Sporting events can be an overwhelming atmosphere for anyone, but even more so for individuals with autism. With large crowds, loud cheering, and a whirlwind of activity occurring at every moment, parents may be hesitant on whether to bring their loved one to professional games or not. An otherwise fun and exciting event could quickly become anxiety inducing without some necessary adjustments. Though, for children who love sports and enjoy rooting for their favorite teams, this can be restricting.
Thankfully, the NFL, with help from A-OK Autism, has found a way to diminish this hesitancy. WTSP reported that at the NFL Pro Bowl this year, individuals affected by autism will be given a “Sensory Sack”, which includes noise cancelling headphones, squeeze toys, and stickers. This will be directly helpful for individuals on the autism spectrum, but also make nearby fans aware to create a more inclusive and understanding environment. In addition to the Sensory Sack, a quiet room will be provided if they are in need of a break from the excitement at any time.
The NFL Pro Bowl, taking place in Orlando, Florida this year, is a match up between the best players in the American Football Conference (AFC) verse those in the National Football Conference (NFC).
WTSP further reported that the NFL senior vice president of social responsibility, Anna Isaacson, told the Orlando Sentinel, “Our goal is to make the game as family-friendly as possible. We want to see if this is something the fans take advantage of and, if so, whether we can extend it to the Super Bowl and perhaps share it with the rest of the league.”
This program is the first of its kind in a professional league setting, though gives a hopeful insight into the future of a more inclusive and accessible experience for not only professional sporting events, but for all entertaining outings.