10 Places That Offer Special Days for Special Needs
Special Days for Special Needs
Sometimes you just want to get out of the house. Sometimes you want to throw the gear in the car and caution to the wind and go on an adventure with your kid (the wind in the hair and music on full blast and all that). But most times it’s too much. If you’re a special needs parent, you’re a fortune teller of sorts. You possess the ability to look into the future and see all the things that might go wrong at the park/restaurant/gym/theatre. So you stay home or travel the circuitous routes that are safe in their predictability. But maybe there’s a way to have the adventure AND create a safe space for your child. With a little research and a bit of bravery check out some of these places that offer special days for specials needs. It might just be a voyage worth the undertaking.
1. Chuck E Cheese Sunday
This place can send me into sensory overload. Let’s face it, Chuck can be a little much with the music from a thousand games beeping and buzzing and 90s pop rock thrumming in the background. But Sunday mornings from 9-11 a.m. Chuck calms down. Specifically designed by the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, this morning time provides play and pizza time with less crowds and less noise, which means more fun for you and your child.
2. Trampoline Parks
There are three trampoline parks in our vicinity that offer special needs hours. These are times that only the families of special needs children can come and jump and not be double bounced my a burly fifteen-year-old in the little kid’s section. We went and all my son wanted to do was lie in the bouncy house and let the waves roll him around, so he did, and it was magic. Check your local trampoline parks for hours.
3. Sensory Friendly Films
I love movies. I love the ambiance. I love the extra salty popcorn and bucket-sized cokes. I even love the previews. But my son cannot handle the several thousand watts of noise coupled with total darkness. It’s loud and scary and definitely not entertaining. But AMC has partnered with the Autism Society to offer movies with the lights up and sound down. Your child is encouraged to get up, talk, fidget and do whatever he or she needs to do to enjoy the show. No one’s going to yell at you for talking too loudly here. The Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday of every month. Check your local theaters for participation.
4. Ice Skating
My husband plays hockey. I watch hockey…under a blanket while reading a book. But I’ll always put my book down when he takes our son on the ice. It’s not such an easy task when navigating figure skating lessons and couples clinging to each other. Luckily, our local ice skating rink has specific hours for those with disabilities. The ice is wide open and freshly scraped, and even I will get out and try in those conditions. Also, if you live in the northeast, the Gliding Stars organization provides a regular program for individuals with disabilities “to increase their personal potential through the development of ice skating skills in a regular program of instruction and practice in their own local community.”
5. Achilles Club
This one is a favorite. If your child uses a wheelchair, this groups of volunteers offers sports activities in gyms all over the country. Our group meets once a month at the local recreation center. The Achilles Club is a “non-profit organization [that] has chapters and members in over 65 locations within the United States and abroad. Every day, in parks, gyms, and tracks all over the world, Achilles provides athletes with disabilities with a community of support.” They have also developed a program specifically for kids which “provides training, racing opportunities, and an in-school program for children with disabilities.” There’s nothing like watching your child wheelchair race with other kids and adults. The only downside is trying to find a safe place to stand. My toes have seen their fair share of sport-side injury.
The zoo is magical. It’s like an amusement park with wildlife where you don’t have to wait in line for rides. But the best thing about the zoo is their educational programs. They want you to learn a little zoology along with eating funnel cakes and petting goats. Our zoo offers a “Zooper Heroes Camp” which is geared towards children with special needs. It involves crafts, games, and education along with animal encounters. It’s an easy way to get up close and personal with the animals without the crowds. Check your local zoo for this summer program.
7. Children’s Theatre
I was a thespian once upon a time. I too felt the magic of the “big show.” It was high school, and I mostly did backstage work, but still I count myself a veteran of the stage. In theatre, real life meets illusion. It’s like a magic show with plot. But let’s face it, often times shows are too long or too raucous for kids with specials needs. The magic is lost if the environment feels too overwhelming. Our local children’s theatre offers sensory-friendly performances of each show, either on a Saturday or Sunday. Similar to the sensory friendly film environment, the lights are brighter, the sound is lower, and interaction with the audience is welcomed.
Related: Angels on Stage
8. Special Needs Bowling
Bowling can be cool and addicting if you let it. But bowling lanes are loud and jarring and crowded. League bowlers mean business as do the moms throwing their kid’s birthday party. The stimulus can ruin the fun. But if your child likes the idea of bowling without the chaos, check in to special needs bowling leagues in your area or hours that your local alley opens only to kids or those with disabilities. You’d be amazed how many games you can squeeze in when meltdowns are minimal.
Related: Let’s Go Turkey Bowling
I remember summer days at the Y. Running free with snow cones and never quite drying off from the pool. I remember winter days too when I decided I didn’t mind basketball all that much if it let me run around somewhere warm. YMCAs offer swimming, yoga and sports clinics so that special needs children can participate in healthy activities that improve physical fitness, have fun and make friends. This is what I want for my son—the ability to connect with other kids while growing in all areas of life.
10. Children’s Museum
Forget the MOMA. We need a museum where nothing is breakable, and everything is touchable. Children’s museums are naturally special needs friendly. They provide handicap access, and the exhibits are sensory-sensitive. You can test your hearing on walls of headphones, learn about dental hygiene by scrambling through a mouth and down a tongue and paint and run to your heart’s content. They also offer specific hours for those with special needs if you prefer a less crowded experience.
So if you’re feeling brave and sick of your house and that one park down the road, venture to one of these special needs friendly sites for a memory that hasn’t been played on repeat.
- Traveling Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs
- Encourage Traveling for All Without Limits
- Traveling with Special Dietary Need
- 7 Special Accessible Vacation Spots
- Free Access Pass to America the Beautiful
- Explore and Discover Our World With the Help of These Apps
- 7 Perks to Traveling with Your Special Needs Child
- Top 5 Children’s Museums That Are Fun for Everyone!
- 10 Places That Offer Special Days for Special Needs
- Roll the Dice Its Game Time for All Abilities
- Summer Travel & Outdoor Fun with Apps
- Picnic in the Garden: Sensory Play and Sensory Foods for the Outdoors
- 5 Great Opportunities for Outdoor Activity
- It’s Fall: Sneak in a Little Outdoor Fun Together With Your Kids
- Cool Rules: Preventing Heat Stress In Special Needs Children
- Is Your Family Ready for Fun in the Water this Summer?
- Summer Time: Pools, Sun, Fun, Relaxing and No School!
- How to Plan a Safe and Fun Summer With COVID-19 Guidelines
- A to Zoo Accessibility at KidZooU Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center
- 4 Tips for Managing Parties and Social Gatherings this Summer