You may have seen an entertainment venue or children’s event deemed sensory friendly. This typically means that there is special care taken to accommodate the needs of individuals with autism or sensory processing disorder. Often lights are dim and sounds are muted to allow the experience be more pleasing.
We are fortunate to have several sensory friendly activities on the Seacoast this fall.
The CDC reports that autism affects 1 in 59 children. Autism involves difficulty in communication and social interaction, as well as repetitive movements or intense interests. Most children with autism also experience sensory processing difficulties – often over/under reacting to environmental stimuli. Yet there are many children with Sensory Processing Disorder who do not have autism. They may overreact to clothing or sounds (like in a public restroom) or constantly be ‘on the go’ or crashing into things.
These behaviors and sensitivities can make it difficult for a child with autism or SPD to:
- watch a movie in a theater
- go to a birthday party in a large play place
- behave appropriately in a museum
- eat out at a restaurant
- take a trip with their family.
Through advocacy with Autism Speaks, education within the community, and parent involvement with local stakeholders; these rites of passage for many children are becoming a bit more attainable. Here’s a quick roundup of Seacoast sensory friendly activities and events for this fall and beyond.
Many local theaters now have sensory friendly viewings of new release movies, typically those rated G and PG. They keep the theater dimly lit as opposed to pitch black, lower the volume, permit snacks as well as frequent movement breaks.
Children’s Museum of New Hampshire hosts the Exploring Our Way Autism Program the first Sunday of the month. Check out their website for social stories and visual supports to plan your trip. Make sure to stop at the Henry Law Park Playground, behind the museum. It’s accessible plus it’s a sensory wonderland for kids — one our favorite Seacoast parks!
Springfield Museums – Once per month they host Sensory Friendly Saturday where the Dr. Seuss Museum and Science Museum open early with modified exhibits. Add it to your list if you travel out towards Western MA!
See their individual calendars for times and dates of designated sensory sensitive hours.
Urban Air Trampoline Park – South Portland ME (among other locations)
Sky Zone – Manchester NH (among other locations)
Chuck E. Cheese – Sensory Sensitive Sundays, the first Sunday of each month, visit two hours before regular opening for modified menu, theater, restaurant and arcade.
Autism Eats, although not in our area yet, certifies restaurants as autism-friendly by bringing training to their servers and waitstaff. Their website lists eating establishments that have participated in their awareness training program.
Wings for All sets-up opportunities for individuals with autism to practice the steps for airplane travel. At an event, individuals with autism can check in, get their boarding passes, pass through security, wait in the boarding area and board an aircraft (that doesn’t take off). With airplane travel so involved, hectic and unpredictable these days, this is such an amazing teaching opportunity.
Fall Sensory Friendly Activities on the Seacoast
Topsfield Fairgrounds– Oct 7 from 10-2
The fairgrounds will be a little more mellow since vendors won’t be playing music. Plus, they’ll reduce the announcements and volume on the loud speakers.
Blue Man Group – 10/19 at 11am
With tickets to benefit Autism Speaks, this show will have reduced sound/lights and audience interactions, headphones offered and an established quiet space in the lobby if things get overwhelming.
Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular 10/31 – 11/3 at 5pm
During off-peak times before opening to the general public, the Roger Williams Park Zoo offers tickets to their renown pumpkin event deemed “sensory sensitive”. Even with 5000 pumpkins lit, they omit the lights and sounds that might be overstimulating to those participants with special needs. The Roger Williams Park Zoo has regular accommodations to their attractions that support individuals with special needs.
Boston Pops 12/7 at 10am
Another event sponsored by Autism Speaks, this regular holiday performance will featured a shortened set, relaxed house rules, lower lights and volumes, and trained volunteers.