A Home Run for Autism at Citi Field, New York

May 6, 2012 Updated: May 6, 2012
A child throws a soccer ball to Jason
A child throws a soccer ball to Jason, with Super Soccer Stars at Citi Field on Sunday. (Kristen Meriwether/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—The sights and sounds of a live baseball game is something baseball fans look forward to—the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd and the vendor yelling “Hotdogs!” But for some children with autism, the excess noise and bright lights can be too much, leading parents to keep them at home.

“A lot of the kids have sensory issues, so when it is loud, it is overwhelming for them,” said Serena Ahne.

Ahne was one of several volunteers on hand for the 10th annual Autism Awareness Day on Sunday, as the New York Mets teamed up with Autism Speaks to ensure children with autism had a more enjoyable experience at Sunday’s game.

The sound system in the Left Field Landing and Citi Vision was turned down and the right field scoreboard had reduced pulsing special effects. A designated quiet area in the Bullpen Plaza provided a space for those who needed a break.

Autism is a part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Symptoms usually appear between ages 2–3 and are more likely to affect boys. Children with autism generally have difficulty with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behavior.

While autism can severely affect communication skills, some may excel in visual skills, music, math, and art according to Autism Speaks.

“If you have met one kid with autism, you have met one kid with autism. That is how different a lot of these cases are. One kid might have sensory issues and one kid might not. It is really individual, based on the child,” Ahne said.

Epoch Times Photo
A child pets Rosie the pony outside of Citi Field on Sunday afternoon. Rosie is used in equine therapy provided by Ride Kind, based in Rockland County, N.Y. (Kristen Meriwether/The Epoch Times)


Therapeutic Treatment Options

According to Autism Speaks, 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with autism, however there is no medical detection or cure.

Despite no cure, there are multiple therapeutic options, several of which were displayed at Citi Field on Sunday.

Rosie, a pony used for equine therapy, was on hand in Parking Lot A. Executive Director Dana Mase explained their program, Ride Kind, works with children of different emotional, cognitive, and physical needs. Each session is fine tuned to the needs of the individual, but the results are always the same, “No one ever wants to leave,” Mase said with a smile.

“The horses are amazing because you are not in a classroom and you are not in someone’s office. Nobody notices it is therapy because it is fun. You play games and the kids love it,” Mase said.

In the few years she has been offering equine therapy, Mase has seen amazing results. One student came in with hyperactivity, impulse control issues, and was even hitting kids at school. He came twice a week and has since gotten off all of his medication.

“The family attributes it to the riding because it really helps center him,” Mase said.

Children with autism are often missing social components and making eye contact can be difficult, however with animals, there is no block.

“It acts as a bridge. Hopefully they will be able to transfer that into human relationships,” Mase said.

While Rosie stole the show, art therapy and soccer instruction were available in the Bullpen Plaza. Representatives from the Queens Museum supplied pictures for kids to color. Michelle Lopez, senior coordinator for Autism Initiatives Education Department, said the museum offers many tactile learning opportunities for children with autism.

The museum teaches “mistake art” where the kids make art with some of their “mistakes” such as stains and spills. Children with autism generally do not tolerate accidents, such as spilling something, so this teaches them it is ok and to have fun with it.

For the kids that needed to let off a little energy before sitting in their seats for the game, Super Soccer Stars set up goals in the Bullpen Plaza. The soccer development program now has a special class to help promote socialization through soccer to children with autism.

The Mets treated all in attendance to a 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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