Stadiums in Qatar have Rooms for Autistic People
DOHA (AP) — Insulated from the deafening noise, lights and pyrotechnics that surround World Cup matches, there is a safe space for fans who might feel overwhelmed by the atmosphere of a stadium.
'Sensory rooms' at three stadiums in Qatar provide a serene haven for children and young people with autism, learning disabilities or other conditions that require regular exposure to sights and noise.
Located in the raised boxes of the Al Bayt, Education City and Lusail stadiums, the rooms feature soft furnishings, noise-cancelling ear muffs, as well as tools and toys for children to better cope with the environment, alleviate anxiety and enjoy the unique experience of a World Cup match.
“Having a space like this is like a breather and a warm hug,” said Raana Smith, co-founder of Sensory Souk, a Doha-based company whose staff operate these sensory rooms.
"Everyone should have the right and the opportunity to experience football," he considered. “If someone has limited speech or mobility, that should never be an obstacle to experiencing something so wonderful and crowd-pleasing.”
Dimly lit rooms include cushions, colorful lights, transparent cylinders inside which bubbles are generated, as well as different surfaces on the walls, with the intention of helping people calm down and focus.
Sensory bags including ear muffs, padded lap blankets and sensory toys are also provided for fans.
Large floor-to-ceiling windows allow families to view the court. The goal is to allow people to gradually become familiar with soccer. They can occupy the stands for certain periods and return to the sensory room when necessary, explained Alison Saraf, co-founder of Sensory Souk, at Lusail, an 80,000-capacity stadium that will host the World Cup final.
“In kids, what we ideally want to do is ignite a passion for a new sport,” Saraf said. “The goal is always to have as many people as possible who can really enjoy the game outside, and experience everything that is there.”
The initiative is run by FIFA and the Supreme Committee for Compliance and Legacy, which organizes the World Cup in Qatar.
Sensory rooms have been incorporated in recent years at the venues of several professional sports leagues in the United States, including MLS, NBA, and NFL, to provide quiet spaces for fans with sensory challenges.
“This is truly a worldwide phenomenon, as people understand more and more the fact that they need to broaden the appeal of sport to every demographic,” said Dr. Julian Maha, co-founder of KultureCity, a US-based organization. , which has helped sports teams with programs for visitors with sensory issues, including autistic people.
“Due to their sensory issues, many of these individuals who attend a large-scale sporting event in a stadium may not only feel overwhelmed, but also experience physical pain from the crowds, noises, smells, and tend to withdraw from the community. no longer get involved."
By providing sensory rooms, the World Cup “really opens up the sport to a lot more people, who have been marginalized and excluded, giving them the opportunity to get involved again, be part of the community again and enjoy all the things that we as neurotypical individuals We take it for granted."
- Chenne Daig