Taronga Zoo opens early for guests on the autism spectrum
The iconic Sydney Zoo has teamed up with Autism Spectrum Australia to start the Access Taronga initiative, which aims to provide a range of supports and services for guests on the spectrum.
“On our Access Taronga days, guests on the autism spectrum with their family or friends can enjoy early entry to Taronga Zoo Sydney. This is a great opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Zoo before it opens to the general public.” said Stephen Williams, Manager - Guest Experience Operations at Taronga Zoo.
For information on the next Access Taronga day, click here.
For many visitors on the autism spectrum, the large crowds, queues, loud noises and unfamiliar smells can be overwhelming.
Working collaboratively with Taronga Zoo to offer training for their staff, Autism Spectrum Australia has also developed a social story to help prepare guests on the spectrum for the visit.
The social story is available to download online.
“We are thrilled to be working with Taronga Zoo, their staff are committed to providing a quality experience for guests on the autism spectrum.” said Kathie Lane, Aspect Practice Specialist. April 8th marked the second autism-friendly opening at the Zoo, after the first event was celebrated by families who attended, with parents noticing the calm environment having a lasting effect on their children.
“Thanks again it made a great difference to the whole family enjoyment. Not only did it impact on the actual zoo visit, afterwards was a much calmer affair too” said mum Michelle.
VIP animal badges will also be given to guests on the spectrum who wish to wear one, allowing the trained staff at the Zoo to easily identify anyone that might need additional support.
Mum of two young sons on the spectrum Janelle, attended the Access Taronga Day held last year. Janelle explains that having a day like this at a place that would usually be overwhelming for a family with kids on the spectrum, makes things much easier.
“Having children on the Autism Spectrum often means not being able to experience popular family places like Taronga Zoo as it is just too overwhelming with the crowds, the noise and the queuing. We often just avoid going out anywhere and spend a lot of time at home as it can be so hard.”
The staff at Taronga Zoo are all specially trained to deal with autistic children so that they can deal with any overwhelmed children on the day. The children with autism are given badges so that they are easily recognisable and will be assisted if they seem overwhelmed or lost.
“The Access Taronga day allows us to bring our two boys when it’s nice and quiet and let’s them enjoy it in their own special way, and if meltdowns happen as a mother I don’t feel judged as I know all the other parents there understand and empathise. It’s not often I feel relaxed when out at places like Taronga! Mason who’s nearly 5 years old has ASD and ADHD and loves the Meerkats as he sees them on TV, and it’s so amazing to see him experience them in real life! He loved getting his special badge when he arrived and running around pointing out all the animals – it’s such a great thing that the zoo do for families like ours.”