Sensory-friendly watch party helps build a more inclusive campus

The front of room set-up at the sensory-friendly watch party. - Staff Writer / Aiden Seratore

On Oct. 24th, Lindsay Johnson and The Wellness Center hosted a Sensory-Friendly watch party for the University’s Symphony Orchestra concert. Some events and concerts are meant to be sat down and listened to quietly and that doesn’t always fit others’ needs in terms of comfortability, so the watch party gave people the ability to enjoy the amazing music while being free to move around and do other things if they felt so inclined.

Among the student body, there is a growing desire for more inclusivity at Rowan. In line with this, it made sense to begin hosting events that could cater to those who struggled with sensory overload. The event did have a small turnout, but it did not discount the importance.

Instead of a crowd-pleasing event with mass appeal, it offers a safe space for those looking to experience the show in a different environment. Sophomore Rio Baliga who identifies as neurodivergent and has experienced sensory overload, attended because of her love for Orchestral music.

“Sometimes I can feel anxious just sitting in an auditorium and having the social expectation that I have to stay in a space for a certain period of time without being able to get up and move if I feel like I need to,” Baliga said.

This isn’t the first time a sensory-friendly event has occurred at Rowan, however; it’s the first time that the Wellness Center has teamed up to help host the event. This was Baliga’s first watch party, but she has taken advantage of the opportunities presented here at Rowan for sensory-friendly needs.

“Overall, I think this event, and events like these are very important because they apply a space for individuals who experience sensory overload or sensory needs that are different from what is the norm, and it’s really important for these people like me to be able to access events that are kind of rejuvenating like a concert that a neurotypical person would enjoy because everyone deserves to enjoy themselves,” said Baliga.

The space for the event was relaxing, with catering and refreshments available, and dim lighting that made it easy to relax with some amazing music from the orchestra.

“The importance of an event like this as well is to help foster a sense of community and belonging. While that is definitely something that individuals can feel while at a rowan musical performance in person, we want to offer an option for those watching in another space to do so with and around others. Because experiences – especially in the arts – seem to just be better when experienced together,” Johnson said.

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