LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - When it comes to Mardi Gras, we all love the sights and sounds that come along with the parades. However, these events can present a big challenge for those with autism, but not this year.
A quiet zone has been designated along this year’s parade route. The zone will allow children and adults who may be sensitive to loud noises an opportunity to enjoy the parade without worry.
A “sensory friendly zone” has been established on Sale Road between Jeff Davis Bank and St. Michael’s Church for children, adults, and families touched by autism.
“Mardi Gras in Southwest Louisiana is always family friendly and this area we have for the sensory-friendly zone ties into that perfectly,” Sr. Cpl. Scott Dougherty with Lake Charles Police, said.
From big floats, to festive beads, and all the things that make Mardi Gras a good time, but have you ever thought about the challenges that the bright lights and loud music can create for those with autism or other sensory restraints?
“Imagine how daunting and overwhelming that would be if you could not separate out and distinguish individual faces, individual noises, and conversations,” McNeese Autism Program director, Dr. Toby Osburn, said.
The result can lead anywhere from anxiety to acting out in a pubic place.
It’s a common occurrence that Osburn has witnessed with patients. He said by applying a few simple changes along the parade route, it can make all the difference.
“Calming it down, lowering the volume, creating a calmer tone and atmosphere can still retain the celebratory spirit, but most importantly give these kids the opportunity to participate in a life activity that’s part and parcel to living in southwest Louisiana," Osburn said.
Cpl. Dougherty said it all started with a concerned mother.
“The area is already a part of the Mcneese community,” Dougherty said. "The mother who came to me, her son, was involved in the program so it all tied in together and it made perfect sense to be at the end of the parade so we can have the floats turn their music off and continue to throw throws just for the last 300-400 feet.
The City of Lake Charles said they’re testing out the “quiet zone” only during the Children’s parade scheduled Sunday, Mar. 3 at 3:30 p.m.
Adults and children with autism or any type of disability are encouraged to park in the designated zone on the south side of Sale Road, right behind Jeff Davis bank.
Loud music will be prohibited beyond the intersection of Ryan Street and Sale Road. All parade entrants are encouraged and allowed to throw to these spectators.
An “end of parade” sign and law enforcement officials will indicate the conclusion of the parade route.