Pennsylvania Supreme Court Celebrates Expansion of Sensory-Friendly Courtrooms during Autism Acceptance Month

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty recognized the efforts of courts statewide to create autism-friendly environments for court users and their families.

“The courthouse setting can be an intimidating one, especially for children and individuals who are neurodiverse,” Dougherty said.

“The Autism in the Courts initiative is aimed at finding those gaps in the system where we can enact real and permanent change, to make the court experience more sensory-friendly for those who need it most.

“As we educated our county court judges, they were able to begin identifying areas where small changes would make a big difference – and they went to work.

“I’m pleased to announce that 22 counties have integrated sensory tools into courtrooms – including fidget toys, noise cancelling headphones, sunglasses and color packets for anyone to use during hearings.  Additionally, a dozen counties have created dedicated spaces in the courthouse for sensory integration and emotional regulation to serve children with autism.”

Sensory rooms provide a quiet and calm space away from the hustle and bustle of the courthouse where anyone, especially those with sensory processing differences and autism, can find some solace and peace. The rooms may include a white noise, a projector, weighted blankets and vests, I-Pads with neurodiverse apps specifically for autistic individuals, and other items designed specifically for such spaces.

Pennsylvania is the first state in the nation to focus on identifying and supporting the needs of neurodiverse families within the court system, creating lasting change for those with an ASD coming through the court system.

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in 36 Pennsylvania children and more than five million adults nationwide are diagnosed with autism.