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Some attractions learning to cater to people with sensory sensitivities

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The number of children living with autism has risen 15% over the past two years.

Now many popular attractions are learning how to cater to that growing population.

Along with sensory sensitivities to loud noises, children living with autism can also be sensitive to light, sight, taste, touch and balance.

The tropical butterfly garden inside Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is a safe place where children living with autism, like Dexter, can quietly explore.

Fragile and gentle. as the colors perform their delicate dance it brings a smile to the 3-year old's face.

In a place that can see a million visitors a year, large crowds and noises can sometimes create a scary place for children with sensory sensitivities.

Dexter's father, Benjamin Dwan, says when they get to a place Dexter is not familiar with, it takes him some time to get used to it. But once he gets used to it, he gets pretty comfortable.

Dr. Jennifer Gertds of Seattle Children’s Autism Center says sensory sensitivities and autism spectrum disorder are often part of an autism diagnosis.

"I would say that the majority of children or individuals with autism have some sort of sensory sensitivity," she said.

Dwan discovered one of Dexter’s sensitivities at a simple party.

"We found out on his third birthday when we sang "Happy Birthday to him," Dwan siad. "Loud noises and clapping, he is sensitive to it."

Karlisa Callwood says the Science Center recognizes those sensitivites.

Once a month, it offers free special early and late hours for families with autistic children.

The two time periods are for anyone who can benefit from less crowds and reduced noises coming from exhibits, Callwood said.

At the woodland park zoo has its share of rambunctious crowds. It offers a sensory map that point families to quiet areas inside the zoo.

Outside, the center recently built a sensory garden filled with plants and temple bells.

The deep blue artificial grass of the woodland park zoo is specially designed for autistic kids.

Dwan appreciates all the sensory options for Dexter, and hopes it can help give him a normal childhood experience.

"The main thing right now is make sure he is happy," said Dwan.)

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