Chris Powell
Apr 4, 2024

This EP is music to the ears of neurodivergent restaurant-goers

Created by Innocean, with Grayson Music and Jazz Hands Music Place, "Breaking Barriers" is background music specifically designed for those with autism.

This EP is music to the ears of neurodivergent restaurant-goers

It’s called background music, but it seems like restaurant music is very much at the forefront these days, typically leading to a roomful of diners all shouting to be heard over the clamour, and contributing to noise levels that can reach 80db (the equivalent of a busy city street).

This excessive volume is particularly problematic for people on the autism spectrum, 90% of whom have a heightened response to sounds regarded as tolerable by others. That means people on the spectrum are less likely to dine out because they can become overwhelmed and overpowered by the environment’s stimulus.

Innocean Canada approached Sarang Kitchen, a neurodivergent establishment in Toronto that describes itself as a “restaurant and social enterprise in one,” with a potential solution—a new form of original background music specifically crafted with the neurodivergent community in mind.

Formally introduced today, World Autism Awareness Day, the resulting EP, “Breaking Barriers,” was created in partnership with Toronto audio house Grayson Music and Jazz Hands Music Place, a music library featuring compositions made exclusively by neurodivergent musicians.

It’s being described as a form of “mobile sensory room” for individuals who are neurodiverse, allowing families, groups, and individuals whose needs aren’t typically considered by most of the restaurant and dining industry to enjoy the dining out experience.

“It means so much to be able to bring awareness to the neurodivergent community while also contributing to it,” said Caitlin Rudnick, VP group account director at Innocean. “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. We are strong believers in creating environments open to everyone, from our place of work to the places we go.”

“Breaking Barriers” will be used as the dining music in Sarang Kitchen and is also being shared through Spotify and promoted during the restaurant’s sensory-friendly hours—where lights are dimmed and music is played at a lower volume. Innocean said that the hope is that restaurants around the world will use the EP for their background music.

Sarang Kitchen co-owner and founder Jennifer Low said that the restaurant has struggled to find music to play during its sensory-friendly hours and that the EP presents a solution.

“Our staff is comprised of neurodivergent individuals, so, they were excited to create an album for people just like them,” she said. “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.”


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