WINTER HAVEN, Fla - Expanding its efforts to accommodate guests with special needs LEGOLAND Florida Resort is partnering with Autism Speaks, the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, to make its iconic, kid-centric theme park a more welcoming place for guests with autism.
Working closely with Autism Speaks, the vacation resort #BuiltForKids currently is installing a large panel of hands-on, sensory-stimulating activities in a quiet space within its theme park, the first of several planned projects that have earned LEGOLAND Florida Resort the organization's designation as an "autism friendly" destination on its website and social media channels.
"Autism Speaks applauds the efforts of LEGOLAND Florida Resort to provide special accommodations so that guests on the autism spectrum can maximize their park experience," said Karen Bacharach, senior director with Autism Speaks' Southeastern Regional Office in Maitland, Fla. "When asked, our Central Florida volunteers were eager to offer some design considerations to help the resort be autism friendly."
According to Aymee Good, brand manager at LEGOLAND Florida Resort, a recent refurbishment of the theme park's Annual Pass processing center provided an ideal opportunity to create a safe, calming space for children with special needs, a project that quickly bloomed into multiple ideas among several departments to make the resort a more welcoming place for kids of all ages and abilities.
Under the partnership, Autism Speaks staff members and volunteers will consult on the development and installation of "quiet rooms" and other resort facilities designed to meet the needs of guests with autism. The organization also will help LEGOLAND Florida Resort create online "social stories" that will provide illustrated walkthroughs of its attractions, shows and other guest amenities, and will consult on other autism-friendly initiatives such as a park map designed for guests with special needs and possible revisions to its existing Guide for Guests with Disabilities.
To better educate LEGOLAND Florida Resort employees (known as "Model Citizens") about the unique needs of guests on the autism spectrum, Autism Speaks staff members and volunteers will conduct training sessions at the resort at least twice a year and will supply educational material to be distributed to all new hires.
"We're proud to say that we're built for kids," said Rex Jackson, director of Marketing & Sales at LEGOLAND Florida Resort. "By partnering with Autism Speaks and making these smart changes that will benefit so many families, we're helping to ensure that our resort is truly built for all kids."
On Saturday, April 23, LEGOLAND Florida Resort will sponsor the Kids Zone area during the Autism Speaks Walk at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Fla., and on Saturday, Nov. 12, during the Autism Speaks Walk at Cranes Roost Park in Altamonte Springs, Fla. The family friendly walks are an inspirational and impactful opportunity to raise money and awareness to help change the future for all those who struggle with autism. For more information, visit walknowforautismspeaks.org.
In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, observed on April 2, LEGOLAND Florida Resort participated in the Autism Speaks "Light It Up Blue" campaign by shining blue spotlights on its whimsical entrance arch and "welcome" sculpture made of thousands of LEGO® bricks. Each year, iconic landmarks, skyscrapers, schools, businesses and homes across the globe unite by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families affected by autism. For more information, visit autismspeaks.org/liub.
To learn more about visiting LEGOLAND Florida Resort, including savings on advance purchase of admission tickets, multi-tier annual passes, special events, VIP experiences, educational programs, services for guests with disabilities and themed accommodations at LEGOLAND Hotel, visit www.LEGOLAND.com/florida.