The importance of a “Calming Corner” at large events

  • 9 March 2023

Some people like to use their free time for leisure activities such as attending sporting events, like football or handball matches; visiting cultural centers and museums; or attending different fairs, workshops and festivals. When these activities happen on a large scale and take place in sizable venues (open or closed), participants are exposed to a high concentration of stimuli.

After the pandemic when we experienced limited seating and safety distances imposed by restrictions, many people value more than ever the importance of having ‘calming’ spaces, designed to relax our senses and where we can feel safe. In the case of people with autism, these spaces can be the solution to disconnect from all the stimuli and have fun with others.

The Catalan Federation of Autism has created a ‘calming corner’ during the “Festival de la Infancia” (Barcelona Children’s Festival). At an event of this scale, in an enclosed space attended by thousands of children over five days, an area away from stimuli is essential. After the event, Marta Campos and Mariona Vancells, director and head of communication of the Federació Catalana d’Autisme (Catalan Federation of Autism) tell us about their experience.

The calming corner at the Children’s festival

In many cases, people with autism tend to have  difficulties in managing stimuli received through the sensory channels (either because of hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity). They might not be able to tolerate sounds and noises, excessive and intense lights, or some textures and smells; in addition, they may feel disoriented as far as their position in relation to the environment.

Making the Children’s Festival a more accessible event for people with autism in particular, but also for all participants in general, was really important.

“The existence of a space that allows them to disconnect from all these stimuli can be key for them to have a good time like the rest of children”. – Mariona Vancells

Adapting the space, making it accessible

We set-up the calming corner in a place away from the center of the hall. The installation consisted of a tent with soft lighting, relaxing music and Qinera sensory equipment. Anyone who wished could enter, sit on the puffs, and interact with the fibre optic lights, the ultraviolet light and the UV materials, and the Luminea bubble tube. Next to it, we placed a second tent with tables and chairs donated by the Junts Autisme organization, where we prepared a space with drawing material.

“My son is five years old and has autism, and this corner is a wonderful thing for us, so we can enjoy the room and he can have his moment of calm. Thank you so much.” – Testimony of a mother attending the event.

Relaxing and being able to return to a calming state is very importance at large events, where large numbers of people are concentrated and attendees are exposed to a wide variety of stimuli.

During the five days of the Festival, approximately 711 children came with their families looking for a place to sit down and regain their strength. In some cases, parents told us that their children were very nervous and that thanks to this space they were able to calm down before continuing to participate in the programmed activities.

“My daughter does not have autism and this space has been very good for her. I see it as a great initiative for children with diversity and autism; but for my daughter it has also been perfect, and for me, as I have been able to rest a bit.” – Testimony of a mother attending the event.

Sensations in the calming corner

“I found the Calming Corner very necessary and amazing for this kind of event. My daughter really enjoyed it, it really calmed her down and she told me that she was very stressed before and that she likes it here. I loved the initiative.” –  Testimonial from a family attending the event.

Once the Children’s Festival had ended, we could say that the “Calming Corner” had been a success. We know that 25 of the visitors had autism; some children arrived with clear signs of discomfort and restlessness, and the tent with Qinera’s sensory equipment as well as the observation of the bubble tube helped them to relax. In fact, this tent was the favorite destination for many of them and the lighting equipment attracted a lot of attention.

“We think it is a very appropriate space for children with autism, as is the case of one of our children. We found it’s  very needed and suitable for this kind of event. He liked it and relaxed a lot. The little one, who does not have autism, also liked it very much. It is a space for children with and without this condition” – Testimony of another family attending the event.

We can see the success of the “Calming Corner” based on the words of gratitude left by some of the relatives, where they emphasized and valued the usefulness of this kind of space. In this video, you can see see some of their opinions:

This article has been written by Marta Campo, director, and Mariona Vancells, head of communications at Federació Catalana d’Autisme and reviewed by the Qinera marketing team.

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Written by:

Jennifer Arellano

Social Media & Content Manager at Qinera

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