2016 News Releases
Occupational therapy students team with Dallas Zoo for Sensory-Friendly Day
In honor of April’s Autism Awareness Month, the Dallas Zoo is hosting a special day Sunday, April 24, from 8-11 a.m. for individuals with autism, their families, and anyone who may benefit from a sensory-friendly experience. Participants must register by Friday, April 15 to be included in Sensory-Friendly Day.
Designed with autistic needs in mind, experiences at the zoo will include a sensory activity tour featuring hands-on activities focused on primates, reptiles, and invertebrates. Modifications around the zoo will include sound adjustments and quiet zones to create an enjoyable environment.
Adding extra consideration, Education staff will send families a “social story” one week prior to Sensory-Friendly Day, which includes photos and captions outlining their upcoming day at the zoo. Participants also will receive a parent tip sheet with suggested items to bring, and specific details on the event.
“Animal encounters have proven to reduce social stress in people with autism, and we know our zoo can be that unique outlet for these individuals,” said Marti Copeland, Dallas Zoo’s director of Education. “We’re preparing our participants a week in advance for activities they can expect – we want them to be successful in this special day.”
The Dallas Zoo is teaming up with Dr. Tina Fletcher, Ph.D., OT, of Texas Woman's University School of Occupational Therapy to provide training to all zoo staff and to help with activities the day of the event. Dr. Fletcher is committed to improving access to cultural arts and entertainment venues for children with special needs and their families.
“When we all work together to provide children and their families with an exciting, meaningful, and sensory-friendly experience, they have an opportunity to participate in a great community event while enriching their quality of life,” said Fletcher, who will attend Sensory-Friendly Day with her team of occupational therapy students.
Admission for participants is only $5 and free for zoo members. (Guests are welcome to stay all day in the park.) Sensory-friendly activities in ZooNorth include frog slime creation; making animal prints in kinetic sand; a rainforest smelling activity; animal pelt matching; drawing station; and a nature-themed bingo game.
Quiet zones, located in the zoo’s auditorium and across from Primate Place, will include darker lighting, bean bags and blankets.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 78 percent increase in six years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.
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About the Dallas Zoo: The Dallas Zoo, named one of the nation’s Top 10 Zoos by USA TODAY, is the largest zoological experience in Texas. Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the zoo features a 106-acre park, thousands of animals, and an education department that offers programs for all ages. The zoo is located at 650 S. R.L. Thornton Freeway (I-35 at Marsalis) and is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit DallasZoo.com or call 469.554.7500. DART is the official transportation provider of the Dallas Zoo, and its Red Line stops at the Zoo’s main entrance. The Hyatt Dallas is the official hotel provider of the Dallas Zoo.
About Texas Woman’s University: With an enrollment of approximately 15,000 students, Texas Woman’s University is the nation’s largest university primarily for women. TWU offers degree programs in the liberal arts, nursing, health sciences, the sciences, business and education. Its campuses in Denton, Dallas and Houston are joined by an e-learning campus offering innovative online degree programs in business, education and general studies. U.S. News and World Report ranks TWU’s graduate program in occupational therapy 15th in the nation and the university is among the top producers of occupational therapists in the nation. For more information about TWU’s occupational therapy program, visit www.twu.edu/occupational-therapy/.