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
Amy Johnson

The first day of school can be both exciting and scary at the same time — especially if it's your first day ever, as was the case for a nervous four-year-old in Wisconsin. But with a little help from a kind bus driver, he was able to get over his fear.

Axel was "super excited" waiting for the bus in Augusta with his mom, Amy Johnson, until it came time to actually get on.

"He was all smiles when he saw me around the corner and I started to slow down and that's when you could see his face start to change," his bus driver, Isabel "Izzy" Lane, told WEAU.

The scared boy wouldn't get on the bus without help from his mom, so she picked him up and carried him aboard, trying to give him a pep talk.

"He started to cling to me and I told him, 'Buddy, you got this and will have so much fun!'" Johnson told Fox 7.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared
via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information

A new Harriet Tubman statue sculpted by Emmy and Academy award-winner Wesley Wofford has been revealed, and its symbolism is moving to say the least.

Harriet Tubman was the best known "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped thousands of enslaved black Americans make their way to freedom in the north in the early-to-mid 1800s. Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849, then kept returning to the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead others to freedom. She worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war dedicated her life to helping formerly enslaved people try to escape poverty.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture