EUREKA, Mo. — Six Flags St. Louis opens for the season Saturday morning and for those who have family members living with autism and other special needs, there is a new room that will allow them to enjoy the entertainment venue. The theme park opens as Autism Awareness Month begins.
For some it will be the first time ever walking through the gates to experience the sights, sounds and smells that come with a day at an amusement park.
"Thrills to us are great, but to some people it is a little overwhelming," said Six Flags Public Relations Manager Elizabeth Gotway.
The sights and sounds can create chaos for someone living with autism or special needs, but a new low-sensory room at Six Flags will open a whole new world for them.
"They have a place they can go and kind of work through it," said Scott Kouri, who is not only the eSpecial Needs director of operations, but also a father of a child who has autism.
He is thrilled to finally be able to bring the family to enjoy what so many others have shared throughout the years, all the while knowing this will be available in a centralized location. Kouri shared that many parents may have gone in the past but left after only 30 minutes because of an episode.
The new low-sensory room is located near Xcalibur, where season pass holders used to go to renew their passes. This is phase one with more to come after families provide feedback of other ways their loved ones can benefit with the new experiences. There will also be a part in the building where they can be fitted with harnesses to assist them in taking part in some of the rides.
The room has a bubble feature that "one, let's you have the visual effect of the lights changing colors. Second, you have the bubbling effect that you can hear from the bubbles, and then three, if you touch it you feel it vibrate which helps with the auditory aspect," explained Kouri.
The room also features a textured wall panel that lights up in various relaxing colors and aids in the tactile response along with the sound to help in the auditory realm. There is a tunnel to escape and find calmness and an LED display projected on the wall if they need a space to get away from everyone.
"This is a space where they can come in behind the LED curtains, either sit on the mat and relax on the chair or bean bag and pull the curtain in front of them. It allows them their own private space and time to relax and regroup and then move on throughout the park afterwards," Kouri added.
Six Flags has worked with eSpecial Needs to design this phase and will continue to work with them on future designs.
"We say we have something for everyone and now I think we really do," added Gotway, who got emotional when we asked how she felt about offering something many families would never have been able to experience.
Six Flags is adding additional inclusive experiences for families at the start of the season.
The first two Sundays in April, the park will offer quiet early ride times from 9:30-10:30 a.m., where the park will be as quiet as possible before it opens to the public. Certain rides can be experienced along with a bubble area and the character Tweety will be available for pictures.
Six Flags is asking those with special needs who require these accommodations to visit www.accessibilitycard.org to obtain their card prior to coming for their visit, so employees can assist in making the experience all they want.
They will also be offering a sensory guide to their rides and attractions this year. This guide will rate each ride based on its elements to help guests determine which rides might be best for them.
Other features to enjoy for 2022
Spring Blooms runs April 15-May 22, featuring flowers in bloom providing a great backdrop for family photos.
Summer days can get extremely hot at Six Flags walking around on the blacktop, so the new relaxation stations will really come in handy. Many shaded areas can be found.
They will also have Q Smart Technology to improve your park experience to speed through lines faster with the ease of an app. You can also order food through Mooseburger Lodge online, so those long wait lines will be shortened.
Six Flags will now have charging stations for phones and vehicles.
For the thrill seekers, there are two new rides coming your way later this summer.
Catwoman Whip launches 16 guests 164 feet in the air with their feet dangling as the arm whips you around at speeds more than 50 mph in a spinning rotation and then shoots you back toward the ground as the rotations continue over and over.
If relaxing in the water is more your speed, then Adventure Cove is just for you. This will be a new multi-level interactive area for kids inside Hurricane Harbor. There will be water cannons, jets, blasters, geysers and more. Four slides and the pirate ship will remain as part of Adventure Cove.
If you're looking for a job at Six Flags, they are hiring for many positions. You can text the word FUN to 636-245-2717 or complete an application on the Six Flags website.
Also new in 2022, Six Flags announced a three-tiered pass program: a thrill seeker pass, extreme pass and ultimate pass with many different levels and features. For more information, visit www.sixflags.com.
Get ready to create new memories to last a lifetime!