Have a Sensory Friendly Summer!

Summer is the time for barbecues, picnics, and a wide variety of outdoor activities.  A sensory friendly event is one designed to be less sensory stimulating and overwhelming.  Having a sensory friendly approach often makes it easier for individuals with sensory sensitivities to participate in social activities and community events.  Just a few simple steps can go a long way to make your event more sensory friendly for individuals with sensory sensitivities.

Tip 1:  While some individuals with disabilities may not respond when spoken to, they may also be startled or upset by the softest sounds.  If the event has loud background music or sudden bursts of sound, it may be helpful to turn down the music, or limit the music to one area.

Blue and white sign that says "quiet room" on wood doorTip 2:  Individuals with disabilities also tend to be more sensitive to touch and textures.  Offer a high-five or handshake and allow the person an opportunity to decline.  Having a designated “quiet room” may also be beneficial as a space to provide a break from crowds in needed.

Tip 3:  Some individuals with sensory issues are highly aware of smells in the environment around them.  Be sure to turn off or remove artificial air fresheners from areas used during the event.  You may also request that staff or volunteers refrain from wearing perfume or cologne on the day of the event.

Tip 4:  Some individuals follow unique diets or are averse to different tastes and textures.  If food will be offered or available, be sure to have a wide variety of options and, if possible, provide a way for people to notify you in advance about special dietary considerations.
variety of fruits and vegetables
Tip 5:  Lighting, especially bright lights, can be difficult for a person with a disability.  Some may wear hats and/or sunglasses indoors due to their light sensitivity.  Offer areas of dim lighting, or cover intense lighting in the ceiling with sheets or tablecloths.


If attendees know the event is sensory friendly, it may increase the chance people who may have been anxious about attending will feel more comfortable and welcome. If you are uncertain of what to do at any time, just ask; most individuals or their families will be happy to give tips and suggestions of how to help.


Please consider making all of your events sensory friendly!

If you are interested in more information about sensory friendly events or music therapy and sensory integration, please contact us at rebekah.tarplin@star-center.org or 731-668-3888.



About the Author : Rebekah Tarplin

NOTE: This person is a past employee or intern of the STAR Center. Their name and authorship is preserved for posterity. Hailing originally from Fairfax, Virginia, Rebekah Tarplin graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Music Therapy in 2013. She completed her clinical internship at Star Center, Inc. in Jackson Tennessee in April 2014 and received her MT-BC credential in June 2014. For a while, Rebekah worked for a private music therapy company in Fayetteville, GA, working with children with a variety disabilities. Rebekah returned to the Star Center team in January 2018. Rebekah is currently doing graduate level coursework through the hybrid-Master's program at Augsburg University.

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