Dollywood Adds Special Features For Kids With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Such a great idea.

For children with an autism spectrum disorder, theme parks may not always feel like a fairytale.

Instead, a visit may seem more like challenge courses filled with lights, sounds and debilitating sensory overload.

But some theme parks are helping all children have a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Dolly Parton's Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, has a new "calming room" to give kids with an autism spectrum disorder a place to regroup when they feel overstimulated.

It's the first of its kind in the world, according to Knoxville's WBIR.

Dollywood team leader Judy Toth had the idea when she noticed a huge swell of kids with autism spectrum disorders coming through the park's ride accessibility center. Parents had been using bathrooms and the park's first aid station for places to help their kids avoid or recover from sensory overload.

But now, they have somewhere to go. If not for the new room, many recent visitors "probably never would’ve gotten to experience coming to a theme park," Toth told HuffPost.

Toth reached out to Autism Speaks to help design the space, which has low-sensory toys like gently glowing lights and a cozy teepee tent.

"A big thank you to Dollywood from our family and the autism community," one parent wrote on Dollywood's Facebook page. "On my son's first trip to Dollywood he became overstimulated and had a terrible meltdown... If we had a room like that to escape to, things may have been different."

In March, Legoland Florida announced it'll make similar spaces so all kids can enjoy the park to the fullest. Kudos to these theme parks for making travel easier for families everywhere.

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