Dream Night at the Seattle Aquarium

Photo courtesy of Seattle Aquarium

Imagine a warm Seattle spring day. Maybe it’s a Friday; maybe state testing is done for the year. It’s a perfect day for a field trip to the Seattle Aquarium….a perfect day for every student but one.

On one of our 2016 Dream Night registration forms, a parent shared that her son (whom we will call ‘Jake’), was held back from his school’s field trip when he was 10 because the school was worried about his “behavior.” He was the only one left behind. His parents only found out after the fact. Jake is on the Autism spectrum. Even though he was largely non-verbal, he told his parents, “Jake doesn’t get to see the fish. We don’t like you, Jake.” Four years later he still talks about it. They’ve tried to bring him on their own, but when they came, he wouldn’t leave the car. Recently, just as their son had started talking about wanting to come to the Aquarium, they received an invitation to Dream Night. Jake and his family braved the foul weather and had a great time at the event.

Funding from Cultural Access Washington will continue to make programs like Dream Night possible. Dream Night is a special annual event where the Aquarium opens its doors to families of children with disabilities or severe illness. Working with local partners we create a safe, accessible, and welcoming space where these families can experience the Aquarium without fighting crowds or worrying about judgmental stares. The two-night event in 2016 only partially meets the demand for an experience like this among these audiences. With the right support we could not only provide additional Dream Night experiences, but work to improve the accessibility of the Aquarium’s facility and programming all year around.

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