By Chris Spears

DENVER (CBS4) – Water World is a beloved place for many Coloradans with a long and rich history of serving the community. The park is full of fun summer sounds, tastes and smells and it has plenty of things to touch and see.

When COVID-19 closed Water World during the summer of 2020 the staff kept busy with several new projects. One of those included making the park more inclusive for people with autism.

Kymberly Botelho and her daughter Sloan love to visit Water World. Sloan was just diagnosed with autism in February.

“A lot of times we get asked what’s going to help when she goes into meltdown mode, unfortunately, my response is I don’t know because every day is different,” said Botelho.

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“It can be really difficult to navigate a place like Water World, there’s a lot of sensory stuff going on,” said Lea Anne Paskvalich of the Colorado Autism Society.

To better serve guests with autism Water World has implemented a number of new features this year, including a low sensory room, located on a hill just above the Thunder Bay Wave Pool. It provides a quiet space for a family to go if they have an autistic family member that needs a break from the stimulation of the park.

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The room is painted in muted colors and has soft furniture, in addition to air conditioning and the ability to play music. There are also other features including a number of sensory toys and large windows so that it doesn’t feel like you’ve left the park.

It can be a real lifesaver, just ask Patty Bouchard. She’s a regular at Water World with her son Ronnie, who has autism. On a recent visit she had to use the room when Ronnie had an episode.

“Without the room I probably would have had to pack up and go,” said Bouchard.

In addition to the low sensory room there are other things a family with an autistic member can utilize to help make the experience as good as possible, including a pass to expedite entry into Water World. There’s also a guide that rates all attractions on touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. You can download a copy here.

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Water World received a national accreditation as a Certified Autism Center, becoming the first theme park in Colorado to achieve that designation. Several team members are trained in a variety of areas to help someone with autism, including sensory awareness.

Chris Spears