ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota sports teams love a loud, raucous stadium and the home advantage that comes with them, but the Minnesota Wild is the latest organization to give some of its fans a break from the sensory overload.
The team partnered with the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) to offer sensory kits to fans living with autism and other special sensory needs, including intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"This set of tools is meant to allow people to choose what items they need in order to be enjoying the game from their seat," said Ellie Wilson, Executive Director with the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM)
The kits are free and available at Guest Services (Section 105) for all events at the Xcel Energy Center.
People can choose from a menu of different items that range from sunglasses for people sensitive to flashing lights, to headphones for those with sensitive ears.
There are also a variety of stress balls and other gadgets that help provide a sensory outlet for people who may need one.
"You would think that, at a noisy hockey game, you wouldn't need any more stimulation, but the truth is, sometimes these needs are specific," Wilson said. "I might need to be touching something in order to successfully pay attention. Tools that involve my hands are different than tools that involve my eyes or my ears."
And for those trying to successfully navigate such a big event, there is also a social narrative booklet.
"This can, essentially, offer a road map for a successful visit," Wilson said. "And even can be taken step-by-step as you turn the pages."
In addition to the kits, The AuSM is also training staff to help make sure they can recognize and support fans with special sensory needs.
"One of our missions is to create a greater state of hockey, and this is another example of doing just that," said Wayne Petersen, Minnesota Wild Director of Community Relations.
The Minnesota Vikings also took steps to help fans and families living with autism, by providing a special sensory room this season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have indicated that they are also planning to offer special accommodations to fans with sensory needs, and they plan to announce more in the coming days.