for guests with disabilities at the front gate from the Rider Safety Center, where each visitor is assessed for which attractions they can ride as well as take part in the virtual queue to skip long lines.

More information can be found at kennywood.com/certified-autism-center.

“We want to ensure leaders in the industry, like Kennywood, are fully prepared to welcome guests with all needs,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES board chairman, in the release. “Ongoing training and certification ensure they are committed to serving these guests and have the knowledge and programs to do so.”

IBCCES, which has worked with licensed healthcare professionals and educators around the globe, recognized that families with children with special needs have limited travel options and created programs specifically for the hospitality and travel industry. For travel resources and more certified locations, visit autismtravel.com.

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