The Seahawks opened the A-OK sensory room at Lumen Field in 2019 in order to better support guests with sensory needs. On Friday, the Seahawks announced updates to the room, more training for event staff, and a new name for the sensory room, which will now be known as Ben's Room in honor of Ben Schneider, the son of John and Traci Schneider, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3.
As was the case with the original sensory room, Ben's Room will continue to offer guests at Lumen Field a safe and calming environment for those who need a respite from the noise and excitement that comes with the Seahawks gameday experience.
Originally spearheaded by Traci Schneider, Lumen Field's sensory room was just one of many ways the Schneiders have helped support families with autism. Through Ben's Fund, which Traci and John launched in 2012, the Schneiders have helped raise more than $4.9 million and given out more than 2,900 grants to families affected by autism.
"It's incredible being given the gift of Ben in our lives, and it obviously opened up our whole world," Traci said. "And then we've been given the opportunity to do so much for other people. And it's so special because we live that life as well, so we know what that looks like and we know how challenging it is. And to be able to reach out to people financially, but also providing support like, 'Hey, you're not alone in this. So many people are going through this as well. And we understand.' And that's why we decided to kind of share our story is so people felt that they weren't alone, that they were heard, that others were there to help and kind of support them through their journey as well."
To oversee the renovation of the sensory room, the Seahawks partnered with KultureCity, the nation's leading nonprofit on sensory accessibility and acceptance for those with invisible disabilities. The newly remodeled Ben's Room is now outfitted with 100 percent recycled soundproof carpet along the floor and walls, along with new activity panels, bean bags from Yogibo, visual light panels by Nanoleaf, a Sparkle Interactive Light by NunoErin, which includes therapeutically-fun furniture embedded with soft glowing lights that respond to motion, and bubble walls.
The room also features original artwork from Ben Schneider. As part of the project, KultureCity also facilitated training for more than 400 gameday staff at Lumen Field. Led by medical professionals, the training teaches staff how to recognize guests and fans with sensory needs, as well as how to handle sensory overload situations.
"We are proud to rename Lumen Field's sensory room 'Ben's Room' in recognition of the incredible work Traci and John Schneider continue to do in our community to support youth and families with autism," said Karen Wilkins-Mickey, Seahawks Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. "We know the noise of gameday can be overwhelming for many guests. My own son has not attended a Seahawks game yet due to sensory challenges related to autism, and I'm hopeful that inclusive rooms like this could possibly change that for him in the future. We are grateful to our partners at KultureCity for their efforts in helping us offer an enhanced quiet and calm space for anyone who needs it."
Ben's Room is located at the Guest Services Center on the Southwest Field Plaza and is open for all full stadium events. Children using the room must be accompanied by an adult. Fans can also check out complimentary sensory toolkits at the SW Guest Services Center Location on the Field Plaza, just south of the Pro Shop. The toolkits include noise-cancelling headphones, ear plugs and sensory toys.
The renovations will make Ben's Room an even better place for fans with sensory needs to find a quiet, relaxing place on gameday, but another big component of the new changes is the training of gameday staff so they'll know how to recognize guests with sensory needs.
"That's so valuable, especially for the parents and obviously the kiddo or adults (with sensory needs), because it's hard when you go into public with someone who is going to be viewed as not typical and you get the stares and you get the looks," said Traci Schneider. "Just having that little bit of understanding is massive. And that's one thing John and I talked about a lot too over the years is not only creating awareness, but creating understanding. That understanding is massive, because then you have a further knowledge that there might be something else going on that you're not fully comprehending."
Originally launched in 2019, the updated space will be renamed "Ben's Room" after the son of John & Traci Schneider, and continue to offer guests a calming environment on gamedays at Lumen Field. To oversee the renovation project, the Seahawks partnered with KultureCity, the nation's leading nonprofit on sensory accessibility and acceptance for those with invisible disabilities.