State fairs can be fun and exciting places – the animals, the rides, the musical acts, the food – but if you’re someone with a sensory processing disorder, all of those things, combined with the thousands of other people who come to enjoy them, can be way too much to handle.
Enter the Ohio State Fair with an answer: a day all for people who struggle with sensory issues.
The fair, which is held in Columbus, will turn off all flashing lights and music on July 31st, as well as addressing parking and ride accommodations, so that everyone who normally would struggle to enjoy the fair can do just that.
“If you are overwhelmed and need a break, you can go into the quiet room,” adds Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence executive director Shawn Henry. “We’ll have fidgets and other items just to make the environment something that’s inviting, that’s relaxing, then, you can go back out and enjoy other activities.”
He also promises that “the fair is probably going to be one of the most accessible fairs in the entire country.”
The organization is also making a pamphlet of socially appropriate responses and strategies available ahead of time, since part of their mission is to support those with sensory processing disorders in social situations.
They’re doing this, in the words of fair General Manager Virgil Strickler, for a simple reason: community.
“The Ohio State Fair isn’t just about food and rides – it is about community. We want to make the Fair as enjoyable as possible for all Ohioans, and Sensory Friendly Morning is one way we can achieve that goal.”
In addition to audio and visual changes, the fair is also providing items like a First-Then board, which gives visitors a visual schedule to follow, and a Wait Card, which can help ease the worry associated with an abstract concept like waiting.
These types of disorders affect 5-15% of school-aged children and even more adults. They make it hard to process stimulation, cause hypersensitivity to sound, sight, and touch, affect fine motor skills, and make people get easily distracted.
Without the type of accommodations being offered, some of them might never be able to experience something like a state fair, says Henry.
“We believe in a world where everyone deserves access to their community. These new features at the Fair help to create a common experience with unique considerations that allow greater access for all people.”
So say we all.