OKC Thunder incorporate initiative to help those with sensory challenges

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OKLAHOMA CITY – For Thunder fan Jimi Scott, he says his favorite player is Paul George.

But, he doesn’t get to watch his favorite Thunder player. He has autism and the games can be a sensory overload for him.

“When we could get him to go to a game, we’d have to bring him out to the concourse and wait until that was all over with and then bring him back to his seat,” said Jim Deal, Jimi’s grandfather. “Then after a while he just didn’t want to go to the games because he knew what was going to happen.”

The Thunder organization is hoping to change that with their new partnership with KultureCity, a nonprofit organization aimed at creating a sensory-inclusive environment for those who need it.

“Their goal is to make as many venues as welcoming to families that have sensory needs as possible,” Joy Dyer, guest relations at the OKC Thunder, said.

The Thunder organization is the second in the NBA to incorporate the sensory initiative and it’s three step process.

“The first step was training for our arena staff to be able to recognize and respond to sensory needs. The second step was sensory bags that can be checked out at our guest relations desks,” Dyer said.

Inside the bags are weighted blankets, fidget toys and noise canceling head phones, to name a few.

“If a family is able to utilize their resources from the bag, then they can step into the environment and still enjoy the game,” Dyer said.

The third step is a sensory room fans can go to if they feel too overwhelmed.

“The only place to go was like, the refreshment area or the bathroom and the bathroom is not a calm place to go. Automatic flushing toilets, automatic hand dryers,” Mother Tara Hood said.

For Jim Deal, this could finally mean he can bring his third grandson to a game.

“Their brother and sister go. I want him to go,” Deal said.

Something he now plans to try again at the end of this month.

Fans can pick up the sensory bags at guests relations desks located on the east side and southwest side of the arena.

They are free to borrow, but need to be returned at the end of the game.

Click here for more information.

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