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NM State Fair Offers First-Ever Sensory Station for Autistic Children

The annual New Mexico State Fair, which opens Thursday, is the first in the country to offer a quiet space for autistic children and others with special needs. (visitalbuquerque.org)
The annual New Mexico State Fair, which opens Thursday, is the first in the country to offer a quiet space for autistic children and others with special needs. (visitalbuquerque.org)
September 7, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The annual New Mexico State Fair is a great way to spend time with family – unless children easily suffer from sensory overload.

This year, fair officials are trying something new to include everyone who wants to attend.

When the State Fair opens Thursday, it will be the first in the country to offer a Sensory Station – a safe space for children and adults with special needs including Down syndrome and autism.

Sarah Baca, executive director of the New Mexico Autism Society, has worked with fair officials to create a space that will allow those who experience sensory overload a break from the hubbub.

"There's a lot to see at the State Fair, and oftentimes individuals with sensory challenges, not necessarily just autism, need to take a little bit of a break in between going to the carnival and all the food and the smells and all of the people," she explains.

The station will be located in the Youth Hall of the fairgrounds and open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. throughout the fair that runs through Sept. 17.

Baca says the Sensory Station will be dark and include a bin filled with kinetic sand, water beads and other calming activities that allow individuals to decompress.

She says parents raising a child with special needs often experience isolation, and the fair's inclusionary feature will help them feel less stigmatized.

"I get emotional when I talk about it because I can't think of a better way than the New Mexico State Fair in creating this space and providing the opportunity for families to come out to the fair and just know that they're supported," she states.

State Fair officials say the Sensory Station also will include regular visits from therapy dogs and meet-and-greets with the State Fair queen.


Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM