The NBA Makes Space for Autism
When sports or entertainment venues become packed, many people expect and even hope to experience some sort of sensory overload. However, for families with children on the autism spectrum, the bright lights and noisy crowds can be a huge cause for concern. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to enter into such a loud and over-stimulating environment. Now, the NBA is addressing this challenge and making space for autism.
Creating a space for the sensory-sensitive
The NBA has teamed up with a nonprofit organization, KultureCity, to make 19 arenas sensory-sensitive by the start of the 2018-2019 season this coming fall. The arenas include the homes of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls, and Miami Heat. “For children that have autism or sensory processing disorders, going to a venue is pretty overwhelming for their senses,” said Holly Mero-Bench, director of the Vivint Gives Back program. “Imagine if your life was like being on the front row of a rock concert. It would be pretty challenging going about your day-to-day life -- let alone to a basketball game where things are loud and chaotic,” she added. The main objective is to promote a positive and inviting experience for guests with sensory needs.
Today, sensory rooms are becoming more and more popular. These rooms are designed for children with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities to provide them with a safe space where they can go to calm or stimulate their senses. Some of the other benefits that they provide include:
- Enhancing focus, attention, and alertness
- Heightening awareness of surroundings and learning to deal with real-life encounters in a healthy way
- Developing and reactivating senses in a safe and supportive environment
- Encouraging socialization
- Promoting cognitive and motor development
The anticipated NBA sensory rooms will include soothing colors and sounds, as well as a variety of games and tools that will help children engage their senses, depending on each child’s individual needs. For children who require their senses to be stimulated, tools will include play therapy stations, multi-sensory stations, and activity panels. For children who will require a sense of tranquility, certain spaces will be created into relaxing environments. In addition to sensory rooms, the arenas will also have staff members trained to recognize sensory needs and to provide their assistance to children and adults who require it.
Read on to learn how this initiative came to be, along with future plans.