BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo has partnered with the autism acceptance organization KultureCity to make the zoo and all of the programs and events the facility hosts sensory inclusive.

This new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive experience for people with sensory issues who visit the zoo. BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo is the first facility in Baton Rouge to be officially certified in as a sensory inclusive facility.

The certification process entailed the staff at the zoo being trained by leading medical professionals on how to recognize guests with sensory needs, including autism, and how to handle a sensory overload situation.

Also, sensory bags, equipped with noise-canceling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget tools, verbal cue cards (produced in conjunction with Boardmaker) and weighted lap pads will be available to all guests at the zoo who may feel overwhelmed by the environment. These guests will also be able to have use of several quiet spaces for those who may need a quieter and more secure environment.

Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals with autism, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to overstimulation and noise, which is an enormous part of the environment in a venue like the zoo. With its new certification, the zoo is now better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible when attending any event at the zoo, according to a news release.

Prior to attending an event, families can download the free KultureCity app to view which sensory features are available and where. Also, on the app is the Social Story which will provide a preview of what to expect at BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo.