Jessica Mistak knows the situation all too well. It’s a Friday night and she’s getting everyone ready for a family outing.
Her son John is on the autism spectrum and confined to a wheelchair, meaning every detail of the evening must be thought out in advance. What is parking like? How many people are going to be there? Do we have his fidget toys and headphones? What do we do if he has an incident?
If any part of the plan goes awry it likely means unneeded stress for John and an end to the family outing all together. Unless, of course, they are attending an event or program put on by Novi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. Just a few months ago, Novi Parks and the Novi Civic Center received Sensory Inclusion Certification from the non-profit organization KultureCity. The certification means staff has been trained to recognized guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation.
Staff is also equipped with sensory bags that contain noise cancelling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads that can help guests who may be feeling overwhelmed by the environment.
For Mistak, who also works for Novi Parks as a Recreation Supervisor, knowing this is available to her family, and that staff is prepared is “one less thing for us to worry about.” She is also proud of Novi’s commitment to making everyone feel welcome.
“I feel very fortunate raising my children now,” she said. “Instead of feeling like it’s a burden, more people and places are open to being inclusive and finding ways to have those with sensory needs participate. It is not only a huge benefit for them to have those positive interactions with people, but we all benefit from it.”
Novi Parks is among a handful of parks agency in the country to become certified, joining Canton Leisure Services and Clinton Township Recreation here locally, along with larger facilities like Little Caesars Arena and Comerica Park. Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by people with autism, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to overstimulation and noise, which are part of the environment at public spaces.
“We want as many people as possible to be able to participate at every level of the City,” said Mistak. “Whether it’s coming to a City Council meeting or enjoying a Sizzling Summer performance, the City is very cognizant of making everyone feel welcome here.”
Look for the KultureCity logo on the entrance to the Civic Center and on flyers for various programs. The sensory bags will be out this summer at the parks during Wonderful Wednesdays and Sizzling Summer Series events as well. Prior to attending an event, families can download the free KultureCity app to learn what sensory features are available and where they can access them.
To learn more about KultureCity, visit KultureCity.org
or call Novi Parks at 248.347.0400.
A look inside Novi’s KultureCity
- Certification allows individuals with sensory processing needs the ability to engage in our community & at City events in an atmosphere accepting of sensory sensitivities.
- Over 20 Novi Civic Center staff are KultureCity Sensory Inclusive trained
- The Novi Civic Center is the first KultureCity Sensory Inclusive certified municipal building in Michigan
- People can locate KultureCity certified venues by downloading the app in the App Store or Google Play