You could hear a pin – or, more appropriately, a puck – drop during a recent Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual Junior Bulldogs game.
The silence was no reflection on their performance in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League match-up versus the visiting Sackville Blazers, Nov. 10 at the Antigonish Arena, but a reflection of an off-the-ice purpose.
With support from the Bulldog organization, students with the Health and Human Services 12 class at Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School hosted a “quiet game.”
Donning black-and-white T-shirts, emblazoned with the motto ‘Silence the Night,’ class members, including Lauryn Landry and Kristyn Boutilier, greeted fans in the Arena lobby.
“Not many people know about it,” Kristyn said of sensory processing disorder (SPD), which she described as a “huge thing” for many people.
For those with SPD, hearing and other senses are experienced differently and more intensely, which can make the noise, commonly associated with a sporting event, a big challenge.
Often, it prevents people with the disorder from enjoying such activities, including a young relative of one of the Bulldog players, which served as an inspiration for the Grade 12 students to do something.
They were also motivated by their work with fellow Regional students, who are members of the community living class.
“It is one small change, but a very important one,” Lauryn said of encouraging fans to participate in the “quiet game” initiative.
SPD affects many with autism and attention deficit disorder, but it can also be a part of life for people with no other conditions.
Lauryn and Kristyn also indicated it was appropriate the “quiet game” was taking place a day before Remembrance Day (Nov. 11), considering SPD can also affect those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“It is about a lot of things that we take for granted,” Kristyn said of the “small changes” that the class implemented to accommodate the more SPD-friendly game.
Those measures included minimal announcements, along with no cheering or music, with fans encouraged to ‘cheer on’ their hometown Bulldogs with signs.
The make-up of those signs also reflected the “quiet game” focuses – white writing on black Bristol board – because colours can also serve as a SPD stimulus.
Accompanied by the angelic singing of O Canada by youngster David Bannerman, who has autism, St. F.X. human kinetics professor Amanda Casey, who also shared her expertise in SPD with the high school class, performed the national anthem in American Sign Language.
And, as the girls described, if things did become “too overwhelming,” there were “quiet rooms” available.
“We want to make sure that people can take part – live life to the fullest,” Kristyn said of expanding initiatives, such as “quiet games.”
“Again, it is so important that people realize the benefit of little changes,” Lauryn added.
Other teams, including some in the professional ranks across North America, have also staged highly successful quiet games.
“We hope this is a big step as part of a big movement,” Lauryn said, as part of a “more inclusive community.”