The Eagles have built a new sensory room for autistic fans

By Gabrielle Cellucci
September 25, 2019


     Fans with autism or are sensory-challenged can now enjoy attending Eagles games in the new sensory room at the Lincoln Financial Field. 

     The new sensory room at the Lincoln Financial Field is especially designed for Eagles fans who are autistic or sensory-challenged. According to “NBC Sports,” the sensory room is a quiet, safe 500-square-foot space for Eagles fans with disabilities to enjoy football games without feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable. 

     “Sensory-challenged means that you have difficulty taking in all the information around you depending on your five senses,” Sara Farina, student accessibility specialist at the Disability Resource Center, said. “Sometimes it’s sensitivity to noise, to vision, to touch, so there’s a wide range of sensory difficulties depending on your presentation and how it’s impacting you.” 

     The Eagles are one of the first teams to build a sensory room for autistic sports fans inside their stadiums. 

     “The Eagles are doing a really good service because as we all know, going to a football game can be very loud, “Kathleen Johnson, director of the Disability Resource Center, said. “[There are] a lot of people excited, but also maybe some who are people angry. There’s a lot of shouting…[It] can be very difficult for someone who is on the spectrum.”

Director of the Disability Resource Center, Kathleen Johnson’s office sign. Photo credit by Gabrielle Cellucci.

     The spectrum refers to those who have been diagnosed with a form of autism, which the medical field has organized into a spectrum of low-functioning individuals to high-functioning individuals. High-functioning individuals on the spectrum able to verbally communicate and be independent. Low-functioning individuals on the spectrum may not be able to verbally communicate and need assisted living. 

     “Having this room can act as a haven for individuals to go to when they sense that they are being overloaded with sensory information,” Johnson said. “Parents of children on the spectrum also recognize when their son or daughter begins to feel frustrated or upset, so taking them to a place to chill, relax or calm down is great.”

Directory of Services sign. Photo credit by Gabrielle Cellucci.

     People who have children or siblings on the autism spectrum are now able to take them to a quiet place to calm down and not be overwhelmed by the excitement of fans. 

     “[My brother] has Aspergers…Growing up with him, he and I are a year apart, so I got to see him on his worst stages sometimes,” Hawirk Munoz, sophomore international business major and political science major, said. 

     Munoz says that her younger brother, though considered to be on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, often has sensory challenges due to loud noises and certain types of touches. 

     “What triggers him more, I believe, is the sound because he doesn’t like people who are screaming…Hugs he is fine with, but kissing, he doesn’t like that,” Munoz said. 

     Munoz believes that the Eagles did a great thing by building the sensory room at the Linc for those with autism, like her brother, who can now enjoy the football games. She thinks that this shows how much the Eagles truly care about their fans. 

      The Eagles teamed up with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to create the state-of-the-art sensory room, according to the team’s website, Philadelphia Eagles. CHOP is a founding partner of the Eagles Autism Challenge and their annual Huddle Up event, which are to raise awareness about autism and raise money for autism research. 

     Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, said to NBC Sports that this sensory room starts a shift from awareness to action concerning those with autism. Lurie also happens to have a brother with autism. 

     The new sensory room at the Linc provides noise-canceling headphones, fidget gadgets, verbal cue cards, and weighted lap pads. It officially opened on Sunday, Aug. 4 to the public.

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Gabrielle Cellucci

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