Healthy Living

The NBA Makes Space for Autism

This project arose out of family frustrations

The initiative for the sensory rooms was inspired out of a frustrating night for the Belles Family. In February of 2016, Jeff Belles and his wife, Amy, decided to take their son with autism, Carson, to an autism awareness event at a hockey game. The event was held at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena and because Carson’s school would be attending, along with other parents with children on the autism spectrum, the Belles family thought it would good for them to give it a try.

13-year old Carson is non-verbal and he uses a speech device to communicate. As the boy was going through security, his speech device set off a metal detector. The security guard told the Belles family that their son would have to take off the device in order to enter the arena. As Carson’s father, Jeff, began to take off the device, Carson started to headbutt him. The security guard then yelled something along the lines of “you get a hold of that kid”, which deeply upset the family. Although they stayed for the game, Jeff stressed that “there was no autism awareness at an autism event.”