July 8, 2022, Plano (TX) Star Courier: Plano Parks and Recreation accommodates special needs children at pools with Sensory Friendly Days https://starlocalmedia.com/planocourier/plano-parks-and-recreation-accommodates-special-needs-children-at-pools-with-sensory-friendly-days/article_58c79754-fe1b-11ec-a114-1bc7c0f189a4.html
For the second year in a row, Plano Parks and Recreation is offering children on the autism spectrum a chance to enjoy their pool amenities in a safe, comfortable environment.
The program is called "Sensory Friendly Days," and it takes place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout August. For Sensory Friendly Days, Plano Parks and Recreation takes measures to reduce noise – including turning off radios, turning off various water features and monitoring speaking volumes among attendees – and other sensory-related stimuli that could potentially trigger pain, stress or anxiety.
The program first started in 2020 after community members with special needs children reached out to parks officials requesting it. The first iteration of Sensory Friendly Days was supposed to launch that summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic effectively upended such plans.
Instead, it properly launched in 2021.
“When we first started it, it was real slow, but I think as more people heard [of] what we’re doing, we were getting more turnout,” said Chris Alban, aquatic supervisor for Plano Parks and Recreation. “We’re actually getting a lot more people each and every time we offer it, so I’ve only seen growth in what we’re able to provide and how many people are coming to see it.”
As Sensory Friendly Days launched, parks officials also ensured that dark spaces and "calming areas" would be available on each location's premises in case a child experienced sensory overload.
“Anything that we can do to help increase their usage and involvement in our parks, that’s what we’re here for,” Alban said.
The next Sensory Friendly Days events will take place on July 15 at the Carpenter Park Recreation Center and July 17 at the Oak Point Recreation Center. For more information, including the program's full schedule through August, go to t.ly/j2cW
Swimmers at Jack Carter Pool, one of the Plano Parks and Recreation facilities hosting Sensory Friendly Days.
By Garrett Gravley | Star Local Media