Greenfield Recorder – FirstLight extends access to recreation areas

A light rain falls as the sun sets over Barton Cove in Gill.

A light rain falls as the sun sets over Barton Cove in Gill.

Andy Brydges attended the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society’s annual conference at the College of the Holy Cross and saw a presentation that spoke to him.

The Autism Alliance, a program of the larger Advocates organization, spoke to attendees about the potential for sensory-sensitive businesses to better serve people with autism and their families and caregivers, and Brydges, director of community relations for FirstLight, “thought it would be a good thing for us to do.”

As a result, the company launched in late April a series of spring and summer recreational activities and improvements at the company’s facilities in Franklin County.

FirstLight is reopening its local attractions, including Turners Falls Fishway and Connecticut River Cruise, for the 2024 spring and summer season and will expand access to amenities for area residents and visitors. Anyone who attends sensory friendly classes at Turners Falls Fishway can download a social story from the FirstLight website to prepare for the trip and can expect a quieter environment at the facility. Social stories are tools that adults can use to help children learn to adjust their behavior and emotions to the situation they are in.

Sensory bags will also be available to support a more welcoming and accessible experience. Details on sensor-friendly Connecticut River Cruise times and resources will be announced closer to the start of the season.

“I thought it was a good idea. It would promote greater use of our facilities, most of which are already sensor-friendly and welcoming to that community,” Brydges said. “We are very excited about it. We would encourage other companies to look into this.”

He explained that FirstLight received free virtual training from Advocates.

“The partnership between the Autism Alliance and local businesses increases the quality of life for family caregivers and loved ones with autism and creates a welcoming and inclusive community for all,” said Jeffrey Keilson, senior vice president of strategic planning at Advocates. statement. “Autism-friendly businesses offer simple but impactful accommodations at their locations to better serve guests with autism and sensory sensitivities.”

Brydges said most of the offerings were already sensor-friendly and open to the public, but some activities are more structured now.

For more information about FirstLight’s recreation areas and upcoming programs, visit

Contact Domenic Poli at: [email protected] or 413-930-4120.