Hershey Park for Families with a Child with Autism

I can’t say enough great things about Hershey’s Park’s autism policy. I called ahead to ask about how it worked so we were prepared when we got there. Hershey Park has a questionnaire for guests with disabilities to feel out ahead of time. All of the questions pertain to ability to whether a rider can get on and off by themselves and can they hold on during the ride. General safety issues.

Here’s the form: http://www.hersheypark.com/general_info/accessibility.php

After we arrived, we went right to to Hospitality Services, just inside the front gate. It was busy when we arrived and the line was long, but I realized quickly that there was a separate ADA line. (The longer line was for purchasing SpeedPass.) We gave the attendant Rory’s form and they measured Rory to see how tall she was which determined what rides she could go on. Rory was a Hershey.

Rory was a Hershey. Grace was a Twizzler.

Rory was a Hershey. Grace was a Twizzler.

Rory got a special yellow bracelet to wear at the park. They gave me a boarding pass with Rory’s name on it that listed all the rides that a Hershey could ride. For these attractions, we simply had to go to the ride’s exit and show the attendant our boarding pass, and all five of us could get on the ride.

It was slightly different for roller coasters. There are four seats left open in the middle of every coaster for guests with this pass. So, for these rides only four of us could go on. I happily served as photographer while the rest of the gang enjoyed the ride.

The people in Hospitality Services were awesome, as were the attendants at every ride. It was VERY Disney-like. We all had a really fantastic time.

There was only one small blip in our otherwise perfect day and it had nothing to do with Hershey Park. Rory had a few rough moments. First was around lunchtime, when she was famished, and again right at the end of the day when she was flat out exhausted. A lot of people stared. I mean A LOT. Not just glancing. Full on stares. I wasn’t going to say anything, but Grace brought it up on the way home and mentioned how uncomfortable it made her. Kids stared, and the parents didn’t say anything like “Sweetie, it’s impolite to stare” because the parents were staring too. Granted, maybe some people hadn’t seen a meltdown on the scale that Rory had at the end of the day. But on the other hand, is it that unusual to see even a typical kid completely frazzled after a long day at a theme park? On both occasions, a Hershey Park attendant gently asked what was wrong and was there anything they could do to help. Totally awesome. This happened at the beach a few weeks ago too. Lots of stares. And seeing the stares today in Hershey and at Rehoboth made me realize we almost never get stares here in the DC area.  Maybe our autism awareness efforts are working around here!

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9 thoughts on “Hershey Park for Families with a Child with Autism

  1. We had a good experience with Hershey’s disability pass too. Fun tip: They have cards you can carry if your kiddo won’t do wristbands, as mine won’t. Sorry about the staring. People are jerks.

  2. I am thinking about taking my two boys with autism to Hershey this summer. The disability questionnaire that Hershey has talks about physical disabilities (amputees, prosthetics, etc.). They are able-bodied, but they require an adult to ride with them, physical and frequent prompting to remain seated and calm, limited ability to wait for long periods of time, etc. You know, the typical ASD stuff. How should I approach this?

    • We haven’t gone yet but I did call becouse I had the same concerns. They told me to go straight to hospitality services and let them know, we would all be able to ride together and would be given a special bracelet to wear. Hope this helps. Good luck!

  3. Thank you so much for posting this! I had no idea Hershey park even had this policy in place. Definitely looking into it for my guys!

  4. We were at the park yesterday and wish I knew this. I tried to click on your form link above regarding accessibility and it didn’t work. Overall my daughter did well but had a huge meltdown at 5:30 over buying something. I ended up taking her for a drive, getting her some food and after she calmed down, we were able to re-enter the park. She really wanted to go on the Laff Trakk roller coaster but knew she couldn’t handle the hour wait.

    • I don’t think so… I always bring a copy of the page on her IEP that says she has autism just in case. It’s illegal to ask. Six Flags America asks for a letter from your doctor saying that your child has a disability, but it is not necessary to say what it is. The letter must be on the pediatrician’s letterhead.

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