Thank you to Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company for hosting my visit so I could share this information about Hersheypark’s Accessibility Program with all of you; all opinions are 100% my own!
A few years ago, my family was planning a big amusement park trip, and I stumbled upon a wonderful find: there was help in place during our visit for our my son and his rather significant SPD issues! If you’re unfamiliar, SPD is Sensory Processing Disorder–part of ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was floored to find this help in place. Like so many things in this mom gig, nothing makes you feel more clueless than trying to navigate unfamiliar situations, and I had no clue such help existed. How encouraging it was to learn not only have others been in these shoes and felt the need for help, but that they had a great experience visiting the amusement park!
At the beginning of our visit, we popped into guest services, sorted a few details and were able to enjoy our day while circumventing many of the long lines that would have landed our day in a defeated mess. Prior to having a child with SPD, I may have thought this unnecessary. To each their own experience and understanding, but if you’ve exposure to the world of ASD and all the frustration and even anguish that can accompany the most simple tasks of your day, you will understand the concept of a limited bank of engagement and energy. For us, time spent waiting in line would quickly deplete my son’s bank, allowing us the choice of enjoying only a couple of rides or facing a tear-filled, fit-throwing, painful park visit. Getting support for his diagnosis during our visit was a true Godsend.
How delighted was I to learn that Hersheypark’s Accessibility Program goes above and beyond line assistance! Having been raised in the immediate Hershey area, growing up with season passes to the park, finding my first job in Kiddie Rides, and having family members still well connected/employed by Hersheypark, we make sure to visit at least twice a year. And now, with knowledge of Hersheypark’s Accessibility Progam, our visits can be even more enjoyable and fun for our family!
What is Hersheypark’s Accessibility Program?
I am so impressed by how Hersheypark has taken accessibility to a new level. It truly isn’t just about avoiding long, frustrating lines: the park offers services to actually help make the most of your visit with a disability. They offer wonderful, wheelchair-accessible options (especially notable in the water park with water-friendly wheelchairs–how cool!). Do check these out if this will be part of your visit. Since our issues are entirely ASD-related, this has been my focus on Hersheypark’s Accessibility Program.
You can find the entire program description HERE, but following is a brief description of how it works:
Upon arrival to Hersheypark, please visit Hospitality Services located inside the Front Gate to enroll in our Ride Accessibility Program. Guests are asked to complete and sign the Ride Accessibility Questionnaire. For your convenience, you can save time by downloading and completing the questionnaire prior to your arrival. Please bring your completed questionnaire to Hospitality Services. The responses to that Questionnaire generate a Boarding Pass with a list of rides that guest can enjoy during their visit to the Park. Guests will also receive a wristband signifying their participation in the program which aids Hersheypark team members to identify a program participant in order to better assist that guest, whether on a ride or within other areas of Hersheypark.
What does Hersheypark’s Accessibility Program mean when visiting with ASP/SPD?
Aside from avoiding lines that will defeat the joy of your day in a nanosecond, it means that staff will work with you to create a customized plan for your visit. Sweet! With SPD, so many things can easily overwhelm–sounds, noise level, crowds, visual stimuli, etc. Being able to have a staff member familiar with the park help us map out our day with what will work/not work with my son’s specific issues is invaluable. Another bonus? My son does super well with a plan. If he knows what’s coming, he can handle whatever it is far better. For example, after a very dicey first go a Reese’s Cup challenge (such a fun ride!), he now LOVES it. So this map-ahead approach would be wonderful for him because we could chat before our visit about what is on the agenda to help prepare him.
As any mom of an ASD/SPD kid knows, an extra step in advance (completing the questionnaire before your visit) makes a world of difference, and I am so happy Hersheypark offers this option.
And that his issues are identified only with a wristband? How wonderful! I never, ever want him to feel more different than necessary from his peers, and wristbands are such a common fare, it will not set him apart.
Take a break during your visit
Another cool feature of Hersheypark’s Accessibility Program is that they have designated Quiet Areas throughout the park to provide relief from sensory stimulation. Additionally, admission to ZooAmerica is included with your Hersheypark ticket. I will be sharing more about this cool zoo attached to the park soon–it’s a super more low-key space to get away from all the buzz and busyness of the amusement park
All this to say, well done Hersheypark! And thank you. From a mom whose heart has hurt more than once over the issues we face, Hersheypark’s Accessibility Program is so appreciated. Here’s to lots of fun summer visits for everyone!
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Janine Huldie says
I believe Disney does something similar as the first year we went a friend of my husband’s went with his then girlfriend. Her son is on the spectrum. And he was able to skip lines similar too how you described here. So, definitely appreciate that the bigger theme parks such as this do accommodate and recognize the need for such accommodations. Thanks for sharing, too my friend!
Isn’t it wonderful that parks make these accommodations? Truly such a blessing and a kindness!
Kimberly Klein says
Will they ask my son questions or just me ?
Kimberly, that’s a super question. I largely spoke for my son, but they did ask him his name and age, just to be polite and engage him. I have found they are so sensitive and kind, handling all of it with delicacy, so it’s not like your son will be put on the spot. Or if he doesn’t want to answer, you could just let them know, and it would be fine. Does this helps!
does your entire party get to ride together if one member has an accessibility pass? My son is 9 and non verbal and on the spectrum. I plan to go to Hershey this summer with him, my caregiver, my 4 year old and my sister and her 2 kids. This will be his first time ever. We wanted to go on rides together but since my son wont be able to wait in lines, I will get the pass for him. however I want us all to experience the rides together.
Hi Mav! I had to look this one up because we only had 4 in our party, but the Accessibility Program is for the person with the pass and 3 guests. So, sounds like you won’t all be able to ride together, but maybe you could check with guest services to see if you could switch out riding parties at the exit (i.e. your son and 3 people for one ride, and then your son and the other 3)? Let me know how it works out for you–I hope you have such a nice visit!
I see that the questions on the form are mostly related to physical limitations. My son is also diagnosed with SPD and ASD. What did you need to tell guest services to get the accessibility pass? We got season passes this year and would like to enjoy the park without any major meltdowns. Thank you for your post. I didn’t know that something like this was even offered.
I simply told them he ha Autism and we needed the accesibilty pass, and that was it! Before the diagnosis became ASD, I used to just tell them he had SPD, and that was fine too. I also think Hershey does a cool thing where once you are in the system for the pass, you just need to give them your name, and they already have your info (age, name, limitations, etc.), which makes it even easier!
No doctor’s note?
I believe six flags required a doctors note when we went last year.
My daughter has Down syndrome and this was a great to use with her friend with DS too.
Jill, no doctor’s note. We have never experienced this request at any park we visited, but it is smart of you to check it out–I need to make sure to do this from now on! Hope you enjoy your visit whenever you go–Hershey is truly so accomodating! 🙂
Mike Barnes says
Did you ride any coasters at all while there? Are there any rides which aren’t on the program?
Hi Mike! Yes, we rode lots of coasters while there. To my knowledge, no rides are excluded from this program–we have used at every ride we have visited where there was a line, but you could call ahead to ask to make sure? Or talk to someone in Guest Services upon arrival–the staff is always SO helpful and friendly 🙂 Hope you have a great visit!