ORLANDO, Fla., March 8, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — In advance of Autism Acceptance Month (April), Discovery Cove is announcing its renewal as a Certified Autism Center™, a designation the park has proudly maintained since 2019. The first all-inclusive day resort and animal interaction park in the U.S to earn the certification from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), Discovery Cove is committed to providing an ideal setting for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to live fully, whether as guests enjoying an unforgettable vacation experience, or as valued park employees working their dream job. As part of its ongoing commitment to providing a welcoming atmosphere for autistic guests, Discovery Cove deployed IBCCES’ specialized training for staff; created sensory guides and online resources for guests; and incorporated designated quiet spaces within the park.
IBCCES has been the leader in cognitive disorder training and certification for healthcare, education, and corporate professionals around the globe for more than 20 years. IBCCES is the only global credentialing board providing travel and entertainment organizations with training and certification from subject-matter experts and autistic self-advocates, and other resources, as well as long-term support that helps them understand how to better accommodate and assist autistic or sensory-sensitive visitors and their families.
“The up-close animal encounters experienced at Discovery Cove changes lives forever – for our guests, but also for our team members who care for these amazing animals every day,” said Kelly Flaherty Clark, Vice President of Zoological for Discovery Cove Orlando, who also sits on the IBCCES Advisory Board and is an advocate for the community. “This certification is an indication of how hard we work to make sure these life-changing moments can be enjoyed by all guests, in particular those with ASD.”
Discovery Cove employees, known as Ambassadors, receive specialized training to ensure they have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to cater to autistic and sensory-sensitive guests. The training focuses on sensory awareness, motor skills, program development, social skills, communication, environment, and emotional awareness. A downloadable IBCCES Sensory Guide provides insight on how an individual with sensory processing issues may be affected by each sense for the various experiences at Discovery Cove. In addition to the park’s wide open, clear spaces which can reduce sensory overload overall, there is a designated quiet space for additional relief from sensory stimulation.
In addition to providing an appealing atmosphere for guests, Discovery Cove is an inviting workplace for those with ASD, allowing for own-pace growth, which reduces stress and pressure, and the creation of special bonds between team members and the animals.
“I feel like dolphins are my kindred spirit,” said Discovery Cove Trainer Colin O’Connor. “I consider it a true blessing to have the opportunity to work in an environment where I’m able to live my dream with the challenges I face as an individual with ASD.”
At a young age, Colin O’Connor’s grandfather took him regularly to SeaWorld San Diego, where he felt an immediate connection and peace – one reason he became an annual pass holder for 25 years. Now, as an employee at Discovery Cove, O’Connor calls his position as a dolphin trainer his “dream job.” Living with ASD, he appreciates having the ability to learn at his own pace, without the added pressure of having to meet specific goals within a certain timeframe. Best of all, he works with Marea, a 19-year-old dolphin, with whom O’Connor has formed a connection that is extra special. He hopes his success encourages others to follow their dreams and inspires individuals with ASD to find a place that stimulates growth and encourages development.
Discovery Cove is a tropical oasis in the heart of Central Florida offering an all-inclusive experience where guests enjoy one-on-one, inspiring animal interactions including, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling among tropical fish and rays, hand-feeding exotic birds, and more. In addition to inspiring animal experiences, guests at Discovery Cove enjoy an all-inclusive offering, including a freshly prepared breakfast, lunch, and all-you-can-eat snacks throughout the day, plus unlimited beverages and beer and wine (for guests 21 and older).
For more information or to make a reservation, visit DiscoveryCove.com or call 407-513-4600.
SOURCE Discovery Cove Orlando