Sensory-Friendly Fair Experience: One Mom Weighs In

Bridge Street

The sights and sounds of the New York State Fair are a welcomed return for so many every summer, but for those sensitive to sounds, smells and even light, it can be a stressful experience.

Autism Advocate and Soul And Mind Evolution Founder Christina Van Ditto Warter set out on a mission to explore the fair and says that her daughter, who is on the spectrum was the best tour guide.

For Warter and her family, the Horticulture Building and the Expo Center were the two best buildings for low stimulation. “The horticulture building was less crowded with people, vendors and visual stimuli and the butterfly exhibit was something that Gia just loved,” she says. Warter also adds that anyone looking for a quiet space should visit the Sensory Garden. It’s not only quiet and peaceful, but provides a break from the action happening on the fairgrounds.

The Expo center located near the midway is another must see on her list. “This is a great spot for families that may need a sensory break from the games, rides, and smells right outside the front door,” she says. For those who want excitemnet and stimuli, Warter recommends the Center of Progress building. They offer plenty of “Pop-it” stands and Play Dough sand kits too.

Some of Warter’s greatest challenges were finding food options that catered to her family’s sensitivities as well as rides that would accommodate her daughter riding with another person. “Many people on the spectrum love movement so the rides can bring enjoyment and would be a welcoming option,” she says.

Warter’s biggest tip though is to plan ahead. She recommends downloading the New York State Fair map prior to going and says that packing items that will help your child thrive in the environment is key. For her, a wagon for Gia to sit in, sunglasses, noise canceling headphones and snacks were all part of her packing list. And while planning for a great day is important, Warter says it’s important to not neglect the time afterward too.

“Many times with so much stimulation and physical demand, there can be a bit of a sensory “hangover,” she says. “So, allow down time and permissions the next day for differently abled and caregivers to rest.”

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