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‘Autism Awareness Day at the K’ provides sensory-friendly environment full of smiles

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Royals and Autism Speaks teamed up to create an extra fun, safe and family friendly environment for people with autism at Friday's game.

Britton Howell was among several people on the autism spectrum who got to catch up with the players at batting practice.

"I've got my Royals gear!" Howell said, pointing to the KC logo on his sweatshirt.

"I think he's going to be dreaming about baseball for weeks now," Tracie Howell said.

Tracie wears two hats: One is bring Britton's mom; the other is acting as senior coordinator for Autism Speaks Kansas City. She said "Autism Awareness Day at the K" is an opportunity for people, like her son, to shine and be themselves.

"A lot of the lighting or some of the noises or some of the activities seem little bit too much for people," Tracie said.

The Royals even asked a few fans to sing the national anthem, throw out the first pitch and tell the players it's time to "play ball."

"For us, I think it's just an honor," Tracie said. "It really is an opportunity for a child with autism to come forward and show, 'I can do this, too.'"

Britton hit it off with Rex Hudler, Ned Yost and Whit Merrifield.

"Can I please have an autograph?" he asked.

"Sure, buddy," Merrifield said.

Thad Livingston got in on the action, too. His first game was in 1977. He sang during the 7th Inning Stretch last year and this year: "I'm gonna sing the national anthem here for the very first time!"

He's fulfilling a lifelong dream, according to Janie Helm, program manager for Mosaic of Northeast Kansas.

"Here he is achieving his goal, proving that he is capable of anything," Helm said.

Tracie said a big part of Autism Awareness Day at the K is educating people who aren't on the spectrum.

"It can mean so many different things from how people may need to be comforted or may scream out unexpectedly or do something different that may seem a little different or strange," Tracie said.

To help raise awareness, several autism organizations set up a booth filled with inclusive, interactive stations. Everyone can hold balloons filled with Royal blue sand, play Legos or pet the pup on "four paws."

"I think in a typical day they're maybe not given those opportunities," Tracie said. "And for them to come out and sing and say play ball and do all those wonderful things, it just brings a lot of joy into my heart."

Even when it's not Autism Awareness Day at the K the Royals provide safe, sensory-friendly places and pieces of technology around the stadium. That include the quiet zones located in the dugout concourses, noise-cancelling earmuffs, which you can check out, and concession stands with visual aids.

Staff tells FOX4 ushers and ticket takers have been trained on autism awareness, too.

If you would like to find more information or resources, check out AllAboutAutism.org.

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