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Minnesota State Fair "for first time in its history" now welcoming to autistic visitors

Aug 14, 2023, Minneapolis Spokesman Recorder: First sensory-friendly morning set as State Fair welcomes visitors on autism spectrum
This year for the first time in its 164-year history, the Minnesota State Fair is taking proactive steps to welcome visitors with sensory processing challenges like autism spectrum disorder. On Monday, August 28, guests who visit the Mighty Midway and Midway will experience something unique. The area will literally turn down the volume and be without its usual loud music and signature bright lights.

From 9 to 11 am on the Midway and from 10 am to noon on the Mighty Midway, lights will dim or be turned off entirely and noisy sound effects and thumping tunes will be silenced.

Barkers’ voices will not be amplified with microphones and all non-safety-related announcements will be kept to a minimum.

“The State Fair is called the Great Minnesota Get-Together and we’ve made a few adjustments to try our best to embody that and be more inclusive, to help people navigate their day so they can have a great experience,” said Christine Noonan, marketing director for the State Fair. …

“We’ve already heard from people who are excited about what we are doing and are planning to come on the morning of August 28,” Noonan said. “We hope people will take a chance and try it out and see if this will work for them and their families.”

The State Fair has also collaborated with Fraser, a Minnesota nonprofit that treats people with autism and mental health disorders, to provide visitors with an online pre-visit story. This narrative explains the experience of visiting the Fair to prepare children for what the experience will be like and to reduce the anxiety of the unfamiliar.

Visitors of all ages who live with sensory processing challenges can also plan to take a break at the Fraser Sensory Building, on the west side of Cosgrove Street south of the Home Improvement building.

Staffed by Fraser’s trained individuals and volunteers, the air-conditioned space offers a quiet respite where visitors who feel overwhelmed can self-regulate with techniques and tools including weighted blankets, floor cushions, and fidget toys….

These accommodations by the State Fair represent another step in a growing national trend.
Venues that want to be more welcoming to the neurodiverse have offered adapted spaces for fans who are on the spectrum. In recent years, professional sports teams, theater operators, museums, and other public places have created sensory rooms for those in search of a less stimulating environment….


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