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Autism awareness part of Rhinebeck holiday events on Nov. 25

Author William Kemble
Date November 22, 2018

RHINEBECK, N.Y. — Holiday season in the village begins Sunday, Nov. 25, with a parade, tree lighting and events that include a sensory safe space as part of autism awareness.

The space is intended to provide a joyful time for families who may otherwise avoid the event due to noisy crowds and high-stress situations.

Activities in the village business district begin at 3 p.m. The parade starts at 4:30 p.m. at the fire station at 76 E. Market St. and concludes with the tree light in the Rhinebeck Bank parking lot at 23 E. Market St.

“We’re in the process of turning Rhinebeck into an autism supportive community,” chamber Executive Director Kyra Bonanza said. “So, this year, we’re honoring autism awareness by putting blue lights on the trees.

“There will also be a sensory safe space at the Gallery@Rhinebeck for the families or anyone who feels a little overwhelmed by the crowds, the noise, the lights,” she added.

The effort to have an inclusive holiday is being done through the Anderson Center for Autism, which established the Autism Supportive Environment program to help families overcome the isolation they often feel because it is difficult to participate in special events.

Bonanza said the Anderson Center plans to have staff available near the tree and at the Gallery@Rhinebeck, 47 E. Market st., to provide assistance for families who need items that can provide sensory distractions.

“There are all sorts of tools that are being incorporated like sensory objects for families that need them,” she said. “It’s something that someone can touch or draw their senses to so, if they’re agitated, it can help calm them down. There will also be non-choking hazard treats, which matters to a lot of families as well.”

Activities prior to the tree lighting will vary throughout the village, with businesses and organizations putting together little events to make strolling on the sidewalk festive.

“There will be tables set up by community groups with things they are doing or selling,” Bonanza said. “There will be popcorn, hot chocolate, hot dogs and ornaments. There will be all sorts of hands-on things that people can buy for Christmas presents and decorations.”