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SAFE (Supporting Autism Friendly Environments) Program

Parents and child at table talking with student clinicians outside the Mobile Autsim Clinic

Virginia Tech Supporting Autism Friendly Environments (SAFE) Autism Awareness Women's Basketball game

Sunday, December 11 at 1pm

Cassell Coliseum on the VT Campus

The SAFE Program, the VT Autism Clinic & Center for Autism Research (VTAC/CAR), and the VT Women's Basketball team are collaborating on our second Autism friendly basketball event!  This game, against UNC Asheville, will involve special sensory cues, lowered music volume, and a SAFE space for people to visit and take a break from the action.
Read an overview of the team's season here.
Learn more about Elizabeth Kitley (#33) and her autistic sister Raven here.

If you or a family member are in need of a sensory friendly experience, sign up through this link to receive the SAFE ticket promo code. 
You will then receive an email with information on how to purchase tickets with the promo code, which allows you to get the group rate.

Virginia Tech faculty and staff members
will receive free admission to the game!

Claim your ticket at the ticket window the day of the game
by showing your Hokie Passport.

We send a sincere thank you to all of the parents, youth, athletes, basketball fans, band members, VTCAR URA volunteers, athletics staff and the Hokie Bird for an incredibly successful SAFE event in 2021. The collaboration between VT Athletics and VTAC/CAR/SAFE would not have happened without the inspiration and initiation of WBB player #33, Liz Kitley, who's older sister, Raven, has autism. We are grateful to the VT Women's Basketball team and to RU Women's Basketball for a SAFE, family friendly afternoon!  To learn more about VT WBB team's autism acceptance efforts, watch this quick video.





The SAFE (Supporting Autism Friendly Environments) program provides greater access for individuals with autism to attend local venues and participate in community activities. True to Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission, this outreach initiative provides enrichment activities to local families to enhance the quality of life for individuals in our community.


SAFE Community Champion Awards

The success of the SAFE program depends on community partners who are willing to "champion" the mission and goals of the SAFE program. Our deepest gratitude to the following individuals and their organizations for being our SAFE Community Champions through the years.  Stay tuned to learn who will become our newest SAFE Community Champion!

2017 Susan Mattingly and The Lyric Theatre

2018 Mike Weaver and Hokie BugFest

2019 Phyllis Newbill and the Virginia Tech Science Festival

2020 Jordan Albright - As a clinical science graduate student with a full schedule, her work behind the scenes of planning, staffing and training various organizations to be ‘SAFE’ approved was top notch.  We are grateful for her tireless efforts and three year dedication to the program, where Jordan organized and implemented at least 12 SAFE trainings.

2022 Winner TBD!


SAFE Goals

Goals for the SAFE Program are twofold: (1) to provide everyday access to entertainment venues for individuals with autism and their families; and (2) to create a culture of awareness and acceptance in our community. While increasing access for meaningful participation in the community by individuals with autism, SAFE also teaches empathy, creating a community of care and compassion – qualities greatly valued by Virginia Tech.

Program Activities

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability typically causing significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. These challenges can make it difficult for individuals with autism to attend a parade, enjoy a fireworks demonstration, or experience entertainment outlets like going to the movies, watching a sporting event, eating out at a restaurant, going bowling, trick-or-treating, and so forth. The SAFE Program endeavors to partner with community organizations, businesses, and Virginia Tech to strategize low or no cost interventions that can increase access for individuals with autism and their families or friends.

The SAFE Program's previous partners include the VT Physics Department’s K-12 Outreach Program, the Universal Design course at VT, the VT Science Festival, Housing and Residential Life, Theta Delta Chi fraternity’s “Bro’s United” mentoring program, Kids Tech University, the Panhellenic Council at VT, and the VT ICAT Creativity and Innovation Day.

Check out the SAFE Facebook page for updates on news and events!

For more information, contact the SAFE director, Amy Azano at or 540-231-8889 or the VTCAR director, Angela Scarpa at or 540-231-8747.

Give a Gift

Contributions may be made to the VT Center for Autism Research SAFE Program and mailed to the address below.  Checks should be made payable to the “Virginia Tech Foundation Inc.” and include "VT Center for Autism Research-SAFE Program" in the memo section.

Virginia Tech
Office of Gift Accounting
University Development (0336)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

To make an immediate contribution using your credit card, you may use Virginia Tech's secure online form or contact the Office of Gift Accounting at 1-800-533-1144. If using the online form, type in the amount of your gift and click on the "Enter your own" (blue button to the right of the drop down menu for selecting which area will receive your gift).  Then type VT Center for Autism Research-SAFE Program and complete the rest of the form.

For more information or to learn about other ways to give, please contact Jenny Orzolek, Director of Development for the College of Science, by phone at 540-231-5643 or by email at