Sensory-Friendly Bell Ringing Offers a New Twist on a Holiday Tradition

Dec 4, 2019

Bell ringing and The Salvation Army’s Christmas red kettles traditionally go hand-in-hand – you rarely see – or hear – one without the other. Except, that is, on Dec. 2, when The Salvation Army teamed up with Autism Action Partnership for a special sensory-friendly “bell ringing” at the 132nd and West Dodge Road Hy-Vee.

Dexter and Phoebe and their mom, Wendy, were dressed for the season in festive Santa Claus and reindeer hats as they waved red glow sticks instead of ringing bells outside the entrance of Hy-Vee. They were among more than a dozen volunteers from Autism Action Partnership who participated in the sensory-friendly “bell ringing” to raise awareness of autism and support The Salvation Army’s ongoing Tree of Lights campaign.

“There are individuals in our community who experience sensory input in a different way – not lesser or greater, just different – and they are equally important and valuable to our community,” said Justin Dougherty, executive director at Autism Action Partnership.

Sensitivity to sound is a common symptom for those with autism. Loud noises can be painful, and the din of a city street or a shopping center can often be overwhelming. While children with autism might not be able to tolerate the sound of a ringing bell, waving glow sticks allows them to participate in this seasonal tradition and raise awareness of autism at the same time.

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