April has been co opted by various Autism research and activism groups as Autism Awareness Month. During the month of April, people with autism and their family members dispel some myths surrounding the condition and bring to the public’s attention some ways that we as a society can better care for our friends with the syndrome. Some organizations and establishments have gone above and beyond to accommodate those with sensory disorders or ASD by offering special visiting times or areas that account for their cognitive differences. Here are some shining stars:
Autism Barbers | A viral video will do a lot to bring awareness to a subject, and this time, it was a patient barber and a squirmy young patron. Hailing from Wales in the UK, James Williams was photographed laying on the floor and cutting a little boy’s hair, and the image was accompanied by a caption detailing how Williams was able to make the child feel calm and comfortable for the duration of his appointment. Williams got a lot of notoriety for his work with many other patrons with autism, and video clips feature him chasing feisty shaggy-headed kids around his shop and only working on styling the hair when the child is relaxed. Today, he and some other barbers in Wales run Autism Barbers Assemble, a group of barbers who reserve time in their shops exclusively for kids with autism.
Sesame Place | The themed amusement park made headlines this year when they announced that they would have “sensory spaces” that catered to guests with autism or other conditions that make the usual amusement park experience harrowing. In its announcement, Sesame Place noted that it would have quiet rooms when guests needed breaks, and that these rooms had adjustable light and sound settings. In addition, all their staff would undergo “sensory training” to help them interact with special needs guests. The training would include information on sensory disorders, communication, and safety.
Chuck E. Cheese | Of all restaurants to pioneer arcades for children with sensory disorders, few would ever have guessed it would be Chuck E. Cheese. The chain of children’s gaming establishment/restaurants grew in popularity in the early 2000s and have maintained some relevance despite widespread fiscal trouble for many franchises. Recently, corporate announced that it would set aside one Sunday per month to be “sensory sensitive.” On those days, the lights will be lower, the music will be quieter, the crowds will be thinner, and their namesake mascot will make only limited appearances so as not to overwhelm diners.