For those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), loud noises and crowded places can be overwhelming. This season, Roger Williams Park Zoo is continuing its efforts to cater to those with sensory processing differences.
The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular offered the first of four sensory friendly evenings for those with sensory processing differences and their families. The sensory-friendly events run from 5-6 p.m. through Sunday, which is the last show of the season.
The more than 5,000 pumpkins will still be on display along the zoo's Wetlands Trail, but there will be no music or special effects as featured during the night shows.
Director of Visitor Services Cheryl Vieira said the zoo has been working with KultureCity to create a more inclusive environment for those with autism and sensory processing differences. She said once the zoo started offering sensory-friendly events, parents kept asking for more.
"This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, we have the most people, so we decided to try to do whatever we could to make this sensory friendly as well," Vieira said.
Vieira said opening the show an hour early for those with sensory processing differences is beneficial, because it isn't as dark outside and it's less crowded.
General admission is welcome during the sensory-friendly event. Vieira said come 6 p.m., the zoo will turn the music and special effects back on, but there are plenty of signs along the trail to alert guests and parents ahead of time.