Autism Edmonton Travelling Sensory Spaces Program
When our community comes together for events and activities, big and small, most of us fail to think about the difficulties that the autistic community faces in participating in these environments. Sporting events, concerts, and festivals are the heart of what makes Edmonton such an exciting place to live, and yet for many autistic Edmontonians, the lack of space to regulate in such overstimulating and overwhelming environments makes them largely inaccessible. As such, Autism Edmonton is hoping to partner with Field Law to formally create our Travelling Sensory Space Program! What this entails is the provision of sensory equipment and toys available at public events for all individuals, regardless of age, to utilize as an opportunity to relax, regulate, and return to the event, and the countless research and feedback from the autistic community indicates that this is by no means a meaningless initiative. Studies indicate that offering these quiet sensory-friendly spaces is critical to removing accessibility barriers for neurodivergent children and adults alike, bolstering mental health, fostering social connection, and most importantly, welcoming an enormous demographic of our population to our community events. Autism Edmonton had the pleasure of running a pilot program this summer where we setup our Sensory Spaces at major community events including the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and the Samson Cree First Nation Summer Pow Wow. In providing the sensory equipment, toys, and staffing for supervision, we had hundreds of individuals utilize the spaces and with overwhelmingly positive feedback at each of our events. We have the capacity to provide a local solution to a major accessibility barrier in our community; we only need a little bit of help to get things off the ground! With your support, we will be able to purchase additional sensory equipment and supplies to meet the growing demand for these spaces in our community, as well as afford the staffing hours necessary to ensure the success of such a program. This is our way to open doors to autistic individuals in our city and surrounding communities and welcome all individuals to be part of the events that make Edmonton the "City of Festivals." We hope Field Law sees the opportunity and potential in this initiative and recognizes, in a world slowly growing more aware and accepting of the challenges associated with being autistic, the chance to be part of the forefront of autism inclusion!
Who Will it Benefit?
The most recent studies out of the Public Health Agency of Canada estimate that 1 in 40 Canadians are autistic, with local studies putting the estimate closer to 1 in 33. This is an enormous proportion of our population that is currently underserved and excluded from a vast majority of community events because of the lack of an accessible sensory space to regulate and de-stress. This means that our program will directly serve and benefit the thousands of autistic individuals that call our community home. This also has the ability to “pay it forward” by benefitting the friends and loved ones of autistic individuals who will now be able to join them in attending such events. This is a crucial benefit to the families of autistic children who will be able to attend sports events or an autistic teenager joining their friends at a music festival. Our community is stronger when all of us are included, and the benefits to the many people who will utilize this space will be incredibly significant.