Land trust works to improve inclusivity for the sensory-sensitive

“Families felt safe because of the accommodations we made. They enjoyed being together with other families, and they were grateful to have a fun program that met the needs of both their neurodiverse and neurotypical kids.” — Anne Smith-White, Trustees of Reservations

By Kirsten Ferguson December 12, 2022

Land trust events and spaces aren’t always accessible for sensory-sensitive people, but a partnership with the Autism Alliance is helping The Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts make its properties more welcoming to everyone.

The Autism Alliance recently trained staff of the Trustees’ Weir River Farm in Hingham on how to make simple but meaningful changes that help people with autism and their families enjoy the trails and barnyard. As a Sensory Responsive Property, the farm now offers calm kits with noise reducing headphones, visual story guides that can help families preview what to expect prior to their visit, and limited admissions to certain programs to decrease crowds and noise.

A sensory-friendly open barnyard event at the farm earlier this year was a hit among the families who participated.

“My son has been obsessed with cows since he was 2 years old. I have never felt comfortable bringing him to a farm for fear of crowds, excessive noise or the possibility of him acting out,” wrote one parent who offered caregiver feedback after the event. “I found this event online, and I can’t believe it — we are having our first barnyard experience.”

A sensory-friendly sunset picnic at Weir River Farm in July featured live music, lawn games and food trucks.

“Families felt safe because of the accommodations we made,” says Anne Smith-White, Trustees director of South Shore, South Coast and Cape Cod properties. “They enjoyed being together with other families, and they were grateful to have a fun program that met the needs of both their neurodiverse and neurotypical kids.”