Overland Park Convention Center opens new ‘sensory room’ for event guests who need a break

5-year-old Remingten Schneider pictured in the Overland Park Convention Center's new sensory room.

The Overland Park Convention Center just opened a new sensory room with calming tools for overstimulated event guests, including those with autism and PTSD. The room is part of the venue's efforts to become certified in sensory inclusivity. Image courtesy of Britaney Wehrmeister

The Overland Park Convention Center has a new resource for event attendees who may need a break from all the activity. 

The convention center has debuted a new sensory room for neurodiverse guests, including those with autism, PTSD or anxiety. It opened for the first time last week and was available for use during the Johnson County Home & Garden Show. 

The space is meant to provide a calming environment for those who might feel overstimulated during events. The room is equipped with calming tools, such as bean bag chairs, bubble walls and fidget tools. 

Given that excessive noise and lighting can often be sensory triggers during large events, the room also has reduced noise and lighting. 

Guests can find the room on the convention center’s upper level, at the Exhibition Hall A entrance. Anyone who needs it can get access by scanning a QR code outside of the room, and a staff member will respond, according to convention center officials. 

“We’re just really excited to be able to expand our diversity and our inclusion efforts imposed in those who have sensory sensitivities and hopefully have a location for them to feel safe and comfortable,” said Brett Mitchell, general manager of the Overland Park Convention Center. 

The addition of this room came as part of the venue becoming certified in sensory inclusivity with the help of Kulture City, a nonprofit focused on sensory accessibility. 

Mitchell said he and his staff picked up on conversations about this type of inclusivity and wanted to incorporate it, and training in sensory inclusivity resonated a lot with the convention center’s staff. 

“It really kind of emotionally hit home with our staff,” he said. “I think that’s because so many of us in our family circles or circle of close friends, we have people in those circles that are suffering from PTSD, anxiety, dementia or (similar) conditions. It’s probably the most impactful training that we’ve done as a team.” 

The addition of the sensory room was ultimately driven by the convention center’s employees, Mitchell said, who have learned even more about compassionate service throughout the pandemic.  

“I think that’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us,” he said. “To be more compassionate for others. And I think this outcome is directly related to that.”