We were so excited to have the opportunity to visit SeaWorld Orlando! I read how it was a newly Certified Autism Center and wanted to learn more about what that looks like in person. So we tacked this visit to the beginning of our Mom and Son Disney trip! We were incredibly lucky to have a childhood friend of mine, who just happens to be a Dolphin Trainer (EEK!!) at SeaWorld, make our visit even more magical.
We arrived right at opening, where we had to have our temperature taken and then proceeded to entrance gates. Right at the entrance, there was a “Quiet Room” which we returned to later in the day. This was a quiet, private room with a small couch and toy on the wall. Once in and doors closed it was completely silent to outside noise! A perfect retreat!!
We went directly to Dolphin Cove to watch the trainers (and our friend, Allison) show off the Dolphins. They have a total of 48 dolphins within the facility. There was a narrator (but with a mask and from our perspective, she was hard to understand) but that didn’t stop us from absolutely enjoying the show!
One thing I really liked to see as we explored the facility were the “Sensory Guides” located on the signage of each attraction and show. They also have a full Sensory Level Summary for each attraction, ranging from 1 (low sensory input) to 10 (high sensory input). See chart below!
I would agree with these assessments. I am disappointed to see the exhibits themselves do not have a sensory level. For example, the Penguins exhibit was INCREDIBLY pungent and stays in between 32 and 28 degrees. The smell of fish was VERY strong and was, of course, incredibly COLD! There is not a sensory sign for attractions alone. Because the Penguin ride was closed due to COVID, we only experienced the Penguin exhibit. Once the Empire of the Penguin ride is open again, I was pleased to see you have TWO options as a ride. MILD or WILD! (we would have definitely done MILD!)
We truly had an incredible time in the facility. The signage and wayfinding was a little confusing to follow, but asking staff always put us in the right direction. Each exhibit was informative, clean and very enjoyable as you can tell from our photos above! My son is very much into facts, science and marine life, so we read all the placards and asked the staff ALL the questions!
I highly recommend the Dolphin Encounter! It was absolutely a HIGHLIGHT of our entire trip (even including our time at Walt Disney World!)!
The Sensory Guide is a page from their website and full document found HERE. I absolutely recommend reading through but here are a few key points to know!
- Quiet Rooms and Low Sensory Areas throughout the park
- Noise Reducing Headphones available for use (we DEFINITELY always travel with a pair!)
- Staff Members trained to help guests with Cognitive Disabilities such as Autism.