INNOCEAN Canada Creates Sensory Friendly Album for World Autism Awareness Day

INNOCEAN Canada, restaurant Sarang Kitchen and neurodivergent community developed the album to regulate stressful environments

Sarang Kitchen - Toronto’s first neurodivergent friendly restaurant – and creative agency INNOCEAN Canada have partnered together to create Breaking Barriers, the first sensory friendly EP album, for the neurodivergent community created by the neurodivergent community.

According to researchers, nearly 90% of Autistic people experience some form of sensory-hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity, which can include touch, smell, and hearing. People who experience sensory-hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity with hearing are less likely to dine out as they can become overwhelmed and overpowered by the environment’s stimulus, or the lack of stimulus in other cases.

The album, Breaking Barriers, acts as a tool to help assist individual’s ability to regulate in an otherwise-stressful environment: dining out. This collaboration between Sarang Kitchen, INNOCEAN Canada, Grayson Music, and Jazz Hands Music Place resulted in the creation of an album of completely original music for restaurant settings, and personal use.

The project began as a study of the barriers that neurodiverse individuals face when dining out at restaurants. Research shows that, in individuals who are neurodiverse, music can help reduce anxiety, improve speech output, and increase social interaction with peers. Music has been proven to have a positive impact on the community, due to the importance of movement in various aspects of functioning in everyday life.

Breaking Barriers aims to be a form of a “mobile sensory room” for individuals who are neurodiverse, allowing the enjoyment of great cuisine and public spaces for families, groups, and individuals with different needs that aren’t considered by most of the restaurant and dining industry.

To assist with the creation of the album, the INNOCEAN Canada team reached out to long-time collaborators Grayson Music, who helped develop specific music for the Breaking Barriers EP. The album benefits from extensive research into factors such as the correct BPM, tone, rhythm, brown noise, and instrument choices and how they affect mood and emotion. Working with Jazz Hands Music Place – a group representing neurodivergent musicians – also influenced the development of the album. Each track is an original composition built from scratch to be used as a tool for the community. Neurodivergent staff and colleagues from Sarang Kitchen also performed and contributed to the album.

The EP album will be used in Sarang Kitchen as their dining music, playing for all patrons to listen to. Additionally, it is being shared through Spotify and promoted during the restaurant’s sensory friendly hours; where lights are dimmed, music is played quieter, and their sensory room is open. With its online availability, the album can be used as a tool by all restaurants globally to help people regulate in a stressful environment.

“From the beginning, we were struggling to find music that was sensory friendly that we could play in our restaurant during sensory friendly hours,” said Jennifer Low, Co-owner and Founder of Sarang Kitchen. “So, the INNOCEAN team came up with this brilliant idea of doing a sensory friendly album. Our staff is comprised of neurodivergent individuals, so, they were excited to create an album for people just like them. It was also important to us that the neurodivergent community had the opportunity to create the music themselves. Our hope is now that more restaurants will know about the album and consider making sensory friendly hours a regular part of their experience, so their dining spaces are inclusive of everyone.”

“It means so much to be able to bring awareness to the neurodivergent community while also contributing to it. It’s a place where my family can safely enjoy meals and create memories, and I’m grateful that other families in our community can partake in the experience too.” says Caitlin Rudnick, VP group account director. “We are strong believers in creating environments open to everyone, from our place of work to the places we go.

The EP album, Breaking Barriers, releases on April 2nd, on Spotify coinciding with World Autism Awareness Day. This day highlights the need to improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society."