Sensory rooms at Edgbaston Stadium are helping make cricket accessible to families with neurodiverse children who might otherwise feel uncomfortable attending matches. Two new sensory spaces – in the South and RES Wyatt stands – were opened ahead of last season as part of Warwickshire’s Edgbaston for Everyone inclusivity pledge.
Both rooms are fitted out with colourful fibre optics, bubble tubes, rotating images, games and soft furnishings to provide a calming environment for families and children that need to get away from the hustle and bustle of a match day or event. Edgbaston was the first cricket ground in the country to introduce sensory rooms.
Danny Briggs’ young son Stan is one of the children who’ve enjoyed spending time in the sensory rooms. The eight-year-old is diagnosed autistic with a PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) profile.
It means he struggles with routine and everyday expectations that other children and families take for granted. Without the sensory rooms Stan would struggle to watch his daddy play for the Bears.
“If it wasn’t for the sensory rooms we probably wouldn’t bring Stan to matches,” said Bears spinner Briggs. “He might be able to spend an hour, at most, in the stands before needing time and space to calm down and regulate.
“As parents of an autistic child we’re always conscious that if Stan becomes restless in the stands then his behaviour could impact on other spectators. The sensory rooms provide comfort that, should we need to, there is a relaxing space nearby for him to explore and happily play away.
“And the big glass-fronted space means my partner Linsey and other family members can continue watching the cricket.” Mum Linsey is also neurodivergent and knows first-hand how environments and ‘sensory breaks’ are the difference between coping or not when you have a highly sensitive brain.
She said the soundproofing of the sensory rooms also helps Stan regulate and take a break from the match-day atmosphere. “The atmosphere is what makes Edgbaston such a great venue for players and fans,” added Linsey.
“Stan wears his ear defenders, but it can still be a little overwhelming which is why having the rooms soundproofed really helps.” Edgbaston Operations Director Claire Daniel said she’s delighted families of neurodiverse children are enjoying the rooms.
She added: “It’s lovely to see young fans coming to games safe in the knowledge they can take time to chill out in the sensory rooms. We’ve had some great feedback and other cricket grounds have been in touch looking to replicate the spaces at their own venues.”