The Red Claws are toning things down.

On the same weekend Portland’s other minor-league sports teams made a big splash – the Sea Dogs announced they’re changing their name for one game in June to the Maine Whoopie Pies and the Maine Mariners started selling Wild Blueberries merchandise for their own temporary transformation on March 9 – the local G League franchise is holding its first Autism Awareness Night.

When the Claws host the Raptors 905 on Saturday night at the Portland Expo, the public address volume will be reduced. Flashing lights and other hoopla surrounding the game will be limited. The players will wear theme jerseys featuring the puzzle piece, the prime symbol for autism.

The sensory-reduced environment will include a quiet room open to all fans. Proceeds from a 50/50 raffle will benefit Spurwink Services.

Sarah Howorth, an assistant professor of special education at the University of Maine, and an expert in the area of autism and behavior analysis, applauds the effort. She said autism is a disability that affects one in 68 children and is characterized by social skills impairments such as difficulty in interpreting facial and vocal expressions, and the perspectives of others.

“It is essential for Maine families to be aware of the services available to them, and to have the support of the community,” she wrote in an email. “The Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research offers families resources, teaches professional development and consults with many stakeholders in the community to provide information and support to those affected by autism in Maine.”

Individuals on the autism spectrum can be overwhelmed by sensory input such as big crowds, bright lights, loud crowds or lots of talking or shouting at once.

“Combining the themed jersey night with a reduced sensory game presentation to support people with Autism is an unprecedented event for us.” said Dajuan Eubanks, team president, in a press release. “We are taking our theme night experience to a new level, all for a very good cause.”

The Volk Packaging Corporation of Biddeford is sponsoring the event. Derek Volk, company president, co-wrote a book with his son Dylan entitled “Chasing the Rabbit: A Dad’s Life Raising His Son on the Spectrum.”

Doors open Saturday at 6 p.m., an hour before tipoff.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH


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