April 16, 2021
One of Pennsylvania's oldest and most celebrated amusement parks will have more family-friendly attractions when it reopens later this month as a Certified Autism Center.
Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg received the designation this week from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, which helps equip public destinations with training and resources to provide inclusive and accessible options for guests.
The designation requires that at least 80% of guest-facing staff complete position-specific autism training, with an ongoing commitment to continuing education and renewal every two years. Knoebels also underwent an onsite review to develop a sensory guide so guests can understand how each ride may impact the five senses.
"We're excited for our team to participate in this opportunity," co-owner Rick Knoebel said. "Knoebels offers free admission and parking, so our guests can enjoy a low-pressure experience in terms of the fact that they are welcome to come and go as they please. It's our hope that by providing this program, our team will be empowered to provide an even higher level of service for our guests who are on the autism spectrum or have other sensory needs."
Knoebels is set to reopen April 24 and plans to host an Autism Awareness Day on June 6. Park visitors will be invited to participate in a free scavenger hunt. Sensory-friendly activity areas will be stationed throughout the park and include information booths from community organizations.
Guests who plan to attend Autism Awareness Day can register for a Family and Friends Meal package that includes chicken fingers, hot dogs, apple sauce, chips, cookies and a beverage.
IBCCES aims to create more recreational and travel options where families and people with autism feel welcomed and understood. The certification program uses evidence-based training that relies on experts and people with autism who share their perspective on how to provide an accommodating environment.
"Knoebels is a unique and family-friendly attraction already, so we were thrilled to help support the team's commitment to welcome all visitors so even more families can make memories and have fun," said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES board chairman.
Knoebels' history in Elysburg stretches back to 1926, when the resort's first rides were installed. It has since developed into an annual destination with rides and attractions for people of all ages, including a water park.
Knoebels was named the best family park in the United States in 2016 by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. The resort is now celebrating its 95th anniversary.
Amusement parks and other family friendly destinations are increasingly seeking the IBCCES designation to expand their offerings to people who have different needs.
Sesame Place in Bucks County became the first theme park in the United States to receive the Certified Autism Center designation in 2018. Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey also was among 26 Six Flags locations to receive the designation last year.