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Roosevelt Park Zoo helping people with sensory needs

Certified sensory inclusive venue

Submitted Photo Sarah Peterson, educator at Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo, holds a sensory inclusive bag. The bags containing noise-canceling headphones and other items help children through adults who have invisible disabilities.

If a visitor to Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo has an invisible disability, the zoo can help that person have a more pleasurable visit.

“As a way to be more inclusive to families, we became certified through KultureCity so when families come to the zoo they can check out a (KultureCity) sensory bag,” said Nicole Barnhart, education, conservation and outreach coordinator at the zoo.

The Minot zoo is one of few KultureCity sensory inclusive certified locations in North Dakota.

KultureCity, based in Alabama, is a nonprofit organization on sensory accessibility and acceptance for those with invisible disabilities. Invisible disabilities may include PTSD, autism, dementia and strokes.

Barnhart some individuals might have a sensory processing disorder or, for example, lights or loud noises bother them or they might have a different style of learning or taking things in. Families can check out the bags at the zoo Visitors Center admission counter.

Submitted Photo Items in the sensory inclusive bags available for check out at Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo Visitor Center include cue cards, noise-canceling headphones and fidget toys.

“Inside the bags there’s fidget toys (three different kinds) they can play with, noise-canceling headphones so when they’re by the primates (particularly the gibbons) there’s a sign there that says ‘This is a loud zone’ and they can put their headphones on. They can block out some of that noise so that they’re not getting over stimulated by those noises,” Barnhart said.

She said a KultureCity symbol also will designate an area as a quiet zone or a good spot for a family to decompress and relax.

Barnhart said there’s also cue cards in the bag for the person to use if perhaps they are nonverbal or have a hard time communicating they can use the cue cards to express how they’re feeling.

A weighted lap pad also can be checked out, said Andrea Tronson, public programs manager for the zoo. She said the lap pad is used for writing or doodling to help reduce stress.

Barnhart said the zoo staff including summer staff watch an annual training video provided by KultureCity. “Eighty percent of our staff must complete the training to remain certified by KultureCity,” she said.

The training includes a test staff members take basically on how to be more approachable to different families with different needs.

Currently, about 95 percent of the staff has been trained through KultureCity, Tronson said.

Barnhart said this is the zoo’s second year of the program.

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