The Santa Barbara Zoo is Now a Certified Autism Center (CAC)

First Zoo on the West Coast to Earn This Designation

By Informational Post June 4, 2018

Santa Barbara Zoo is the first zoo on the West Coast to become a Certified Autism Center (CAC), which is a designation that demonstrates the Zoo’s commitment to ensuring guests and families with children who have autism have the best possible experience. 

Parents with children on the autism spectrum often find vacationing and visiting new places to be a challenge due to sensory needs, dietary restrictions and safety concerns. With this certification, guests can rest assured staff and the grounds are prepared to welcome everyone, regardless of their needs.  

The zoo recently implemented this training and certification program in partnership with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). For almost 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism training for licensed healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children with special needs have limited travel options and created programs specifically for the hospitality and travel industry.  

In recent years, the popularity of “autism-friendly” options has grown; however, parents and families often seek out organizations that have completed additional research-based training or become certified to ensure their needs can be met. While research shows that new experiences such as travel and interacting with animals are some of the most intellectually stimulating events for individuals on the spectrum, there are still few trained and certified options for families looking for organizations able to accommodate their specific needs and have an understanding of how to work with those families.  

IBCCES also created, a free online resource for parents that lists certified destinations and connects families to other resources and each other. Each destination listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center requirements, which include extensive staff training and an on-site audit conducted by leading autism experts. Santa Barbara Zoo will also be listed with other CACs on, a partnership between IBCCES and Autism Society to connect families and individuals with businesses and resources committed to serving individuals on the spectrum.

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