Sensory-friendly spaces are a triple win, great for kids on the spectrum, their families, and their communities. With the growing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), society has realized that making space for those on the spectrum is important. One of the hallmarks of ASD is sensory issues. Many kids on the spectrum struggle with hypersensitivity from noise and light, stress from overcrowding, or an aversion to certain textures.
Sensory-friendly spaces provide a safe and welcoming environment for those diagnosed with autism to enjoy activities that may otherwise be overwhelming or distressing. For example, movie theaters may turn down the volume, dim the lights, and allow kids to move around and make noise during the movie. Bowling alleys may turn down the music and allow kids to use bumpers and ramps. Zoos may provide quiet areas and limit the number of visitors. Gyms may offer special classes and equipment for kids with sensory sensitivities. And theme parks may offer special access passes, shorter lines, and quiet areas.
By creating spaces accommodating sensory sensitivities, kids on the spectrum can enjoy activities without feeling pressure and anxiety. Dedicated environments can help them build confidence, social skills, and a sense of independence. The kid benefits from inclusion, the family benefits from their growth, and the community benefits morally and economically by providing a vital service not found elsewhere.
At ABA Centers of America, we care about expanding the autism-friendly community and providing every opportunity to make ASD kids feel included. We host frequent events and outings in these spaces. This article will cover the shared benefits of creating a sensory-friendly world for our loved ones.
1. Sensory-Friendly Spaces and Kids on the Spectrum
The world is chaotic, with loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, unfamiliar textures, and unknown people. These are all things that neurodivergent kids struggle with. However, it would be detrimental to their development to shield them from everything uncomfortable. Those on the spectrum are not permanently frozen in their ways and can live the same as their neurotypical peers.
Sensory-friendly spaces can help those on the spectrum adjust to new environments in bite-sized pieces. The subtle introduction of gentle stimuli is a therapy technique known as exposure. It’s a technique that works on everyone. Think, for example, about learning to eat a new food. Someone with a limited palette might try something they aren’t used to if it’s prepared similar to something they already like or camouflaged within their favorite food.
Sensory-friendly spaces allow kids to live out this principle little by little, adjusting to places they would struggle with if introduced and expected to adapt for the first time. Imagine a theme park with long, cramped lines and several hours of wait. This experience would be irreconcilable to some kids on the spectrum. But during a sensory day, fewer visitors are permitted in each line. After repeat experiences, those on the spectrum often adapt to standing and waiting for the ride.
Another advantage of sensory-friendly spaces is that their lessons are naturalistic, something shared with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA Therapy is the only recognized therapy to teach those on the spectrum new skills and coping mechanisms through positive reinforcement and play therapy. Those are two principles that sensory days replicate well. With guidance, kids learn to adapt to settings they must contend with frequently. The reward for good behavior is a movie or activity. This trade-off is positive reinforcement at play; little by little, kids on the spectrum learn to manage what seems unsurmountable.
Reduced stress, increased accessibility, enhanced socialization, and friend-making potential are all benefits of sensory-friendly spaces, contributing to a better quality of life overall.
2. Sensory Friendly Spaces and Parents
Parents and children must share spaces and activities to bond. This bonding requirement is doubly true when kids are on the spectrum. Neurodivergent children face social challenges, such as bullying, at higher rates than their peers. They need an authority figure they can talk to, someone they are comfortable sharing what is going on in their life with. There is no one better for this than the parents. Sensory days allow a parent and their child to spend quality time together and create meaningful memories.
These spaces are also a great opportunity to create community. Raising a kid on the spectrum can be periodically difficult, and caretaker burnout can happen to the most devoted people. A support system of people with similar experiences can be a fantastic asset for trading tips, relying on each other, and plain friendship.
3. Sensory Days and Businesses
Businesses have a moral imperative to help their communities. Aside from social responsibility, there are many advantageous reasons why a business would implement sensory days. One in 44 children in the United States is on the spectrum. Such a statistic represents an underserved population and a new customer base that is deeply appreciative when recognized and understood. Those on the spectrum and their families will be deeply loyal to any business that makes autism awareness part of its mission.
Alongside providing a socially responsible service that will increase revenue, sensory days can have cascading effects on company morale. Employees may feel proud to work for an employer who makes inclusion and accessibility their priority. Finally, there is a positive public perception of being inclusive. Businesses can become more than just a provider of services but part of a community, tapping into positive word of mouth, reviews, and favorable press for their morally upstanding business practices. The sense of satisfaction when doing good continues to pay off dividends for years.
ABA Centers of America and Sensory Issues
At ABA Centers of America, we care deeply about planting seeds that flower into autism-friendly communities. We have sensory rooms and engage with businesses that offer sensory days, organizing field trips, museum days, movie days, and other activities to get kids on their feet and socialize. Our mission is autism awareness, acceptance, and therapy. We offer ABA therapy, the gold standard in autism care that teaches kids on the spectrum healthy coping mechanisms to help them personally and professionally. Every plan is personalized and overseen by board-certified experts.
If your child could benefit from proven autism care and being part of our special sensory-sensitive events, contact our website or call (844) 923-4222 for a free consultation to start your ABA therapy journey!