The NFL wants to give kids on the autism spectrum a positive game-day experience.
As a first step, the league is making Sunday’s Pro Bowl game “autism-friendly” by providing these small fans with “Sensory Sacks.”
The NFL is partnering with A-OK Autism to create the special sacks that can be picked up on game day at Camping World Stadium. In it families will find autism identification, noise-canceling headphones and a stress-relieving toy. These fans can also take advantage of a designated quiet room should the stadium crowd and noise become too overwhelming.
If all goes well, the inclusive move could trickle down to the rest of the NFL. Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s senior vice president of social responsibility, told the Orlando Sentinel they want to make the game as family-friendly as possible.
“We want to see if this is something the fans take advantage of and, if so, whether we can extended it to the Super Bowl and perhaps share it with the rest of the league,” she said.
Some teams in the league are already implementing similar autism-friendly measures. In October 2015, the Seattle Seahawks began offering the A-OK Autism Sensory Sacks and quiet rooms, as well as extra training for stadium workers.
And, for families with children on the spectrum, this is a welcome relief. One mother, Yadira Calderon, whose 8-year-old daughter is autistic, says she applauds the league’s decision.
“It’s just music to our ears,” she said. “You have so many parents, families, that gather to enjoy a game and many of them have said, ‘I wish I could take my son to the game,’ ‘I wish I could take my daughter to the game.’ Our kids want to be a part of your world as well, and it has to be easier, and in this case, the NFL is doing so.”