Nightly News   |  September 24, 2013

Making the zoo accessible to all kids

At the Philadelphia Zoo, the children’s exhibit has made big improvements to accommodate all kids with special needs. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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>>> finally here tonight, what to do when something so much fun and so very basic, a day at the zoo with a family can be a tough experience instead for parents with kids who have learning diseases or special needs . that is why this situation is making a difference with every child in mind. we get the story tonight from nbc's stephanie gosk.

>> reporter: and a day at the zoo, the animals make the kids and parents very happy. but for a.j. higgins and his brother, peter, it is difficult for children with autism.

>> not a lot of noise, very comfortable here. all of these things that in other environments can really amp them up.

>> reporter: here, they have tried to make sure all children, even those with special needs feel welcome. everything is wheelchair accessible, the displays use braille, sign language, and a series of animal pictures for children designed with autism. if they get overwhelmed, a special place with a quiet zone is there for them to calm down. for children with autism, interaction with humans can sometimes be daunting. but with animals, especially ones like these, no small talk is required.

>> they can touch things, engage that way, that is also critical.

>> reporter: kim langel spear-headed the program. motivated by her daughter, who is 2 years old and has autism.

>> knowing we can do something to help the parents, too, it just makes me really happy.

>> reporter: to gauge the success, just look at the faces. 6-year-old avery mcguire rarely speaks, except for one word she knows now.

>> if i turn and point, and she sees the balloon.

>> reporter: a day at the zoo is like a rite of passage , here they make sure no child is left out. philadelphia, stephanie gosk.

>> great story to end on this tuesday night, thank you for joining us, i'm brian williams , we sure hope to see you back here tomorrow evening. good night.

>>> on our broadcast tonight, an nbc news exclusive inside the