Siena Saints play their first sensory friendly, autism awareness basketball game

December 29, 2018 11:54 PM

Albany-For most people Saturday's Siena basketball game wasn't about winning or losing, it was about being the first game of its kind.
"For my family and for many families here in attendance this is the first time they've been able to attend a game together because they have a loved on that's effected by autism" said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara was at the game with his son Michael who has autism, it was also Michael's first game. 


"When these kids are five to ten years old and it's their first game, they're getting a chance to watch our guys play, they're like super hero's and it's just amazing" said Jamion Christian, head coach for Siena men's basketball. 

The game, held at the Times Union Center was was meant to be sensory friendly for kids with autism. They did that by lowering the lights and noise levels before, during and after the game. There was also a sensory safe room for children and their families.

"Kids that have been able to be a part of this today are learning about their community in their own terms" said Santabarbara.

Santabarbara says before this Michael was only able to watch basketball at home and he says this experience is a real game changer.

Coaches wore autism awareness puzzle ribbons. Players met with some of the children after the game.

"It's everything, one of the reasons why I wanted to be the head coach at Siena, one of the reasons why these guys come to Siena is to be involved in the community" said Christian.

Assemblyman Santabarbara says by doing this he believes Siena college is setting an example for other organizations to do the same.

"Today is also about awareness and awareness leads to change in our community. Changes that lead to inclusion and participation" said Santabarbara.

Assemblyman Santabarbara's autism initiative includes a series of bills aimed at helping those living with developmental disabilities. 
he's partnered with many community based organizations like Siena to help further continue his work.


Brooke Selby

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