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A First for Kent State Men's Basketball

Kent State University’s Men’s Basketball team – the first Division I team to sign an autistic player – hosted its first “sensory-friendly” game over the weekend, bringing in people who may not always be able to enjoy college hoops in person.

The murmur of the crowd, the squealing of tennis shoes and an announcer were there, but there was no loud music, no pep band, and no flashing lights or graphics at Saturday night’s game.

April Stephens from Copley brought her 14-year-old son – who has autism -- to see the team since he loves basketball and autistic player Kalin Bennett.

“It’s groundbreaking because it shows inclusiveness, it shows respecting people and equity. And that’s what I’m all about: diversity and inclusion.”

Alabama-based non-profit KultureCity provided sensory kits with noise-cancelling headphones and other

photo of Jordon Gliem
Jordon Gliem is a sensory trainer with Alabama-based KultureCity, a non-profit that provided the sensory kits for fans to borrow during the game.

items at the game. The school’s Assistant Vice President of Marketing, Todd Snider, says event staff has been trained on how to assist fans with sensory sensitivity.

“If somebody has sensory needs, what can you do to support them? What can you do to help them? Our whole facility here is considered a sensory friendly facility for the next year, so it would be all games – not just this game.”

Snider adds that attendance at Saturday’s win over Hampton was up slightly compared to other games at this time of year. The school plans to host a sensory-friendly game every year. And on February 15, the men’s basketball team will host a game supporting autism awareness programs.