For those with autism, attending a sporting event can be extremely stressful. Between a roaring crowd, blaring music, fireworks and thousands of people walking around, the inherent overstimulation keeps many families from stepping inside large arenas to catch a live ballgame. However, thanks to one family’s efforts, Cleveland Cavaliers fans who have autism can now get a break from the piercing stimuli inside Quicken Loans Arena, a.k.a “The Q.”
Jeff and Amy Belles were devastated when their son, Carson, who was diagnosed with autism at age 2, was given a hard time by a security guard at the Q on the Cleveland Monsters’ (American Hockey League) Autism Awareness Night. The team shares the Q with the Cavs.
Carson is unable to speak, so to communicate, he uses a special electronic device that he wears around his neck. The security guard wouldn’t let him into the arena with the device, which made Carson anxious. As the family was trying to sort the situation out, the security guard then told Jeff and Amy to “get control of that child.”
The Belles took to social media and let upper management know what happened. Realizing their arena needed to cater to individuals with sensory needs, the team at the Q turned to the family for help.
Jeff and Amy, with the guidance of KultureCity, helped design spaces within the arena for people with special sensory processing needs, and ensured certain accessories or tools would be on hand for events.
Today, there’s a designated Sensory Room for those who need to regroup after becoming overstimulated. The room houses bean bag chairs, bubble and tactile displays on the walls, and most importantly, peace and quiet.
Additionally, the arena has free sensory bags on hand, which contain fidget toys, noise cancelling headphones and other resources. The Q also has weighted laps pads upon request, which calm and focus the mind.
“It shows our community they care. We are welcomed any day, anytime, without judgement. I feel more comfortable bringing Carson to these places, and I feel confident other families like ours will, too,” Amy old Northeast Ohio Parent.
The family has also been involved in providing training for the staff at Quicken Loans Arena. They’ve made such a difference in their community that Dana Jacobson of CBS News sat down with them for an in-depth segment.
Way to go, Belles Family.
For more on what the Q provides, visit theqarena.com.