How fun would it be to play in the water with dolphins, learning the hand signals the trainers use to interact with them? Most kids would love the opportunity, how much more memorable would it be for your special needs kid? One of the challenges of family travel with a special needs kid is to find experiences that are accessible and fun for the whole family. SeaWorld fills that bill with fantastic shows, amusement park rides, and animal exhibits. Add SeaWorld’s Dolphin Interaction Program and the visit becomes an extraordinary experience your child will never forget.
My friend Karleigh had an opportunity to participate in SeaWorld’s Dolphin Interaction Program, and she loved it. Her mom Theresa said, “SeaWorld was very accommodating, and I have never seen Karleigh smile so big. The hardest part was getting the wet suit and booties on her. You should have seen us! It makes me laugh just thinking about it.” Karleigh’s parents were able to take her chair to the water’s edge and then Karleigh’s dad got in the water with her.
I had the opportunity to talk with Dave Roberts, Assistant Curator of Animal Training at SeaWorld San Diego, to find out more about how SeaWorld’s Dolphin Interaction Program accommodates various special needs and disabilities. Here is a summary of our conversation.
In general, SeaWorld makes every attempt to provide accessibility for any visitor. They have a waterproof wheelchair that can be used to get into the pool, or an attendant can be in the water with a handicapped individual to provide assistance at no additional charge.
The program lasts 60 minutes, 20 minutes of that time is in the pool. The water temperature is a chilly 55 degrees, so every participant is required to wear a SeaWorld wet suit and booties. They have a wide range of sizes, call ahead if you have special size requirements.
They have full-sized changing tables available in changing rooms. You change at the Dolphin Stadium at Rocky Point and walk/roll to the interaction pool nearby.
The website says the participants must be 10 years old, 48” tall and in good health, call the park in advance if you have questions about your child’s size or health and how the program would work for them.
The cost of the Dolphin Interaction Program is $190 in addition to your park admission fee, so plan to spend the day and enjoy the entire park. Don’t forget, SeaWorld San Diego offers free park admission for the handicapped person’s assistant. That really speaks to their dedication to accessibility.
Best times to visit
September and October are the best months to visit San Diego in general; the weather is fantastic and the crowds have mostly gone home. When it comes to spending time in a 55 degree pool, that nice warm weather makes the experience even more enjoyable.
I see a trip to San Diego in your future!
SeaWorld San Diego
(800) 25-SHAMU (press 7)