As the voice of the autism community is heard by more and more people across the world, the general population is becoming educated on ASD related issues. Chief among these issues has been addressing children on the spectrum attending public events. Many news stories have popped up over the past few years showing that America’s attitude towards spectrum-friendly events is one of compassion. The latest example of this is at Oklahoma State University (OSU), where they have just launched a new program to benefit people on the spectrum in a big way!
It all started when the announcer at OSU football games reached out to Jennifer Sollars Miller, the Co-Founder of Autism Friendly Locations. OSU then partnered with the Autism Center of Tulsa to strategize how to create a spectrum-friendly experience at their football games. The Autism Center helped the athletic department address some of the issues involved in taking a child with autism to a football game.
They might be overstimulated by the crowd, the colors, and the noises; they also might wander off, which is terrifying for any parent in a stadium.
The outcome of OSU’s meetings with Sollars Miller? They enacted an initiative to increase staff training for autism awareness. They also now voluntarily offer “I’m A-OK” stickers to children and families attending with someone on the spectrum. The stickers signal to staffers that these patrons might ask them for help with autism-related concerns. With their additional training, staffers will then be able to make their experience at the football game full of fun and fandom. The beauty of this is that the stickers are subtle and completely voluntary!
According to the Autism Daily Newscast, in addition to training their staff, OSU will also have safe zones that people can go to in order get away from the crowds, or in the event of a meltdown. Safe zones like this will benefit the parents as well as children, who might just need a break from the chaos that is football season.
OSU is one of the first athletic programs to enact an initiative creating spectrum-friendly games. As the football season gains momentum, we’re confident that other teams will follow OSU’s example. Football is such an exciting part of American culture that everyone should be able to enjoy.
In the words of Gavin Lang of OSU’s Athletic Marketing Dept., “everybody who comes to Oklahoma State games bleeds orange and it doesn’t matter what they look like or what’s going on inside.” And Lang is right. In Oklahoma, a fan is a fan, no matter what.
But creating awareness for children in the ASD community is not easy. There are many events that children on the spectrum are still unable to attend, the biggest example of this being movie screenings. Several theater chains have started showing “spectrum-friendly screenings,” including AMC. But there are still many companies that still do not offer spectrum-friendly showings of films!Whizzco