Jesseca Hartman
Director of Clinical Operations

A Sensory-Friendly Guide to the Indiana State Fair

2 minute read

For as long as I can remember, I have loved visiting the fair. Growing up, I had many visits to the Hendricks County Fair, but when we had a chance to go to the Indiana State Fair, it was a special experience. This summer, I look forward to continuing the tradition and going with my husband and son. We look forward to trying new foods, riding rides and petting animals. While the fair is an exciting place to be, some kids may feel overwhelmed by the busy environment, especially kids with developmental disabilities and autism. Unfamiliar experiences, loud noises and busy crowds can be overstimulating.

Negative experiences can be minimized with a little bit of preparation ahead of time. As fair season quickly approaches, here are some tips to have a positive experience at the fair this summer:

1. Go on a cooler weekday.
Stressors such as heat or busy crowds can be overwhelming for your child. Try visiting on a slow weekday or a cool morning!

2. Do it in small chunks.
A 10-hour day at the fair might sound good in theory, but it can be overwhelming for anyone, especially kids with sensory processing difficulties. I recommend breaking your state fair visit into smaller morning visits rather than trying to see everything in one day.

3. Have a plan.
Kids with autism thrive with schedules. Explain what your child might see or experience at the state fair and give them the opportunity to create a plan for the day. When at the fair, try using first-then statements, such as, “first we need to eat, then we will go on the Ferris wheel.”

4. Pack small.
Packing a large bag might be stressful to drag around in the heat. Instead, bring fidgets or comfort items as well as water and snacks that you know your child will eat and you should be good to go.

5. Keep your child involved.
Waiting for long periods of time can be challenging for all children, so try avoiding activities that involve waiting. Instead, try activities that require movement or sensory experiences that he/she can interact with and touch. A great example of this is petting animals!

6. Do what’s best for your child.
Because disabilities like autism are spectrum disorders, it can be difficult to create a fair itinerary that works for everyone. In the end, you know your child best. Know your child’s capabilities ahead of time and keep them in mind throughout your fair experience.

7. Look for signs of overstimulation.
Find a quiet, cool building ahead of time if you can. If you notice your child is overstimulated or needs a break, you’ll have a designated place to go and won’t be struggling during a tantrum to figure out what to do. Great news – the state fair has created spaces this year to destress if your child is overstimulated.

I hope these tips can help your fair experience be a positive memory that lasts a lifetime for you and your family!

Check out the Indiana State Fair 2021 Sensory Friendly Map for all the stops you should know!

Sensory friendly trail map