Students with autism visit Wild practice to get a feel for gameday experience

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The sights and sounds of a hockey game can be overwhelming for children on the autism spectrum. But on Thursday, dozens of kids got to visit the Xcel Energy Center without all the chaos in an effort to make game day experience feel more accessible.

“Students with autism really benefit from the opportunity to try a new experience,” said Ellie Wilson of AuSM.

For the second year, the Autism Society of Minnesota, AuSM, brought about 70 kids to the Xcel Energy Center.

“An all-day field trip, no school and to see a sports team to see my Wild - I’m all in,” said Zachary English, a sophomore.

Some had been to the X before, but for many it was a fresh experience. New sights, loud sounds and strange crowds can be so overwhelming, but this trip helps those on the spectrum get a feel for the building and atmosphere, while also getting a chance to watch the players practice.   

“Some kids might be claustrophobic,” said English. “They might not want to be near people they don’t know or be near a bunch of people and stuff.”

“I’m not allowed to have my headphones in right now, but if it wasn’t for that I’d probably have them in because loud noises irritate me, make me a little shaky,” said Dandre Beazer, a senior.

It makes coming to an actual game much more possible.

“It’s about giving an opportunity to practice, so that when you are faced with the opportunity to come up against a loud crowd, that you already have the rest of the stuff figured out,” said Wilson.

The visit may help ease the fear of going new places seeing new things, in general.

“I think one of the nicest things we had heard from students too was, ‘I expected it to be so much louder. I’m not as scared to maybe go to an arena as I was before,’” said Sarah Hauer, a Lionsgate Academy teacher.