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Exploring the Autism-Friendly Environment Within the Georgia Aquarium

Updated: Jun 2

A photo of the Georgia Aquarium.  There is a title that says Exploring the Autism-Friendly Environment within the Georgia Aquariu.  Visiting an aquarium with my autistic son is normally an excellent experience because he loves seeing all the animals.

I love to travel with my boys! I had been planning a trip to the Georgia Aquarium after our move. And let me tell you, I was thrilled when I discovered that this aquarium is now a Certified Autism Center. Visiting an aquarium with my autistic son is normally an excellent experience because he loves seeing all the animals. However, now that they are offering more sensory-friendly options, I felt like our trip would be better than I ever imagined. If you are interested in having an amazing experience at the Georgia Aquarium during your next vacation, contact me today.

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Exploring the Autism-Friendly Environment Within the Georgia Aquarium

All staff and volunteers at the Georgia Aquarium have been trained to consider the needs of all their guests, including those who have autism and other disabilities. Upon arrival, guests on the autism spectrum will be able to enter an expedited entrance line. This will allow autistic families to enter the aquarium quickly and avoid the crowds that generally build up near the entrance area. Of course, since the first hour, of the aquarium is open is now a sensory-friendly hour, you will walk into a quiet space. The lights are dimmed, and music is not playing in the background. This ensures your autistic child can get used to the environment without crowds, noise, and bright lights. Sensory bags are also available for autistic families. Each pack contains noise-canceling headphones, fidget devices, and sunglasses. There is also an “I need/I feel” card inside that an autistic child can use to communicate with staff members and volunteers. Let's explore what makes the aquarium the Autism Friendly Georgia Aquarium!

A photo of the Kulture City Sign that shows a sensory warning that says Headphone Zone at the Georgia Aquarium.

As you wander around the Georgia Aquarium, you will see spaces designated as quiet zones. These areas are perfect for when your autistic child becomes overstimulated and needs a break. Plenty of signage points to these zones, and staff members and volunteers can help you find them as well.

Using Social Stories Before Our Trip to the Georgia Aquarium before traveling with your autistic child can help prepare for travel. Always work with your child's therapist and use different methods to show them what to expect when you are traveling. These things help them understand what they will experience while away from home. I was so happy to see that Georgia Aquarium has a helpful social story on its website because they are useful for some autistic children. You can find that social story here. The social story for the aquarium shares everything from arriving to the animals and eventually leaving at the end of the day. Pictures are included in this social story, which can be helpful. While social stories are excellent, you have other options. For this trip, I turned to the animal cams on the Georgia Aquarium website. My son could spend as much time as he wanted, watching the animals from the comfort of our home. I also pulled up point-of-view videos on YouTube.

Our Trip to the Georgia Aquarium

The owner of Spectrum Getaways and her youngest son at an exhibit in the Georgia Aquarium.  The is a blue hue from the water.

I enjoyed the timed entries at the Georgia Aquarium. Crowds weren’t forming in line to enter the aquarium. And there weren’t many people in each exhibit area once we were inside either. One of the first things I noticed inside the Georgia Aquarium was that there were plenty of places to sit down. I was pretty happy about this because it took away my worry that I would constantly need to be searching for a place to sit down for a little break. I also noticed signs stating which areas were quiet zones and which areas would require headphones due to noise. That last one was helpful because I could prepare my son in advance and ensure he had his headphones on before entering. The darker exhibits were one area I felt the aquarium didn’t address. I understand that certain animals require darkness. However, my youngest son was scared to venture toward them because the areas were too dark.

Most of our visit was positive, but I did end up sitting with my youngest in the middle of the atrium as he was on the verge of having a meltdown. The staff was quite understanding, though. None of them approached to make me calm him down or usher us out. My boys and I loved our time at the Georgia Aquarium.

Contact me when you’re ready to take a vacation in Georgia and visit the aquarium. I can help plan an incredible vacation for your autistic family.

People taking photos of the whale shark in a tank in the Discovery area of the GA Aquarium

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