Sensory day for children with autism being held at Belfast Zoo


Belfast Zoo will hold its first ever sensory day for children with autism this weekend.

Early opening will allow families to explore the centre in a calm and relaxed atmosphere or those arriving later can use a fast-track queue system.

The enchanting kingdom of Hullabaloo will be brought to life with live action storytelling and a selection of puppets, props and scenery with Mr Hullabaloo's interactive children's theatre, suitable for children with sensory requirements.

The zoo will also be joined by the team from Mini Explorers for interactive, animal-themed sensory play.

Visitors who require some quiet time can use a calm dark den with sensory lighting, or take time out in quiet zones found throughout the zoo.

Zoo manager Alyn Cairns said: "We are committed to providing a family-focused experience that is supportive and enjoyable for visitors with sensory needs.

"The zoo is not only a vital educational resource for children but it is also a fantastic day out and a great opportunity to create memories as a family.

"We want to play an active role in making inclusivity the norm in Northern Ireland and to making the zoo a welcoming day out for everyone."

Autism is a developmental disorder associated with difficulties involving language skills, behaviour and social interaction.

Those with autism may be more sensitive to sensory information.

The disorder varies from mild to severe.

Mr Cairns added: "Following the success of the quiet hours that we ran in 2017, the zoo team completed autism awareness training with Autism NI which allowed us to identify other ways to improve the zoo experience and inspired the development of a range of other resources, aimed at supporting families during the planning process and during their visit.

"Not only did this training drive the decision to run a sensory day but it also led to the creation of a downloadable visual guide which has received great feedback.

"This guide is designed to let visitors know in advance what they can expect from their trip to the zoo and plan accordingly to minimise any potential stress.

"However, this is just the start of our plans and we will continue to make improvements. We look forward to welcoming everyone to the zoo for our first ever sensory day."