Sensory Friendly Shopping Experiences for Kids with Autism
On a typical day, Toys ‘R Us is loud, bright and chaotic. Such an environment can very easily overwhelm a child with sensory needs. In a show of empathy towards differently abled customers, the company has recently launched Quiet Shopping Hours. During quiet hours, florescent lights are dimmer, in-store music and announcements are turned off, and signs around the store mark specific quiet zones.
While this program has been implemented in stores across the United Kingdom, US stores are just beginning to test this program in select stores. However, plans to scale up the program nationally for the holiday season are in motion. Parents in the UK have had extremely positive reactions, as these small changes allow them to have a pleasant shopping experience with their children. While Toys R Us has not yet released specific US location for quiet hours, stores are currently being paired up with local organizations to train staff and ensure a positive experience for customers.
Sensory Friendly Time and The Children’s Museum of Cleveland
The Children Museum of Cleveland and Cleveland State University’s physical therapy department are hosting a day of fun adaptive crafts, games and activities at the Children’s Museum of Cleveland! This event is absolutely free, however, registration is required. It takes place from 12:30-2:30 on December 10, 2016, January 21, 2017 and February 11, 2017. Register by clicking this link: https://cmcleveland.org/sensory-friendly-room/.
Sensory Friendly Santa
This year, Autism Speaks is partnering with Noeer Programs Corporation to bring sensory friendly Santa visits to over 180 malls across the nation! The experiences will be held on Sunday, November 20th and Sunday, December 4th for 2 hours prior to mall openings. These events provide a more controlled and friendly environment for families with special needs who want to visit Santa. You can register by clicking this link: https://www.autismspeaks.org/santa-2016. The website also provides information on all malls that will be hosting these events and which dates your local mall is participating. In northeast Ohio, the Summit Mall in Fairlawn, Ohio is participating on both November 20th and December 4th. Check out the website for all location listings and to register!
Sensory Friendly Movies at AMC Theaters
AMC Theatres has partnered with the Autism Society in order to make seeing a movie in theaters more accessible to children and adults with special needs. During these select showings, the house lights are left on, the volume is turned down, and customers are welcome to walk around, talk, shout or sing during the movie. Sensory friendly showings take place on the second and fourth Tuesday and Saturday every month, offering families four sensory friendly days each month. Participating AMC Theatres in Ohio include AMC Ridge Park Square U, AMC Lennox Town Center 24 and AMC Grove City 14.
Sensory Friendly Shows at Playhouse Square
Playhouse Square is located in Cleveland, Ohio and boasts the largest performing arts center outside of New York City. Between the loud noises, music, and bright lighting, a traditional show at the playhouse could easily become a sensory overload for kids on the autism spectrum or with sensory needs. Playhouse Square has adapted its programming in special sensory-friendly showings to make the theatre accessible to all viewers. Adaptations include lower sound levels and the elimination of startling sounds, low house lights, and designated quiet and calming areas. Additionally, guests are allowed to leave their seats and talk during the performance. These adaptations make seeing a play an enjoyable, fun experience for all potential thespians!
Sensory Friendly Shows at Columbus Children’s Theatre
Columbus Children’s Theatre began incorporating sensory friendly performances at the suggestion of a parent of a child with autism. This season, there will be sensory friendly showings of the following performances (2 times each): “Pinocchio”, “Fancy Nancy The Musical,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Director Bill Goldsmith emphasized that the content is the same in these performances. The only alteration in plot is the removal of startling features, such as loud noises. While the lights are dimmed, the audience is free to roam and vocalize; the core experience of seeing a play remains the same.
Sensory Friendly Day at COSI
COSI is a science and research museum located in Columbus, Ohio. On a typical day, it is loud and filled with people. In order to allow those with sensory needs to experience the museum, they offer a variety of sensory friendly options, such as special sensory-friendly days. Certain displays are altered to be less overwhelming, and special activities are held from 11-5pm. The day also features sensory friendly films and planetarium shows. Additionally, COSI opens its doors two hours early, specifically for children with special needs and their families three times a year. This allows for less people, which helps to prevent children from being overwhelmed. There are also sensory friendly shows on the second Saturday of each month at 3:00 and 4:00pm, and on Family Friday Nights at 7:00pm. These shows are shown in 2D with the lights on and the volume lowered. Finally, COSI also features a calming room, which is available to guests at all times. For more information, check out their website: http://cosi.org/kids/sensory-friendly-experiences
Kaylee Kapalko, Speech Language Pathology Intern