I like this idea! I know as someone with severe social anxiety a crowded and loud place can cause extreme discomfort and panic attacks. From The Gainsville Sun:

The zoo — with its screeching, howling and caterwauling inhabitants — can be a noisy nightmare for a child with autism or other sensory issues.

The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo is trying to change that.

The zoo has partnered with the University of Florida Center for Autism and Related Disabilities to work toward having the zoo at 3000 NW 83rd St. become a sensory inclusive-certified facility.

The “Quiet Time at the Zoo” event held last week allowed those with such issues and their families to enjoy the new features that the zoo has to offer.

Comfort kits, which included noise-canceling headphones, stress toys and weighted blankets, were offered along with symbols throughout the zoo to alert visitors when an area may be loud or extra smelly.

Children with sensory issues and their families strolled through the grounds recently, happy and comfortable, instead of what might previously have been an overwhelming situation.

Conservation Education Curator Jade Salamone has led the zoo’s efforts to make the facility more inclusive.

She said the community has been supportive, including some organizations making donations to help bring the sensory-inclusive vision to life.

“We consider ourselves our community’s zoo and up until this point we weren’t that zoo for everyone,” Salamone said. “It means a lot that we finally be that zoo for everyone.”

Salamone said the zoo hopes to become certified through nonprofit Kulturecity within the next year, which will require half of the zoo’s staff who deal with zoo visitors to partake in a sensory-inclusive training session. She said all will go through the training, which includes nine full-time staff members, two receptionists and 70 students.

Kulturecity aims to help prevent sensory sensitivities from keeping children from missing out on everyday activities and to change assumptions.


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