According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 60 children are autistic. In Eugene, the Hult Center for the Performing Arts is working to help those with sensory needs.
For the past year, the autism charity KultureCity has provided the Hult Center with 10 sensory bags for those who struggle to sit through a performance.
Louise Thomas is the Front of House and Security Manager at the Hult Center. She said the bags include headphones to dampen noise, fidget spinners to adjust focus, a lanyard to identify people who might need assistance, and a feeling thermometer.
“If someone doesn’t use language, you can point to this feeling thermometer to say how [you are] feeling and what do you need,” said Thomas. “It’s like a little card that describes feelings.”
Although sensory bags are generally for people with autism, Thomas said the bags can help anyone.
“Folks who have sensory needs are a wide range of ages because it could include people with autism or PTSD or dementia,” said Thomas. “Or folks who’ve had strokes. It could be anybody who just has any kind of sensory need.”
Thomas said the center decided to get the sensory bags after parents with autistic children and community members with PTSD asked if the center would have special showings for people with sensory needs.
The center also has two weighted lap pads, as well as quiet areas if overwhelmed patrons need to temporarily leave a performance. Thomas said she hopes these services will help more people attend and enjoy performances.