Richmond County to host sensory-friendly skates for children

·2 min read

Nova Scotia's Richmond County is planning to host weekly sensory-friendly skates for children with sensory sensitivities.

Places like skating rinks can be overwhelming to people with certain disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, because of the loud noises and bright lights.

During the sensory-friendly skate, the Richmond Arena in Louisdale plans to dim its lights and reduce noise by asking skaters to speak softly. There will be fewer people in the arena and regular rink maintenance will be suspended during the skate.

"Small changes make such a big difference for those that have those sensory sensitivities," said Sharla Sampson, the active living co-ordinator for Richmond County.

Making skating more inclusive

Natalie Stevens said her daughter, who has autism, doesn't like the loud atmosphere at the rink.

Stevens has tried taking her daughter to public skates as well as to hockey games to cheer on her siblings, but those outings have been challenging. Her daughter gets flustered on the ice if a fellow skater whizzes by.

"She asks to go to the bathroom a lot so that I can take her out of the rink," said Stevens, who is an autism support co-ordinator with Autism Nova Scotia's Strait area chapter.

She said a lot of kids with sensory sensitivities have siblings that play hockey or go skating, and they want to join in on the fun.

"To be able to come in and participate and use the rink in a more friendly way, I think it will do well," said Stevens.

1st sensory-friendly skate this Friday

Sampson said her department always considers the accessibility of a location when it's planning events. The Richmond Arena is the only facility they own to use for recreational activities, she said.

"This is our own building that we maintain and we run, so we want to be able to provide programming for everybody," said Sampson.

The sensory-friendly skate will be held at the arena every Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. AT, beginning this week.