Just in time for baseball season, efforts are under way to better accommodate people with autism at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.
A baseball game can be an overwhelming experience for people with autism. They tend to be sensitive to loud noises and bright lights, and often have trouble navigating big crowds.
Developmental pediatrician Wendy Ross says many families affected by autism avoid such outings altogether, fearing a meltdown. But she wants to make sure they can still enjoy a Phillies game.
Ross heads Autism Inclusion Resources, a program dedicated to making places more accessible and easier to navigate for people living with this developmental disorder.
While the Phillies players are tuning up in Florida, Ross is training ballpark staff to be more aware of the needs of people with autism.
“The goal of the educational piece is not to make them experts, but to make them aware of issues that people with autism confront every day,” Ross explained. For example, staff members learn that people with autism may not respond to verbal clues, or may get agitated more easily.
She is also organizing “trial runs” for families so they can visit the park, going through the experience step by step.
“What happens when you come into the park, what’s expected when you give your ticket over, when people might look into your bag, the different sounds you might hear in the park,” she said, “to prepare kids for the sensory information.”
Ross says volunteer clinicians will also help families during actual games, if problems arise.
Ross previously worked with the Philadelphia International Airport and several museums.