The Purple Hands Foundation in collaboration with the Autism Association of Western Australia, are delighted to announce the official launch of a Sensory Room. The Sensory Room will be available at all Fremantle Dockers home games at Optus Stadium for the 2023 AFL Season.
This collaboration and initiative commenced following a request from a long-time member at a Fremantle Dockers Annual Members Meeting in December of 2021. Fremantle member Mitchell Griffin raised the need for a sensory room at Fremantle home games so that individuals with sensory needs are able to still enjoy a game of live football if at any stage they become overstimulated due to the stadium environment.
The Sensory Room was piloted at six home games during 2022 at Optus Stadium. Throughout the season, the Purple Hands Foundation and the Autism Association of WA invited adults, children, and families to attend one of these games, experience the Sensory Room and provide feedback and input into the development of the space.
In collaboration with the Autism Association of WA, one of Australia’s largest autism specific service providers supporting children, adults and families to live their best life possible and Access Without Barriers, WA’s leading facility maintenance, minor works and project services, The Purple Hands Foundation have completed this space with feedback from the community and are ready to open this space for the remainder of 2023.
The Sensory Room provides a calm and quiet space for members who have sensory sensitivities and can become overstimulated due to the stadium environment. This space offers a break away from the bright lights, loud noises, and large crowds of the stadium and contains interactive resources, bean bags and sensory toys, noise-reducing headphones, quiet booths and a screen to watch the game.
In addition to the development of the room, The Purple Hands Foundation have developed Sensory Bags including noise-reducing headphones, visual and tactile fidget toys to assist individuals in experiencing the live game from their seat.
There are a limited number of Sensory Bags available for hire free of charge from outside the Sensory Room on game day that can be used for the duration or portion of the game.
With the support of the Sensory Room, many passionate supporters who would usually not attend games live will have the opportunity to support Fremantle at Optus Stadium home games.
The initial use of the room and sensory bags has been extremely well received by Fremantle Dockers members and the wider Freo family.
"Without spaces such as these we are not able to enjoy outings as a family and often do not go to places together," one family said.
"The room has allowed our whole family to enjoy supporting Freo live at Optus Stadium, knowing that the room is available for a break when things become overwhelming for our children."
Purple Hands Foundation Operations Manager Emma Pass spoke about the importance of the room and the impact it has already been having.
"To see the relief on a parent's face when they step inside the sensory room, knowing there is a space for them to use if their child needs, is priceless," Pass said.
"We wanted to assist in making sure that Fremantle Dockers home games are as accessible as possible while allowing everyone to support their team.
The Sensory Room has staff from the Purple Hands Foundation available, who have received training from a specialist team at the Autism Association of WA.
Collaborating with the Autism Association of WA and obtaining feedback from individuals and families has given the Purple Hands Foundation further insights to help develop the Sensory Room
This has helped to deliver a space that is inclusive and accessible to all that need it, creating the opportunity for everyone to attend Fremantle Dockers home games at Optus Stadium.
Autism Association of WA Chief Executive Officer Joan McKenna Kerr spoke about the association's passion for creating an inclusive experience for everyone.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to work in collaboration with the Purple Hands Foundation and the Fremantle Dockers Football Club to create this space at Optus Stadium," McKenna said.
"Our aim for every individual is for them to live the best life possible, including their ability to access community events and enjoy their favourite interests and activities.
"The Autism Association is passionate about collaborating with and advocating for the Autistic community to create inclusive experiences for all. Sensory rooms such as these provide individuals with Autism a comfortable low sensory space when they need and the opportunity to enjoy live sport and cheer on their teams.”
To find out more about the Sensory Room, register to access the room, and download the Autism Association of WA Social Story, click the link below.
You can find more resources on the Autism Association of WA Inclusive Communities web page here: Creating Inclusive Communities - Autism Association of Western Australia