The Seattle Seahawks just took a few simple steps to accommodate autistic fans. Great move!

The new plan to make CenturyLink Field more autism-friendly marks an NFL first.

For the past few seasons, the NFL's Seattle Seahawks have been force to be reckoned with.

They've made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances (winning one of them) on the strength of players like Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, and Kam Chancellor. They're also known for the devoted fanbase that makes up one of the league's loudest home crowds.

The team also does a lot of cool off-the-field work, including regular trips to Seattle Children's Hospital, and recently announced a brand new initiative to make their stadium more friendly to people with autism.



Russell Wilson (#3) drops back to pass during a game during the 2014 season. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

In an NFL first, the Seahawks debuted a partnership with the Autism Center of Tulsa's I'm A-OK program.

The Autism Center of Tulsa (ACT) is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing programs and partnerships geared towards increasing "awareness and understanding, community involvement, and independence for individuals and families affected by autism." ACT was founded by Jennifer Sollars-Miller and Michelle Wilkerson, both mothers of children living with autism.

"Parents work tirelessly to provide appropriate education,. "But we realized many in the community don't understand their unique needs, so they become defeated. Our program is an effort to support their independence and also give businesses the tools to recognize and resources to help their customers who are on the autism spectrum." — ACT co-founder Michelle Wilkerson

As part of their Seahawks partnership, ACT put together a kit for visitors with autism that will improve their game experience.

So what's in the kits?

Kits include noise-cancelling headphones, ear plugs, a detailed game schedule, and sensory toys. Additionally, kits come with an "I'm A-OK" badge, which can help inform stadium crew about one's status so they can accommodate accordingly. These tools were designed with the intent of helping fans take the skills they've learned at home or in therapy and apply them in what can be a challenging and overwhelming environment.

"We realized there were a few simple things we could do that would make a positive impact for Seahawks fans on the [autism] spectrum," vice president of stadium operations David Young said in a press release. "The toolkits are just the first step."

For Seahawks general manager John Schneider and his wife, Traci, this is an issue close to their hearts.

In 2005, the Schneider's 3-year-old son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. In 2012, the couple launched Ben's Fund, a charity devoted to helping families of children with autism through grants. According to an April post on the Seahawks website, Ben's fund has raised more than $850,000 and awarded more than $400,000 in grants to over 500 families.


In a Seattle Times profile of the couple, they mention that noise in particular is something that Ben, now 13, continues to struggle with. That's why Wilkerson and Sollars-Miller decided to reach out to the Seahawks in the first place.


Schneider addresses the crowd at the Seahawk's Super Bowl XLVIII Victory Parade in 2014. Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images.

So will Seattle's CenturyLink Field remain a raucous obstacle for game-day opponents? Without a doubt.

It's just also going to be a bit more accommodating for fans on the autism spectrum. More fans having more fun makes for a winning combo, right? Totally.

These fans just witnessed the Seahawks win the Super Bowl. I'd be pretty excited, too. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Will other teams adopt ACT's I'm A-OK program? ACT founders sure hope so.

"We're starting here, but we've already started getting calls from all over," Sollars-Miller told Seattle's KING 5 news. The team is the first, but hopefully won't be the last, to make their stadium more accessible to people with autism.

More
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Ask almost any woman about a time a man said or did something sexually inappropriate to them, and she'll have a story or four to tell. According to a survey NPR published last year, 81% of women report having experienced sexual harassment, with verbal harassment being the most common. (By contrast, 43% of men report being sexually harassed. Naturally harassment toward anyone of any sex or gender is not okay, but women have been putting up with this ish unchecked for centuries.)

One form of verbal sexual harassment is the all too common sexist or sexual "joke." Ha ha ha, I'm going to say something explicit or demeaning about you and then we can all laugh about how hilarious it is. And I'll probably get away with it because you'll be too embarrassed to say anything, and if you do you'll be accused of being overly sensitive. Ha! Won't that be a hoot?

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Twitter / ESPN

Madison Square Garden in New York City is known for having hosted some legendary performances. George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in '71, Billy Joel's 12 sellouts in '06, and Carmelo Anthony's 62 points in a 2014 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats, just to name a few.

But it's hard to imagine one person holding the legendary arena in the palm of their hand quite like Pete DuPré, better known as "Harmonica Pete," did on Veterans Day.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Friends For Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Organization - Houston

Recidivism is a real problem for some shelter cats. Quilty, a seven-year-old domestic shorthair, was born in the Friends For Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Organization (FFL), a Houston-area animal shelter. Named after Claire Quilty in Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita," Quilty was recently returned to the shelter he was born in after his adopter moved and couldn't bring him along. He immediately started causing trouble.


Quilty knows how to open doors, and liberated the other captive cats in the shelter like some kind of feline Simon Bolivar. "Quilty loves to let cats out of the senior room. Repeatedly, several times a day," the shelter wrote on Facebook. "Quilty will not be contained. And he has no shame."

Quilty was caught and sentenced solitary confinement (i.e. left to sit behind a glass door) for the jail breaks, looking adorably sad yet showing no remorse.

Keep Reading Show less
popular