Dollywood Becomes First Theme Park In The World To Create A 'Calming Room' For Guests With Autism

More than ever before, schools and businesses are becoming aware of the special needs individuals with autism or sensory disorders require every day.

Dollywood, Dolly Parton's famous theme park, made history by becoming the first amusement park to create a calming room for people with autism who might need to take a break.

For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other sensory sensitivities, everyday activities can become overwhelming.

Unsplash | Caleb Woods

These children can become overwhelmed by loud noises, bright lights, and crowds of people.

That's why one theme park came up with an innovative solution to ensure that these kids can have fun and take a break when they need it.

Facebook | Dollywood

Dollywood, the famous theme park founded by Dolly Parton in 1986, has become the first amusement park to have a "calming room" for individuals with autism or other sensory needs.

The calming room is a quiet space filled with cushions, a weighted blanket, and fiber optic lights.


"The Calming Room is a quiet, relaxing environment where the Guest and his/her family can feel safe and at ease," says the park's website.

Dollywood worked with Autism Speaks, a non-profit that advocates for people with autism, to design the room.

YouTube | Melanie Czoka Simmons

“(It) has very sensory-friendly objects in it, ones that kids would be using in their therapies for sensory integration,” said Maeghan Pawley with Autism Speaks in an interview with WKRN.

For people with autism like Hampton Shuler, having a calming room in the park means he can have fun and visit just like everyone else.


Before Dollywood introduced their calming room, theme parks weren't an activity option for the Schuler family.

Families are allowed to spend up to 30 minutes in the room.

YouTube | Melanie Czoka Simmons

This ensures that each family has some privacy. The park's ride accessibility hosts are happy to help families get set up in the room.

Since creating the calming room in 2016, many parents have praised the theme park online.

Unsplash | Xavier Mouton Photographie

"We could have never stayed all day or my son wouldn't have enjoyed it if not for the calming room and accessibility pass. I would like to thank all the staff for making this a wonderful experience," said one TripAdvisor review.

People love how accommodating and accessible the park is.

Instagram | @dp.coasterphotos

"...the fact that Dollywood offers a calming room for people with autism and other disabilities & that they offer suggested rides for them as well. It's amazing to see that they take the time to offer that type of assistance," said another TripAdvisor review.

If you needed another reason to love Dolly or Dollywood, here it is.

Their calming room is truly innovative and a great step towards inclusion for all guests.

Since installing their calming room, other theme parks are learning from their example by creating their own calming spaces for guests.

Autism Speaks

Legoland in Florida has since introduced a number of spaces in its park for guests with sensory issues. These quiet rooms are equipped with noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets, and Lego blocks.

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