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For Kids With Autism, a Day at the Races With NASCAR
Date:5/31/2013

day event offers participants special access to an air-conditioned indoor grandstand with a clear but noise-controlled view of the "Monster Mile" racetrack below.

In addition, special "quiet zones" have been created, offering families a safe space for any agitated children, should the need arise. These tranquil spaces feature muted lighting, reduced sound and comfortable seating (including giant bean bags), as well as games, toys, food and video screens that offer continuous access to the race underway.

Autism Speaks volunteers and autism educators will be on hand as well, and NASCAR drivers and team owners will stop by pre-race to visit with the kids.

"The thing that makes this opportunity so phenomenal is that it gives the kids and the parents a safe and anxiety-free chance to be together as a family," said Artie Kempner, coordinating director of NASCAR on FOX and the parent of a child on the autism spectrum. "Because the first thing to understand about autism is that it's really a family disability in a lot of ways. The impact on the family is enormous. It impacts everything a family does and takes a toll on everybody."

"Just to bring an autistic kid out to a typical race with all the noise and stimuli would be enormously difficult," said Kempner, who also is an Autism Speaks board member. "But the environment created at Dover addressed that anxiety and took it out of the equation. It's a controlled and welcoming and comfortable space, surrounded by parents who have seen it all and staffed by incredibly supportive people -- right down to the drivers themselves, who were actually really excited and impressed by the whole thing."

"There are a couple of drivers who have children or nieces or nephews on the spectrum, so this was something that was meaningful to them," Kempner said.

A case in point is NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray, who attended last year's race and has a niece with autism. McMurray also is the president of the Jamie
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