Earlier this year, Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg became the first attraction in Tennessee to become a Certified Autism Center. To get the certification, Ripley's employees underwent training on how to best serve the needs of someone on the Autism spectrum. For example, employees know what to do if a child has a meltdown due to overstimulation while visiting the aquarium.
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies offers noise-canceling headphones to guests free of charge. Also, the attraction has sensory-friendly nights for families where the lights and music are turned down. There is a $3 discount on admission tickets for those participating in the sensory-friendly nights.
For adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, the aquarium offers the noise-canceling headphones and sensory-friendly nights for older guests with the condition. I know because I e-mailed guest services at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.
Since Gatlinburg is often crowded with tourists, the best times to see the attraction according to their website is the first thing in the morning or after dinner where crowds are lighter. Ripley's efforts to providing a welcoming place to all people on the spectrum are comforting to me. Maybe one day I will be comfortable enough to visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
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