East Texas mother talks about the need to have sensory-friendly hours in local businesses

Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 9:22 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - About 1 in 36 kids across the country are diagnosed with some form of autism, that’s according to the CDC. Some can be sensitive to bright lights or even loud noises.

“It’s wonderful to get to experience things that we never thought we will have,” said Patricia Glass who has a son with autism.

Patricia’s son was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and going out for family time became a challenge.

“We don’t know if it’s going to be too loud, we don’t know if it’s going to be a trigger if we can’t foresee that, we can’t control it then we don’t go because we don’t want to be a burden to other families,” said Glass.

But now, she has the opportunity to go out to places like movies after businesses implement hours to make it easier throughout the years.

“Where it’s okay if we are talking or if we need to get up and stem or if we need to leave,” said Glass.

She was able to do this through sensory-friendly hours, a time specifically for children or adults who have a sensory impairment, autism, or a hidden disability. Even Walmart is getting into offering these times for customers when shopping and The Discovery Science Place in Tyler is also joining in to provide accommodation starting this month.

“We are going to have things like staff at doorways, especially our front exit doors, room with lower lighting, fidget toys if family over-stimulated,” said Carol Whiteside, the executive director of The Discovery Science Place in Tyler.

This is the first time they’re doing something like this so it has been a learning journey.

“We learn a lot even in things we thought we did not have a lot of sound in our exhibiting but as we’ve been walking. I realized that there are more sounds that I was aware of,” said Whiteside.

One of those is the earthquake simulator that makes a loud noise when the button is clicked, even making some kids scream when using it. This will be the first time, the museum will be including sensory-friendly hours and it is something they are investing in the long run. Even though it’s their first time including sensory-friendly hours it is something they are investing in the long run.

“We value education, we value curiosity so we wouldn’t ever want anyone to be feel like they could not come and be part of those things and grow their curiosity,” said Whiteside.

Patricia, says having local businesses join and be more inclusive will help families within those communities.

“Breaking down that stigma and it starts with sensory hours,” said Glass.

Other locations that offer sensory-friendly hours are:

• The Discovery Science Place: ‘Sensory Saturdays,’ will happen every 2nd Saturday of every month at 9:00 a.m. an hour early. It will kick off on August 12th.

• Chuck E. Cheese: has a ‘Sensory Sensitive Sundays’ program, that opens two hours early on the first Sunday of the month. To see participating locations click here.

• Studio Movie Grill Fall 2023: Free for all family members of guests with special needs. Screenings start at 11:00 a.m. For a list of upcoming screenings click here.

• Walmart: Every Saturday through August from 8:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. in most stores.