Dollywood Creates Special Room for Children with Autism

Dollywood Creates Special Room for Children with Autism
Good News

Dolly Parton’s famous Dollywood has added a room for children with sensory issues to help them decompress when they are coping with an overload of noises, sights, and smells from a day out in Dollywood, the renowned theme park located in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains.

After noticing many children with autism coming to the park through the ride accessibility center, Judy Toth, a team leader at Dollywood, realized that there was a huge need for a place for parents to help their children with autism gather their bearings. Toth said that she saw parents using the restrooms and first aid center to help their children cope with sensory overload or to help them avoid too much stimulus at the park.

Toth worked with Autism Speaks to create a room that would be friendly and accessible to children with autism. The space has low sensory toys like glowing lights and teepee tent to help children find a bit of peace amidst the madness of the theme park.

Dollywood’s director of communications, Pete Owens said in an interview:

“This was a need we identified at both of our parks. There are about three dozen interactions with families with an autistic family member every operating day in the summer.”

Nashville citizen Heather Schuler discussed in an interview how the room will help her son, Hampton, experience a fun day at Dollywood with the rest of his family.

“It might mean nothing to us, but some pitch that he hears that we don’t hear, and it just kind of like makes everything in their brain start spinning for themselves. Hampton can take a break inside the calming room and regroup.”

Feedback has largely been incredibly positive. One Facebook user wrote on the Dollywood page:

“A big thank you to Dollywood from our family and the autism community. On my son’s first trip to Dollywood he became overstimulated and had a terrible meltdown… If we had a room like that to escape to, things may have been different.”

Although Dollywood’s space is the first of its kind, Legoland in Florida has stated that they will be following suit in order to help accommodate families who have children with sensory issues.


Huffington Post