• Svetlana Shkolnikova

Thousands flock to a quieter, dimmer Six Flags for Autism Day

Gina Krieger and Sarah Strate follow the same routine every weekday. 

At 9 a.m., they arrive at the Quest Autism Program in Midland Park for a day of work and instruction. They vacuum, do some housework. By 10 a.m., they’re either packing condiments at Moe’s Southwest Grill in Paramus or Mahwah or helping out at Becton Dickinson, a medical supply company in Franklin Lakes.

They return to Quest after work to practice skills they’ll need to live independently. They practice texting in case they get lost and need to tell a caregiver their location. They cook. They clean up. They work some more.

On Thursday, the girls played hooky.

Gina, a 21-year-old adrenaline junky from Washington Township, rode rollercoasters. Sarah, a mellow 22-year-old from Palisades Park, went on tamer rides.

It was the first time in their 15-year friendship the two stepped into Six Flags Great Adventure without needing to hold on to their mothers, feel the crush of a crowd or hear the blare of microphones and music.

They, and thousands of others celebrating the park’s first Autism Day, were finally in their element.

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