Football games are jam-packed with ear-shattering cheers, crowds, and lots of excitement-filled commotion — a.k.a, sensory overload. One of the key problems for individuals with special needs is the “no re-entry” rule that is applied to most major venues. The Philadelphia Eagles are the first NFL Franchise to build a sensory room in a professional sports stadium so all fans can feel comfortable and included!
The Philadelphia Eagles have shown their dedication to “raising funds for innovative research and programs to help unlock the mystery of autism” with their Eagles Autism Challenge. During the off-season, they took their impact a step further by creating a room exclusively for fans with sensory challenges who may need to decompress and unwind from all the noise happening out on the field.
With the sponsorship of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and help of KultureCity, a nonprofit based in Birmingham, Alabama, the 500-square-foot sensory room was designed to meet all sensory-inclusive certification standards. The space is equipped with “sensory bags” filled with noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards, and weighted lap pads, along with trained professionals there to help. The sensory bags can also be found at each guest services stand throughout the stadium.
For fans who may become too overwhelmed with the bright lights and loud noises on the field, the sensory room offers a quiet safe space to regroup. You cannot see the field inside the space which Ryan Hammond, executive director of the Eagles Autism Challenge, says is “on purpose, so they can take a break, center themselves, and rejoin the experience.”
In addition to the sensory room, about 700 game-day and full-time Eagles employees were trained how to recognize and best help fans who may be experiencing sensory overload — this even includes Swoop, the Eagles mascot!
During a general admission practice on August 4th, one dad brought his two twin boys with autism to the soft opening of the sensory room. “Instead of flailing away, [Swoop, the mascot] was quiet and subdued, and gave them hugs and shook their hands. He demonstrated exactly what the kids needed,” Victor Ykoruk told CNN.
The main goal of the project is to “prevent social isolation for those with sensory needs. We provide sensory tools and recommendations to make simple modifications so an individual with sensory needs is able to enjoy anything,” said Uma Srivastava, KultureCity’s Chief Operating Officer.
The sensory room is officially open for all fans! We’re so happy to see the Eagles continue to take steps toward sportsmanship, camaraderie, and inclusion both on and off the field.