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Dollywood's Calming Room

By Aaron Tanner

· Dollywood,Smokies,Vacation,sensory rooms,theme parks

For those headed to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains this summer, Dollywood is the world's first theme park to offer calming room for those on the Autism spectrum.

The room is available in 30-minute intervals and features items for calming frayed nerves such as stuffed animals, a tent, weighted blankets, low-level lighting and more importantly, a place for privacy and safety. The Ride Accessibility Center at guest services can assist those wanting to use this resource.

Dolly Parton, in which the park is named after, has a big heart for children, so it is only appropriate she would extend her generosity to the Autism community. However, I hope that the sensory room is available for older people on the spectrum as many teens and young adults with Autism and Aspergers also visit the Smokies. Another positive is the park created a social story about what to expect once inside Dollywood.

One may ask themselves why someone with sensory issues would visit an overstimulating place such as a theme park? On the flip side, I applaud those on the spectrum who step out of their comfort zone to try something new such as going on a vacation. Although I have never been to Dollywood, from what I read about the attraction, it is probably a lot more manageable than going to Disney World in Florida.

Although I am debating whether I would be able to handle a vacation in the Smokies as the area receives millions of visitors every year, I do want to go back one day and visit the nearby town of Gatlinburg and Ripley’s Aquarium. I am glad that Dollywood is tapping into an underutilized market of those on the spectrum.

Have you ever visited the Smokies with someone who has Autism or Aspergers? Comment in the section below.

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