If you’ve been to a Cleveland Indians game recently, you may have seen the videos about the new sensory kits and sensory-integration initiative going on at the ballpark. 

I frequently attend games, and each time I see the video I get just as excited. Progressive Field, along with several other public places in the Cleveland area, have started sensory-integration programs for people with autism, PTSD or other conditions that may cause sensory needs. This is a great initiative that’s helping make our region more accessible for everyone.

Approximately one in five people worldwide has some form of disability, yet only around one-fifth of those are visible to the general population. “Invisible” disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities or social/emotional disabilities, are harder to spot, but can be just as debilitating. Children and adults suffering from PTSD, autism, anxiety or other conditions can experience sensory challenges or sensory overload from too many people, too many sounds or other similar stimuli. Simple activities like going to a baseball game, to the zoo or even walking around a park or museum can become stressful and lead to meltdowns or panic attacks. This can limit the types of activities a family can safely enjoy.

Luckily, there has been a recent push to be more inclusive and accommodating for all types of dis-abilities. Several facilities in Greater Cleveland and throughout the country have been partnering with KultureCity, a nonprofit organization that provides sensory kits to public venues. These sensory kits include items such as headphones, fidget toys/gadgets, weighted lap pads, tablets or verbal cue cards and are available to anyone who is at risk of sensory overload. The organization also helps venues create sensory inclusive spaces, such as a sensory inclusive room for people to go to if the kits are not enough.

This is not just limited to baseball games in Cleveland. The same sensory kits are also available at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, and in fact, the Cavs were the first NBA team to be part of the sensory integration initiative. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has also joined the initiative, recently receiving its certification for sensory inclusion. There are now six quiet zones at the zoo and sensory kits are also available. Similar services are offered at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Akron Zoo and public libraries. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has hosted “Sensory Free Sundays” in the past.

This trend in sensory integration means families with children who have autism are not as limited with their activities. These families can now go to museums, to the zoo or even to cheer on our local sports teams – without fear of driving their children into sensory overload. 

Hopefully, this trend continues to spread and we make our region even more inclusive for people with all types of disabilities.

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