JACKSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It was a day to remember at Six Flags Great Adventure on Thursday.
The famed amusement park closed to the general public, toned down the music and lights and hosted “Autism Day,” more than eight hours of fun for people with spectrum disorders.READ MORE: Mayor De Blasio Announces Vaccine Mandate For All New York City Municipal Workers, Including First Responders
CBS2’s Meg Baker rode the merry-go-round and spoke with families enjoying what the glorious weather and wonderful experience.
“It allows them to be themselves and express themselves,” one father said. “That’s why it’s important.”
The event hit home for a lot of parents who navigate the daily challenge of raising a child with autism.
Rob Abraham traveled down from Staten Island with his 16-year-old son Jesse, who had never been to an amusement park.
“We didn’t know how he’d react. But because it’s a special needs day, we figured today is the perfect day to let him have some fun,” he said. “A little anxiety in the beginning, but everybody out here is very helpful and accommodating.”READ MORE: 1 Dead, Another Injured After Police Pursuit Ends In Crash In Holtsville
Park officials made interventionists available, specialists familiar with the challenges faced by special needs people and their families. Park employees also went through special training for the day.
“We have lowered sound levels throughout the park. We have a wonderful rating system that the Gersh Academy has come up with so that parents can know each and every ride and what is expected — if it’s loud, if it’s fast, if it’s high-thrill or low-thrill,” Communications Manager Kristen Fitzgerald explained.
And for those who did get a bit overwhelmed by the commotion, a decompression center outfitted with beanbag chairs was made available.
“If he starts to sweat and everything, he can just go inside and cool down and relax if he wants to. If he wants to lay down, he can lay down,” father Rich Magielnick.
The day also included presentations by spectrum-disorder professionals and vendors who serve the autism community.MORE NEWS: Employee Stabbed To Death At East Harlem Deli
More than 5,000 tickets were sold, and the sponsor — the Gersh Academy — hopes to make the event an annual tradition.