Dollywood Adds Calming Room for Kids With Sensory Issues
Dolly Parton is passionate about children, and she understands that not all kids are the same. Her theme park, Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., has just added a calming room that will provide a soothing, safe place for children dealing with a sensory overload.
Primarily aimed at helping children with autism, the room is a quiet space filled with calming elements, like a teepee in which kids can have some time by themselves, and fiber-optic lights to watch. It’s the first room of its kind in any theme park in the world, WKRN reports.
Theme parks are a place where many things are happening at once, and kids who are more sensitive to sensory stimuli can become overwhelmed. Parents like Heather Shuler see the room as a lifesaver for the moments when her autistic child is panicking.
“It might mean nothing to us, but some pitch that he hears that we don’t hear and it just kind of like makes everything in their brain start spinning for themselves,” Shuler explains.
Dollywood partnered with Autism Speaks to develop the room in a way that would be most helpful for kids on the spectrum. “(It) has very sensory friendly objects in it, ones that kids would be using in their therapies for sensory integration,” Maeghan Pawley with Autism Speaks says.
The theme park is just one of the ways Parton gives back to children. She also started the Imagination Library, which gives free books regularly to children up to age 5, and recently turned her song “Coat of Many Colors” into a children’s book. She also recorded an album of children’s songs last year, inspired by her books.
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