June 8, 2023, NBC3, Las Vegas: More Las Vegas experiences offering options for those with autism https://news3lv.com/news/local/disney-blue-man-group-omega-mart-more-vegas-experiences-offer-options-for-those-with-autism
On Thursday, Meow Wolf announced all of its exhibits in the US, including Omega Mart in Las Vegas, were now Certified Autism Centers.
“We want everybody who visits Omega Mart to feel welcome and able to enjoy our exhibition.
And so this is one way that we can reach out,” said Michael Duffield, public relations manager with Omega Mart. “We want them to feel welcome and supported and empowered to experience our immersive exhibition, regardless of their different needs and abilities.”
Nearly 600 exhibition staff, and 96% of Omega Mart’s staff, have undergone training to better meet the needs of autistic guests.
Anyone who’s been through the massive Omega Mart experience located inside Area 15 might say it’s an overstimulating experience. With this new designation, guests with autism or sensory disorders can get a free sensory bag containing headphones, sunglasses, and an assortment of toys to soothe and relax those who need it to better handle lights and sounds….
Other high profile Vegas venues and experiences are also beginning or continuing to offer sensory-sensitive experiences as well, including Blue Man Group, the Smith Center, and an Immersive Disney Animation experience in the Shops at Crystals on the Strip….
“Nobody should really be excluded from this, it was always meant to be a very inclusive, multi-generational thing for everybody from one to 100,” said Dale. “And that shouldn't exclude anybody. And I think that that was the impetus for this adjustment.”
The Blue Man Group began performing sensory-friendly shows back in 2014, but they took a hiatus during the pandemic. They’ll be reinstituting it with a show on June 17. Proving a demand for this type of performance, that show has already sold over half of its tickets.
“We're hoping to do it maybe even multiple times a year from here on out, because it really is a success,” said Matthew Banks, a Blue Man. “I've performed in many of the sensory-friendly shows. And honestly, it's just tear-jerkingly joyous to see how these kids and people really get it.”…
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 36 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). With that prevalence, 10,000 to 12,000 individuals in Las Vegas are affected. And for other sensory disorders affect an even broader number of people….
“The more aware that we are of autism, that it’s out there. And accepting that it's okay to be different. It's okay to be yourself,” said Brian Hager, president of the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation Ackerman Center in Las Vegas on the importance of the increase in these experiences.
“So when you see families in an airport struggling, it's not immediately judging. There are things going on in their life that we may not understand and just be accepting of that. And then outside of that is just more resources in Nevada for the services.”
Hager said those resources include more mental and behavioral health professionals, which are in short supply in Nevada. But regardless, he said Vegas appears to be at the forefront of this sensory-friendly movement.
“From my stance, it appears Vegas is kind of leading the way in the country. And it's really about giving that access and inclusion to everybody,” said Hager. “Vegas thrives on entertainment. And it's allowing our individuals with those sensory processing issues to enjoy the fine arts, enjoy the culture arts and go about and be a part of what the Vegas community has to offer.”