Nic and Paige Dowd are making hockey games more sensory-friendly and accessible to the autism community
The relationship between the National Hockey League and the autism community is a long-standing one, but until recently the focus has been focused primarily on financial support and raising awareness, with many teams holding fundraisers and hosting “Autism Awareness” nights.
In Washington, D.C. the Capitals’ unique engagement has been spearheaded by Paige and Nic Dowd. The couple came to D.C. when Nic was signed in the summer of 2018, and since then they’ve not only participated in the majority of the Capitals’ preexisting charitable endeavors–they also started their own.
“I saw how the day-to-day life of the parents can be challenging, and going to events that would be easy for some parents are more difficult for others,” Paige said to Taryn Bray for WashingtonCaps.com. “Nic and I wanted to make it a safe environment for kids to be able to enjoy a hockey game.”
Together they founded a program called “Dowd’s Crowd,” which helps children on the autism spectrum attend hockey games. Since many people with autism can be overwhelmed by stimuli like loud noises, bright lights, and large crowds–all typical features of a hockey game–they need some accommodations. Dowd’s Crowd provides resources to counteract, minimize, or soften those stimuli so that the kids can enjoy the game, like sound-canceling headphones and sunglasses.