By GREGORY ZELLER //
Noting “a first of its kind [at] a college or university,” Adelphi University this week heralded the opening of a new “sensory room” for students on the autism spectrum.
Part of the Garden City-based university’s Bridges to Adelphi program, the new space was funded by a private, undisclosed donation from Alabama-based KultureCity, a nonprofit focused on improving resources for – and societal acceptance of – people with autism spectrum disorders.
It’s stocked with senses-focused creature comforts including padded floors, a cocoon-like swing, low lighting, cushy beanbag chairs and a water-filled “sensory wall” with slowly rising bubbles – tranquil features designed to provide a calm refuge for students and others in the campus community with ASDs or other sensory-based special needs.
“It’s an environment that will soothe students,” noted Bridges to Adelphi Director Mitchell Nagler.
Soothing people on the autism spectrum is the main thrust of KultureCity’s nationwide Sensory Initiative, which already hosts similar spaces inside New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium (home of the National Football League’s New York Giants and New York Jets), the Chesapeake Energy Arena (home of the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma City Thunder), the Phoenix Zoo and a dozen other major-league arenas and public venues, clustered primarily in the Southeast.
In hosting a space “where students can go when their minds are racing and they need to let themselves settle down and relax,” as described by Bridges to Adelphi Social Coordinator Stephanie Dawber, the Bridges program once again finds itself on the leading edge.
The decade-old program – which provides academic, social and vocational support to students on the autism spectrum – now takes a vanguard role in what could (and probably should, and likely will) become standard operating procedure on all college campuses, according to KultureCity Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer Michele Kong.
Opening KultureCity’s latest sensory room on the lower level of Adelphi University’s Earle Hall B not only directly benefits the Adelphi community, Kong noted, but also reinforces one of the national nonprofit organization’s primary functions: mainstreaming people with ASDs.
“It also sends a message that our culture is shifting toward inclusion for all students, particularly in the higher education system,” Kong said in a statement. “It was built with input from key stakeholders, including the students themselves.
“And it will be the gold standard [other] higher-education systems will need to meet.”