Dolphin encounters helping people with autism in Florida

8 On Your Side

Gabbi Westra loves to beatbox. She’s 22 years old and full of spunk, but sometimes she seems more like the young girl she once was. 

“We got the diagnosis for Gabbi being on the autism spectrum when she was 4 years old,” her mother Vicky Westra said. 

As of 2018, one in 59 people is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

“Getting the diagnosis can be a challenge for parents today,” Westra said. 

But just a day trip away from the Westra’s home in South Tampa, there’s a place that is tailor-made for those who are just like Gabbi – no matter what their age is.

Discovery Cove is now the first all-inclusive animal interaction park in the U.S. designated as a certified autism center.

“All of our employees have gone through training to make them equipped to handle guests that need special attention,” said Kelly Flaherty Clark, the VP of Zoological Operations for Discovery Cove.

Find out how the park became certified and how it’s letting people with autism experience something unlike anything else in Avery Cotton’s full Soothing Swim report Thursday at 6 p.m. on News Channel 8.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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