The Plano Parks and Recreation Department recently began a program to help children with autism spectrum disorders. City pools are now offering Sensory Friendly Days that cater to their unique needs.
The idea was first suggested to Parks officials by parents of children on the autism spectrum. During informal discussions, they explained how normal pool conditions can cause sensory overload. Based on the parent feedback, Parks officials designed special swimming times with accommodations to better serve those kids.
During Sensory Friendly Days, kids with autism spectrum disorders can swim in the morning before pools are opened to the general public. Music that normally plays from ceiling speakers is turned off. Designated quiet areas are also set up to give kids a place to reset should they need a break.
“We try to eliminate the types of things that can cause some kind of audio or visual sensory overload,” Jack Carter Pool supervisor Chris Alban said.
The program was originally set to be unveiled last year before COVID-19 got in the way. Now Parks officials are excited to finally implement a small initiative that they hope will bring joy to more people.
“We want to provide for our community any way that we can help. It’s not always about the mass numbers,” Alban says. “If there’s a need and there’s something we can assist with that’s our goal, to help the community out.”
Sensory Friendly Days are scheduled on weekend mornings at various city pools throughout the summer. They are typically held two hours before open swim begins. The cost is the same as regular pool admission and reservations are not required. If kids are having a great time during Sensor Friendly swim time, they are also more than welcome to stay for the rest of the day.
More details can be found at planoparks.org.