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Exploring the Autism-Friendly Environment Within the Georgia Aquarium

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

I love to travel with my boys! I had been planning a trip to the Georgia Aquarium after our move. And let me tell you, I was thrilled when I discovered that this aquarium is now a Certified Autism Center. Visiting an aquarium with my autistic son is normally an excellent experience because he loves seeing all the animals. However, now that they are offering more sensory-friendly options, I felt like our trip would be better than I ever imagined. If you are interested in having an amazing experience at the Georgia Aquarium during your next vacation, contact me today.

Exploring the Autism-Friendly Environment Within the Georgia Aquarium

All staff and volunteers at the Georgia Aquarium have been trained to consider the needs of all their guests. Including those who have autism and other disabilities. Upon arrival, guests on the autism spectrum will be able to enter an expedited entrance line. This will allow autistic families to enter the aquarium quickly and avoid the crowds that normally build up near the entrance area. Of course, since the first hour, of the aquarium is open is now a sensory-friendly hour, you will walk into a quiet space. The lights are dimmed, and music is not playing in the background. This ensures your autistic child can get used to the environment without crowds, lots of noise, and bright lights. Sensory bags are also available for autistic families. Each bag contains noise-canceling headphones, fidget devices, and sunglasses. There is also an “I need/I feel” card inside that an autistic child can use to communicate with staff members and volunteers.

As you are wandering around the Georgia Aquarium, you will see spaces designated as quiet zones. These areas are perfect for when your autistic child becomes overstimulated and needs a break. There is plenty of signage pointing to these zones. Staff members and volunteers can help you find them as well.

Using Social Stories Prior to Our Trip to the Georgia Aquarium prior to traveling with your autistic child can help prepare for travel, always work with your child's therapist and use different methods to show them what to expect when you are traveling. These things help them to understand what they will experience during their time away from home. I was so happy to see that Georgia Aquarium has a helpful social story on its website because they are helpful for some autistic children. You can find that social story here. The social story for the aquarium shares everything from arriving to the animals and eventually leaving at the end of the day. Pictures are included in this social story, which can be helpful. While social stories are excellent, you have other options. For this trip, I turned to the animal cams on the Georgia Aquarium website. My son could spend as much time as he wanted, watching the animals from the comfort of our home. I also pulled up point-of-view videos on YouTube.

Our Trip to the Georgia Aquarium

I enjoyed the timed entries at the Georgia Aquarium. Crowds weren’t forming in line to enter the aquarium. And there weren’t lots of people in each exhibit area once we were inside either. One of the first things I noticed when we got inside the Georgia Aquarium was there were plenty of places to sit down. This was something I was quite happy about because it took away my worry that I would constantly need to be searching for a place to sit down for a little break. I also noticed signs that stated which areas were quiet zones and which areas would require headphones use due to noise. That last one was really helpful because I could prepare my son in advance and make sure he had his headphones on before entering. The one area I felt the aquarium didn’t address was the darker exhibits. I understand that certain animals require darkness. However, my youngest son was scared to venture toward them, because the areas were too dark.

Most of our visit was positive, but I did end up sitting with my youngest in the middle of the atrium, as he was on the verge of having a meltdown. The staff was quite understanding though. None of them approached to make me calm him down or usher us out. My boys and I loved our time at the Georgia Aquarium.

When you’re ready to take a vacation in Georgia and visit the aquarium, contact me. I can help plan an incredible vacation for your autistic family.

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