Siena preparing for sensory-friendly environment

Local Sports

ALBANY, N.Y. – The lights flickered above – from bright, to dim, back to bright, a little darker, and so on – as the Siena men’s basketball team began practice at the Times Union Center Friday afternoon. Members of the athletic department were finding the correct settings for Sunday’s second annual Sensory Friendly and Autism Awareness Game.

In an effort to create a more sensory-friendly environment for those on the autism spectrum and others sensitive to noise and light, the lighting, public address, and music levels will be lowered. Flashing ads will also be eliminated from all of the display boards around the arena.

The Saints are practicing this week in the arena to get used to the slight changes, especially the lighting. The players aren’t worried about the minor adjustments.

“Just trying to stay locked in and focused,” Elijah Burns said about how he’ll handle the different atmosphere. “I’m gonna be singing a little bit in my head just to get myself ready for the game ’cause it’ll be a little bit lighter on the music. But I’m just super excited to have the families out here for the sensory awareness game.”

Head Coach Carmen Maciariello doesn’t anticipate any lack of energy from his team or the fans.

“My staff jokes that our fans sometimes would rather see a ball that goes in and out and goes back in than we’re on a 10-0 run,” he said. “So hopefully they’ll be really engaged and energetic to get us hopefully to our third straight win.”

Siena won the inaugural Autism Awareness game last year by 21 points over Cal Poly. The Saints will host Holy Cross at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

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