The use of a pop-up sensory room at the Proact Stadium for Chesterfield’s game against Northampton Town at the weekend has been hailed as a huge success.
A number of youngsters who are affected by autism, together with their families, were invited to use the room as guests of the club.
The initiative was organised by the Chesterfield FC Community Trust in partnership with Accessible Derbyshire, a charity with the aim of improving the lives of disabled people, their families, friends and carers living in or visiting Derbyshire and the Peak District.
Accessible Derbyshire co-founder Gillian Scotford said: "It was so easy to arrange with the help of such a supportive club like Chesterfield FC. TM Accounting Services provided the space and we invited families affected by autism. We also arranged for Rompa, the specialist sensory equipment company, to set up the equipment for the day.
“We never dreamed it would be such a success! All the families came along, all of them stayed and all of them enjoyed the day. For many it was their first experience of a match and it was smiles all around.
"The children were fascinated by the bubble tubes, interactive lights, sensory toys, ear defenders and sensory aromas. It was a very 'safe and comforting' environment. Knowing you are amongst others who understand makes the whole experience more relaxing. We have already had emails asking us to let them know about the next event!”
Ray Watts, who attended the match with his six-year-old son Jake, said: “It gave families with autism a priceless gift - the chance to experience something as a whole family in a safe and autism-friendly environment.
“A simple trip to the supermarket can be daunting for a person with autism, so to be able to enjoy a football match was absolutely amazing. I cannot thank Chesterfield Football Club enough for supporting this venture. It is a true testament to the club’s determination to make football accessible for everyone.”
Dawn Cook and her son Lewis also took up the invitation to use the sensory room. She said: ”This was the first time that Lewis, who’s 19, has ever been to a football match. Normally the noise alone would make seeing a game impossible for us but Lewis watched the entire 90 minutes and really enjoyed it thanks to the quieter environment.”