For an hour before the popular Christmas in July event opens at the Queanbeyan Showground on Sunday, people with sensory sensitivities will have a chance to explore the event.
Microphones will be muted, flashing rides will be turned off and crowd numbers will be limited to allow people with special needs to enjoy an event they might otherwise not be able to participate in.
It’s the second year the initiative has been held to accommodate those who have sensory processing concerns, issues with large crowds or mobility problems.
Queanbeyan Treehouse occupational therapist Sarah Lonsdale, who works with children with special needs, said it was a fantastic initiative.
“There are a lot of community activities that are beyond the reach of some of the children we work with because it’s simply too difficult and too challenging an environment for them to deal with,” Ms Lonsdale said.
She said if a child is over-stimulated by light or sound, it can cause a fight or flight reaction.
“It means they’re not going to enjoy it. It can also be frightening to the extent they might want to run away, or it can cause behaviour problems,” Ms Lonsdale said.
“I think our parents really appreciate that care has been put into an event like this, which really should be for everyone in the community.”
Kristy Walker’s son Zack, aged 5, has sensory processing difficulties. She said the inclusive idea would mean her day was “a lot calmer” and more relaxed.
“He’ll be less hyperactive and he’ll be able to focus and enjoy things,” Ms Walker said.
“It makes it a lot easier and a lot better. They get to enjoy the day out rather than being nervous and anxious about it.”
Treehouse special needs worker and mum of Daevlin, aged 5, Trina Conroy, said it was a very special idea.
“I think it’s really important because a lot of the children have trouble with crowds or lots of people, lots of distractions, it can be a sound overload,” Ms Conroy said.
I think our parents really appreciate that care has been put into an event like this.
Occupational therapist Sarah Lonsdale
“This gives them the time, space and the opportunity to look around without being overwhelmed.”
Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council events coordinator Laura Shelley said a limited number of tickets were available for pre-registration for the hour, and numbers were capped at 200.
She said it was important for the whole community to be able to come and enjoy Christmas.
The low-sensory hour was part of the Disability Action Plan to encourage councils in NSW to ensure events were as accessible as possible.
The day will feature Christmas-inspired food, gourmet treats, beer and wine, handmade Christmas gifts, an artificial snow area, an art exhibition, a play area, outdoor obstacle course and games.
There will be a special appearance from Santa Paws (dogs on a lead are welcome to the main event from 10am).
There will be about 150 stall holders, plus entertainment, dog races for poodles and poodle-cross dogs and live entertainment.
The event runs from 10am to 4pm at the Queanbeyan Showground. Limited parking is available on-site. Pre-registration is necessary for the low-sensory event from 9am to 10am.
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