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Dollywood Opened a ‘Calming Room’ for Children With Autism


Dollywood Opened a ‘Calming Room’ for Children With Autism

My brother has autism, and here’s why it’s so important

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 68 children in the U.S. have been identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Though most people are familiar with the term autism nowadays, it’s hard to diagnose, as it’s not something that can necessarily be seen physically. 

    I know that my twelve-year-old brother has autism, but he does not know, and neither do many people outside of my family. He’s the best little brother I could ask for and is usually a fun-loving kid with a smile on his face, but it can be hard when something sets him off. It’s hard to detect when this will happen, since it could be something happening in the present or something he has in the back of his mind, but it’s out of his control. Fortunately, places like Dollywood are starting to take notice: Dollywood is the first ever amusement park to open a “calming room” for patrons with autism, and this  is groundbreaking.  

    My brother is one of the smartest and funniest kids I know. His favorite places are the zoo and aquarium; he can name any creature in both places without even looking at the sign, putting me to shame when I go there with him. However, it can be hard for my parents to take him to the zoo anymore because the past few times they did, he was triggered by something there that sent him into a fit. My father is used to dealing with him when this happens, but it’s harder for mom to control him. She has anxiety, so it’s hard for her to take my brother to public places without fearing he will have a fit.  When he goes into one of these “fits”, people usually stare. My parents are then panicked about where to take him, since they don’t want to leave where they paid to come and want to continue enjoying their time there. 

    According to the Dollywood website, their “calming room” is “a quiet, relaxing environment where the guest and his/her family can feel safe and at ease.” We need this more than ever: amusement parks are so much fun and I personally have so many great memories from them, and my brother and other children with autism deserve the same experience. And if that means taking a break in the middle of the day to calm down, then that should be an option for them. 

    Hopefully other institutions will follow in Dollywood’s footsteps, so that people with autism and their loves ones can have just as much fun as everyone else.

For more information on Dollywood’s Calming Room, check out the video here:

By Sierra Petro

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