The NFL has made an unprecedented move to make this year’s Pro Bowl more inclusive to a group of spectators who may normally be stuck watching from home. As the Orlando Sentinel reports, the Sunday, January 28 game will include several "autism-friendly" features designed to accommodate young fans on the autism spectrum.
Families interested in taking part can pick up "Sensory Sacks" inside Orlando’s Camping World Stadium once they arrive. Each bag will contain noise-canceling headphones, squeezable stress relief toys, and optional identification tools. Wristbands listing children’s row and seat numbers are meant to keep them safe in case they get lost, and lanyards holding A-OK badges (the name of the autism group that helped organize the program) are meant to promote better understanding from strangers. The stadium is also offering a quiet "safe room" for kids who feel overstimulated and security and staff are being trained on how to treat the young fans on the autism spectrum.
Sensory overload—which is brought on by hypersensitivity to sound, light, touch, and other outside information—is a common symptom many people with autism face. Other public spaces are striving to be more welcoming to visitors with autism. In 2016, an Asda grocery store in England launched an autism-friendly quiet hour, and later that year an entire toy store designed for kids with autismopened in Chicago. The upcoming football game will mark the first time the Pro Bowl has made such accommodations.
[h/t Orlando Sentinel]