On Friday, June 23, 2017, the Crayola Experience, located in Easton, Pennsylvania, held its first ever “Sensory Night.”
Collaborating closely with Good Shepherd Pediatrics, The Crayola Experience offered a registration-only event for children with special needs and their family members. Carissa Snelling, registered occupational therapist and pediatric clinical outreach coordinator for Good Shepherd, provided consultation to the Crayola Experience sales team on how to modify the four-story attraction – including 28 hands-on activities. Prior to the event, the sales team at Crayola Experience walked Carissa through each of the attractions and she provided suggestions on how to reduce sensory stimulation and support participation for children of all abilities.
The event planners modified the attraction to be sensory-friendly and held the event after regular business hours to allow for customization. All background music was muted, sunglasses, ear plugs and ear mufflers were available for guests – even the automatic hand dryers in the bathrooms were turned off to minimize noise. A quiet room was also provided for those in need of a “time out.” According to Snelling, “The sales team was able to conceptualize my suggestions with a simple mantra – less is more.”
In addition to the attraction modifications, Crayola Experience employees received education regarding sensory processing disorder and general education on accessibility so that the exhibit attendants knew the “why” behind the modifications. For instance, small sections of pool noodles were placed on lever handles used to activate a spin-art attraction to assist children with a weak grasp. “The attendants played an important role in promoting participation,” said Snelling.
Several community agencies were on-site to provide families with resources and support. Snelling pointed out, “This opportunity was ripe for advocacy. It was important to me that the families have fun, but it was equally as important that they learned how to access services within their communities.”
Guest attendance at Sensory Night exceeded the goals set by Crayola Experience’s team and they plan to offer additional “Sensory Nights” in the future. The team hopes to replicate the event at other Crayola Experience locations in Texas, Minnesota, and Florida.