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Seahawks Launch Program to Make CenturyLink Field More Autism Friendly

Fans on the spectrum can pick-up a toolkit to help make the gameday experience more accessible

RENTON, Wash. - The Seattle Seahawks and Seahawks Women's Association announced today a partnership with A OK Autism to provide toolkits to make CenturyLink Field and gameday activities more user friendly for fans on the spectrum.

The toolkits include noise cancelling headphones, ear plugs, sensory toys, a detailed schedule to help keep track of the game and an "I'M A-OK" identifier badge. The identifier badge can be worn as a sticker or band, displayed on a lanyard or kept in a wallet. The I'M A-OK symbol will help Seahawks fans recognize that a person has autism and give them an opportunity to help or simply be more patient, if necessary. Fans can pick-up the toolkit at guest services located in the Field Plaza just south of The Pro Shop on the Field Level.

The Seahawks were contacted by Jennifer Sollars Miller and Michelle Wilkerson, co-founders of the Autism Center of Tulsa and creators of Autism Friendly Locations (AFL) program, in July to gauge their interest in the program.

"We realized there were a few simple things we could do that would make a positive impact for Seahawks fans on the spectrum," said VP of Stadium Operations David Young. "The toolkits are just the first step."

"We heard what Seahawks GM John and Traci Schneider were doing with the Seahawks to raise awareness for autism," said Jennifer Sollars Miller. "They were very open to the idea."

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is almost five times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).

"Parents work tirelessly to provide appropriate education, therapies and support for their child with autism so they can become independent," Michelle Wilkerson said. "But we realized many in the community don't understand their unique needs, so they become defeated. Our program is an effort to support their independence and also give businesses the tools to recognize and resources to help their customers who are on the autism spectrum."

About Autism Center of Tulsa and A OK Autism

The Autism Center of Tulsa (ACT) is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. The mission of ACT is to provide meaningful programs and partnerships in order to increase awareness and understanding, community involvement, and independence for individuals and families affected by autism. Under the umbrella of ACT, A OK Autism was created in the spring of 2014 to identify individuals with autism in a positive light. ACT wants individuals with autism to proudly wear identification that reflects them as a person first.

Since autism is an "invisible" disability, it is important for individuals with autism to have proper identification in the event he/she runs away, gets lost, or is unable to communicate effectively. Due to lack of fear and understanding of dangerous situations, individuals with autism are more likely to become victims of crime and unintentional injuries. Proper identification also helps families feel more comfortable and welcome in public places. Once other people are aware of an individual's disability, the more understanding and helpful they become.

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