'Barefoot Autism Challenge' raising awareness at NYC's Guggenheim Museum
UPPER EAST SIDE - Have you ever considered going to the Guggenheim Museum barefoot?
Most people probably didn't, but the Barefoot Autism Challenge might change your perspective.
Tyler Leech, who is autistic, started the challenge in 2017 to help educate the public about sensory sensitivities most people on the spectrum experience.
"It can even make things like shoes and socks feel constricting," Leech explains.
Ken Posner, who has no personal connection to autism, was inspired by the challenge and decided to participate.
"A lightbulb went off, and I realized I had just learned something important from the autistic community," he says.
Along with his friend Alfred Gon, Posner kicked off his shoes at the Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side, which supports the autistic community through the barefoot challenge and art programs.
The challenge is not only a fun activity but also serves a therapeutic purpose. The calming effect and natural stimulation from walking barefoot can create a better sense of grounding for autistic people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every 54 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In New York City alone, there are an estimated 7,000 children with autism who are currently receiving services, according to the New York State Department of Health. However, many more remain undiagnosed or underserved.
The Barefoot Autism Challenge has become a way to raise awareness and help the autism community in NYC. By removing their shoes in public places, participants are also drawing attention to the issue and promoting acceptance and understanding.
For those who are not on the spectrum, going barefoot may seem like a small act. But for those who experience sensory sensitivities, it can make a big difference. Leech hopes that the challenge will encourage people to see things from the perspective of those on the spectrum and to be more inclusive.
"It almost makes you feel like you're a kid again, cause every kid likes being barefoot," Leech told FOX 5 NY.