The sights and sounds of the Texas State Aquarium make for an ideal Sunday afternoon for most, but for children with autism and other special needs, the constant commotion can be overstimulating.
That’s why the Texas State Aquarium is implementing quarterly "Sensory Sensitive Sunday" events to allow these children and their families a more intimate experience.
"We do a lot of modifications so that they’re comfortable. We obviously create a smaller, quieter environment, and a smaller crowd than is normal for us," Ann Vlach said.
Erin Patton’s son is autistic, and she said the Dolphin Bay Underwater Viewing helps him relax, and puts her to ease as well.
"It’s a safety issue when there are a lot of other people because he’s very quick. I try to keep up with him, but it’s nice to have this environment where we have free range and can check everything out," Patton said.
During these special events, there are signs posted with what visitors can expect, as well as quiet zones.
"They are basically spaces for families and children to take a break. Even with all of the modifications, if the environment becomes too stimulating, it’s a chance for them to go somewhere quiet and decompress," Vlach said.
The event is offered to the families at a discounted rate, and parents said this is a step in the right direction toward inclusion and acceptance.
"To be in an environment where it’s sensory friendly where the sound is turned down and the lighting is turned down, and it’s not so crazy, is nice. We could never come here on a regular day just because it can be so overstimulating for him," Patton said.