Embracing and celebrating difference
Games arcades can be challenging places for children and adults with ASD (autism spectrum disorders), or other sensory difficulties. Meet Mitchell Mead: store manager of Timezone Caneland, and one of our champions when it comes to making Timezone spaces more accessible and positive for kids with ASD.
How does Timezone Caneland assist children with ASD, and their parents?
Mitchell: We offer a closed session (no public access) with all of the games turned down to their minimum volume levels and the brighter lights on the games turned off. The sessions are run at a discounted rate with extra staff to assist parents and children playing the games. These sessions are generally hosted for children with sensory processing differences as well as for children on the spectrum.
Why did you decide to do these sensory sessions?
Mitchell: I’ve worked with children that have sensory processing differences and children on the spectrum in the past as an educator, and I understand how complex and unique each child can be. I know that sometimes the things that we see as irrelevant or small can be big or important to them and have a huge impact on their day. I think it’s important that everybody can enjoy the Timezone experience in a safe and stress-free environment.
In your experience, what do the kids with ASD seem to enjoy most in Timezone?
Mitchell: Surprisingly, the laser tag! Originally, I said that we would not run laser tag during the sensory sessions because it is loud and the vests can feel restrictive, but we opened it up on request, turned down the sound and ran a game – the kids loved it!
And what could cause potential issues?
Mitchell: Sound, touch, light, colours, interaction with other kids and the staff, everything is important to the overall environment.
Have you given any special training or guidance to your staff in dealing with kids with ASD?
Mitchell: All of our staff have a tonne of experience with children! The basic premise with children on the spectrum is the same as with any other child: patience and respect. Although we do not specifically train our staff to interact with children on the spectrum or children with other sensory processing differences, they spend most of their time working with children and so are all more than capable of adapting to these situations.
What have you learned from these kids by arranging these sessions, and interacting with them?
Mitchell: It’s always a nice reminder that sometimes you just need to take a step back from the crazy rush and enjoy your time in the here and now – play some games and have some fun.
Are you planning any other special days or actions, beyond the sensory sessions?
Mitchell: We are proactive in our search for opportunities to engage with and support our local community, from hospital visits to sporting events, Santa photos and homework clubs – we are a part of Mackay and Mackay is a part of Timezone. It will always be that way!