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Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo becomes sensory inclusive

Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 6:38 PM EST
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The sound of whooping White Gibbons at the Santa Fe Zoo can draw a crowd, but for others, the sound can be overwhelming. Now the zoo is making sure it’s a place that everyone can enjoy.

The Santa Fe Teaching Zoo has received an official sensory-inclusive certification. The zoo partnered with Kulture City, a nonprofit that provides equipment for children with autism or developmental disorders.

Jade Salamone, the education conservation curator, partnered with UF’s Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment to help the zoo qualify for the certification. After a successful event in September called “Quiet Time”, she saw a positive response from the community.

“I just got to see how much this is needed and that we can always grow and have different ways for people to experience our zoo,” Salamone said.

Now the zoo provides bags with items such as fidget toys, verbal cue cards and noise-canceling headphones to prevent overstimulation or sensory overload, Salamone said. If families need to seek refuge from loud noises, staff have created designated quiet zones around the zoo.

Staff members took three years to complete modules, which taught them how to accommodate for parents and children with disabilities.

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