Monday, October 25, 2021

LEGOLAND Florida Caters to Guests With Physical and Cognitive Disablities

 

LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is built for kids of all abilities and interests. Since it opened in October 2011, the multi-day vacation destination has worked to ensure its facilities are inclusive as possible for guests with a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as food allergies and other dietary restrictions.

Talk to LEGOLAND before leaving home

To make the most of a visit and to answer questions pre-arrival, guests are encouraged to visit the Planning Your Visit > Special Situations section of the resort’s website at www.LEGOLAND.com/florida, where they’ll discover a wealth of trip-planning information, including the comprehensive Guide for Guests with Disabilities. Available in printable PDF form, it lists ride-by-ride safety requirements, including LEGOLAND Water Park, and outlines the accessibility features of the resort’s on-site accommodations for overnight stays.

LEGOLAND Model Citizens are happy to answer questions and offer advice before guests leave home. Look for the link to the ADA Form on the website’s Special Situations page, which guests can use to communicate with Guest Services before arriving. Guests also can write to the resort directly at [email protected]. Please allow up to seven calendar days for a response due to the volume of messages we receive.

For guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions, the resort’s website offers a PDF Dietary Guide that lists dining locations serving gluten-, dairy-, soy-, egg- and peanut-free items, as well as the availability of vegetarian and vegan items. The resort’s Food & Beverage team welcomes questions from guests before they arrive at [email protected].

Once at the resort, members of the Guest Services team are available any time the theme park or water park is open. Look for Guest Services locations near the entrance/exit of both parks or ask a Model Citizen for directions.

Hero Pass available for mobility challenged

To assist guests who have difficulty waiting in line, such as those with mobility challenges or guests using wheelchairs, the no-cost “Hero Pass” allows a LEGOLAND guest and one helper expedited access to popular theme park attractions. Meanwhile, the rest of the guest’s party will receive a reservation to return together at the designated time.

The no-cost “Blue Hero Pass” is offered specifically for guests on the autism spectrum and allows the guest’s entire group expedited access through the Hero Pass entrance of popular attractions.

Both Hero Pass types are available from Guest Services under the blue awning near the theme park’s exit. The Hero Pass is offered at the discretion of LEGOLAND staff as a courtesy for guests in genuine need of special assistance and can be revoked if terms are violated.

Food allergies or dietary restrictions

After arriving, if you’re in search of specific food or must avoid certain ingredients, look no further than the free park maps available throughout the resort. Under “Time to Eat” on the back is a comprehensive guide to what’s served where. Maps are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

All the resort’s dining locations have binders with ingredients of every menu item, including restaurants and outdoor carts. Meanwhile, our chefs and managers are happy to discuss any special dietary needs with guests during their visit.

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Guests with cognitive disabilities

Beginning in 2016, LEGOLAND Florida Resort began launching a variety of services and initiatives to assist guests with autism spectrum disorders and their caregivers, efforts that have expanded in subsequent years to include the following:

Specially equipped spaces in the theme park’s Annual Pass, First Aid and Baby Care facilities serve as designated “quiet rooms” where quests on the autism spectrum and their families can take a break. Noise-cancelling headphones, weighted blankets, squishy toys and LEGO® building tables are some of the complimentary resources available. A similar space also is available within Guest Services at LEGOLAND Water Park.

The LEGOLAND Training & Development team has created “social stories” that offer an illustrated, step-by-step walkthrough of every theme park ride and show, so guests won’t be surprised by periods of darkness, loud noises, bright lights or other elements that often can be frightening or overwhelming. They’re available for review at Guest Services.

All newly hired resort employees receive specialized training to equip them with skills to more effectively interact with guests on the autism spectrum, as well as their families or caregivers. Consultants include Dr. Craig Glaser, the resort’s medical director, who also serves as medical director of Winter Haven’s Urgent Care Cypress facility nearby.

In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, observed annually on April 2, LEGOLAND Florida Resort once again participated in Autism Speaks’ “Light It Up Blue” campaign by illuminating the theme park’s iconic Grand Carousel with blue bulbs. The famous double-decker carousel will remain blue through April for World Autism Month.

Each year, iconic landmarks, skyscrapers, schools, businesses and homes across the globe unite by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families affected by autism. For more information, visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/wam.

Testimonials from parents

One dad had this to say in a five-star TripAdvisor review:

I have a 5-year-old neurotypical son and an 8-year-old severely autistic son. This year … we decided to add LEGOLAND to our routine. BEST decision EVER!!!!! … If trips to Disney World consist of meltdowns, freak-outs and sensory issues to the extreme, GO TO LEGOLAND. If your child [has] to wait in line and [has] no understanding of exactly what that means at a theme park, GO TO LEGOLAND. If being at parks like that mean self-injurious behavior for your child or bruise marks/bite marks for you, GO TO LEGOLAND.

Because I can tell you that my autistic son is one of the most awesome little dudes on the planet (right up there with his brother), but that’s what trips to the Disney parks mean for him, and for me and his mom. But he deserves to enjoy theme parks just like any other kid does, so we push through and hope that we get to that point where 60 percent of his day is good, even if the other 40 percent really isn’t.

Call LEGOLAND, ask about their [Hero Pass], about their areas of the park to take an overstimulated, sensory-disabled child and maybe you and your non-neurotypical child can get closer to a 90/10 day like we had for two days straight at this wonderful place.

Not once did a staff member look at my son or us differently all day long. It was the best two days my son has ever been able to enjoy [at a] theme park like any ‘normal’ kid.

Other Testimonials:

“[LEGOLAND Florida Resort is] the best when it comes to providing support and accommodations to people with special needs,” wrote one parent on The Mighty, an online community “created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities.” “My son has ASD and sensory processing. At Guest Services you can ask for a map of quiet areas to rest in when your child is overstimulated. They also offer a Hero Pass so that he doesn’t have to wait as long in the crowded, loud, hot lines. … They are trying more than any park we have been to when it comes to accommodating all kids.”

“If you have a child with disabilities, including autism, the Hero [Pass] is fantastic!” wrote another parent on TripAdvisor. “We were treated with dignity throughout the LEGOLAND properties. This is such a refreshing change for us.”

“I was so impressed with the acceptance and compassion from the LEGOLAND staff,” reads one comment on our Facebook page. “We used a Hero Pass me it helped greatly. … Thank you! You are making a difference!”

April ticket discount benefits Autism Speaks

Through a special promotion during World Autism Month in April, LEGOLAND Florida Resort will contribute $10 of each ticket sold to the North and Central Florida markets of Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks supporters can purchase print-at-home theme park tickets at a discounted rate of $40 plus tax, or combo tickets offering same-day admission to the theme park and water park at a discounted rate of $62.50 plus tax. The offer is available now through April 30 at www.LEGOLAND.com/autism-speaks2, and tickets must be redeemed by May 31, 2018.

Upcoming events to benefit kids in need

On Saturday, April 14, families can race through LEGOLAND Florida Resort during Brick Dash 5K Presented by Publix®. The popular family fitness event benefits Merlin’s Magic Wand, a worldwide charity that has helped nearly half a million children and their families facing the challenges of serious illness, disability or adversity enjoy a magical day out at more than 120 Merlin Entertainments attractions around the world. For more information or to register, visit www.LEGOLAND.com/BrickDash.

On Saturday, April 28, LEGOLAND Florida Resort will host a hands-on building opportunity for kids during the Autism Speaks Walk at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. For more information, visit www.autismspeakswalk.org.

On Thursday, June 21, Autism Speaks and LEGOLAND Water Park will team up to host the ninth annual World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™, a global event created to help the aquatics industry work together to build awareness about the fundamental importance of teaching children to swim to prevent drowning. For more information, visit www.wlsl.org.

 

Joe Kleimanhttp://www.themedreality.com
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe has been News Editor and contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, and MiceChat. His blog, ThemedReality.com takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @themedreality Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his fiancé, two dogs, and a ghost.

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