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What is a ‘sensory space’ and why are they so important?

In a situation, such as a concert, a sports game, or a shopping mall, where the stimuli are often intense and multifaceted, someone with autism may be able to get by for short periods, but needs to be able to wake up to regain a sense of togetherness. balance.

“One of the ways they can do that is by accessing a sensory environment that’s less overwhelming,” says Trollor.

A sensory space comes into play here. The concept is a room where lighting is dim, colors are cool and soothing, noise-canceling headphones are available, and sensory activities are soothing.

“They provide a potential haven,” said Elizabeth Sarian, the chief operating officer of Autism Awareness Australia. “It’s not that [someone with autism] wants to go to a sensory room but having the option to go to it is very important because if it starts to feel like everything is getting closer there is an opportunity to go there and take a break to regulate their sensory needs .

It means that individuals with autism and their families can participate in activities together, activities that might otherwise be too difficult. “Suddenly it’s more inclusive and accessible,” says Sarian.

More companies are doing their best to be inclusive, she says.


Several museums, including the Australian Museum, and theaters offer sensory-friendly sessions. Bunnings recently implemented sensor maps so people can avoid the busiest, loudest and brightest areas of the stores. Some Woolworths and Coles offer a weekly ‘quiet hour’, while several airports have programs that indicate who needs extra support, and many shopping centers and entertainment venues offer sensory spaces.

“As a municipality, we are getting better at it. But we still have a long way to go,” says Sarian.

Denying the needs of someone with an invisible disability, like Hayden, is one problem. Another is that not everyone with autism — especially older adults — has a formal diagnosis.

“In a truly inclusive society, we shouldn’t discriminate based on a label,” says Trollor. “We should have a broader conceptualization of autism with a reach that is not limited by preconceived notions of severe disability…therefore these facilities should be accessible to anyone who chooses to use them.”

And with the numbers of people with autism increase significantly — this is a result of better diagnosis, but also increased baseline prevalence, says Trollor — more people have these needs.

Understanding and appreciating this is essential for us as a society, he adds.

“I think we need to move into a position where we embrace and celebrate neurodiversity and see not only the challenges, but also the strengths that autistic people bring to our society and culture,” says Trollor. “Not seeing people with autism as different or different, but seeing them as human beings.”

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