Texas State Aquarium Holds Event for Families Facing Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Sensory Challenges

January 24, 2018

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – On Sunday, January 21, the Texas State Aquarium (TSA) held its first Sensory Sensitive Sundays event, providing an experience tailored to the needs and comfort of local families facing the challenges of autism spectrum disorders and other sensory challenges. The event, the first in the Aquarium’s ongoing Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, welcomed approximately 35 guests from 8 families.

The Aquarium’s exhibits and other experiences were modified for the event in order to create a comfortable environment for families and their children who normally may not have the opportunity to enjoy public spaces like the Aquarium. In order to keep the number of guests minimal, the event was held on a Sunday morning and was not extensively promoted to the public. Staff and volunteers were trained on how to create a judgment-free environment, and music was turned off in select areas. Quiet zones were also provided in several spaces to give families a place to take a break, and special signage was placed throughout the Aquarium to inform families what to expect in a space, including lights, music changes, and free-flying birds.

Several presentations and animal interactions, designed to be quiet and calming, were also provided. Guests had the opportunity to use enrichment devices to interact with dolphins in Dolphin Bay’s underwater view and met Xena, the Aquarium’s two-toed sloth.  Overall, the event was well-received by guests, with most staying for around two hours.

TSA partnered with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) to hold the event. CARD provided Autism and Other Spectrum Disorders Sensitivity Training for Aquarium staff, consulted the Aquarium on how experiences should be modified for families, and shared the event with their clients.

Support for the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative is provided in part by a grant from the Coastal Bend Community Foundation.

The Texas State Aquarium will hold its Sensory Sensitive Sundays event on Sunday, April 1, 2018, which will be open to the public. More details on that event will be announced closer to the date.

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