LIGHTS were dimmed and background music was turned off on Tuesday afternoon with pool-goers and lifeguards reporting a calm shift. This was the first sensory quiet session for Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre in what will be a feature for a period on weekdays and Saturday morning in a move to create a more inclusive environment.
BALC aquatic leader Leanne White said the aim was to boost confidence for people who benefit from a less stimulating space, including people with autism, and the first dip into a session had also been met with positive feedback from other patrons.
"It just takes the edge of what is a noisy environment," Ms White said. "When we looked into how we could be more inclusive for the whole community we started tapping into user groups, asking them why they use the centre or why they might not use the centre and noise was a big factor, along with light."
Each step of a visit was put to user groups, from arriving in the car park and moving through reception so subtle changes could also be made through the whole process.
This follows moves across the community to become more sensory inclusive from quiet rooms and periods in shopping centres and schools.
Sensory quiet time at BALC extends into the gymnastics space where blinds are open, lights turned off and equipment in simplified, also allowing for more open play, in what is usually a brightly coloured, highly active environment.
BALC gymnastics team leader Rebecca Dale said morning quiet times were booked for personal training sessions, tailored to each child, but Tuesday afternoons' Balance Play sessions might encourage more pre-school children to try the gym.
"The gym is pretty sensory overwhelming as it is," Ms Dale said. "We run privates and small classes for kids with a range of abilities. This way we can move a lot of the bigger equipment and coloured mats out of the space...it feels really calming in here."
BALC's aquatic team is also working with City of Ballarat's supportive playgroups on water play sessions for children aged under-5 with and instructor to best help children with special needs.
The group change room is also available in sensory quiet times for families who need mixed gendered change space, for example, a father and daughter who needs extra assistance to change.
BALC has worked with its members, Central Highlands NDIS, Sports Central and Ballarat Autism Network to develop the sensory-quiet times. The periods will be reviewed and tweaked as needed.
Sensory Quiet Time runs:
Monday to Friday - 3pm-3.45pm
Tuesdays - 2.15pm-3.45pm
Wednesdays - 8am-9.30am
Saturdays - 7.30am-8.30am
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