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TULSA, Okla. — For someone with autism, attending a sporting event, let alone an NFL football game, might seem impossible. But two Tulsa mothers are trying to make NFL games a place where anyone can cheer on their team.
Michelle Wilkerson and Jennifer Sollars Miller know the challenges of taking a child with autism to a sporting event.
But over the years, Michelle and her son, Austin, and Jennifer and her son, Josh, have found ways to head to the stadium as a family.
“For my son Josh it was hard to take him. He has sensory issues. Especially the loud noises,” Jennifer said.
The duo teamed up with the Seattle Seahwaks Sunday to bring autism awareness to the NFL, and make Seahawks games a safe place for people with autism.
“So there is noise canceling headphones, as well as earplugs,” Michelle said.
There is also a schedule of game day events, for structure, as well as an ID wristband with the location of their family listed on it.
“If they were to wander off, because wandering is a huge issue for children with autism, then an usher can get them back to their seat to their family,” Michelle said.
Before the game, the women set up a booth where 20,000 people passed by. And they met families just like their own.
“A father came up and said I always wanted to take my son to a Seahawks game and I’ve never been able to and now I can. So that was so exciting for us because that was the purpose of this program,” Jennifer said.
Now back in Tulsa, the women say the Seahawks will continue to offer the kits and educating fans.
The moms’ focus will now turn to other teams and events around the country.
“We want the logo to be recognized everywhere. We want our children to be able to travel, to go outside of Tulsa, to go outside the state and into other states and still be recognized,” Michelle said.
The organization hands out two different logos. One displays the letter “A” and is for anyone to wear if they want spread autism awareness. The second reads, “I’m A OK,” and is for anyone with autism to wear, so others around them are aware.
Michelle and Jennifer hope one day people everywhere will connect the logos with autism, in the same way many people connect a pink ribbon with breast cancer awareness.