The Ohio State Fair has been a local tradition since 1850, and this year, fair organizers are trying something different. On Wednesday, July 31, 2019, the Columbus, Ohio, fair will offer a sensory-friendly morning for people with autism or other conditions that make them vulnerable to sensory overload, WOWK reports.
State fairs are normally filled with flashing lights, screaming children, and loud music—all factors that could be overwhelming for some people on the autism spectrum. That means many kids and their families are forced to stay home and miss out on what would otherwise be a fun experience because of the potential for sensory overload.
This summer, extra-sensitive guests will have an opportunity to attend the fair in a safe, inclusive environment. The Ohio State Fair teamed up with OCALI (the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence) to remove or reduce any potential sensory triggers. Rides will run without the regular loud music and flashing lights, and if riders ever feel overwhelmed, they can take a break in the fair's air-conditioned quiet room. There they'll find low-tech and mid-tech activities, like fidget devices, that they can use to wind down.
Another way families can help kids with autism feel more comfortable at the fair is by preparing them for the trip. OCALI has written up a document that caretakers can use to walk their children through the day ahead, with full-color photos to illustrate each attraction. Anyone can access it for free here [PDF].
This year's fair in Columbus will follow the example of several other fairs and amusement parks that have made their attractions more inclusive for autistic guests in recent years. The State Fair of Texas offered its first sensory-friendly morning in 2018, and Sesame Place in Pennsylvania recently became a certified autism center.
The 2019 Ohio State Fair opens on July 24 and will run through August 4.