Everyone's Welcome: Wake County launches park program to welcome kids, adults with autism

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space launched a new program that will make those with autism feel more welcome at area parks.

The "Everyone's Welcome" program was created to make everyone on the autism spectrum feel included and comfortable.

"Our park is here for everyone, but there can be certain barriers, particularly for people who have sensory processing disorders like autism," said Abby Jones, assistant park manager for education at Historic Oak View. "We're trying to remove the barriers and make our park more accessible to new and broader populations."

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Those visiting Historic Oak View County Park can take advantage of several aspects of the initiative:

  • "My Oak View" Visual Schedule: This includes a checklist of locations and communications cards that will help and prepare someone for a visit. The checklists can be downloaded or printed.
  • "My Oak View" Park Pack: This kit provides a customizable visual schedule, maps, sensory-seeking toys, noise-reducing headphones and suggestions for making your visit an enjoyable experience.
  • Sensory supports: Borrow noise-reducing headphones and various sensory-seeking toys any time during the visit.
  • Social narratives: Get an overview of what to expect in both pictures and words. The narratives are geared toward different ways to experience the park.
  • Online information: Find tips and resources to prepare for a successful visit, including which areas tend to be noisy and which places are quieter.

Officials hope Everyone's Welcome will allow Wake County parks to expand these types of programs in the future.

"We want everyone to be able to take advantage of all that Wake County's parks and preserves have to offer," said Chris Snow, director of Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space. "We're always on the lookout for new, innovative ways to improve our visitors' experiences, and Wake County is dedicated to making sure everyone feels included and welcome."

More information can be found online.
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