The holiday season is for everyone, but all of the excitement and commotion surrounding the various Yuletide events can be overwhelming for children on the autism spectrum and those with related sensory sensitivities. Here are five sensory-friendly activities for the holiday season that everyone can enjoy.
Run Around Fun
The holiday season is a tireless time full of excitement. Release that energy at We Rock the Spectrum, a kid’s gym founded to provide a place for children of all ability levels to play together. The gym includes uniquely designed sensory equipment that is specifically designed for children with sensory processing disorders, but the gym is not limited to only those with sensory sensitivities. The gym maintains a philosophy that all children are able to benefit from the equipment and from playing with children of all different ability levels. If your child prefers jumping to running, visit one of the various Sky Zone locations throughout Ohio. Most locations offer sensory hours where special needs guests jump for free in a quieter, toned-down environment. Check your local Sky Zone for availability or to make a reservation.
Day at the Zoo
The zoo can be a chaotic place, from the throngs of visitors to the sights, sounds and smells of the animals. However, various zoos around Ohio have taken measures to accommodate those with sensory sensitivities. The Akron Zoo provides sensory bags containing fidget tools and noise-canceling headphones. Additionally, the zoo has designated “Quiet Zones” throughout the park for those who need to sit and regroup. The Cleveland Zoo also offers sensory bags and quiet zones, and the zoo’s accessibility map denotes nine “headphone zones” where loud noises are present. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium provides sensory maps for each of the different areas of the zoo, noting areas with strong smells and loud noises. The Cincinnati Zoo also provides sensory maps, as well as sensory-friendly bathrooms.
Photos with Santa
Taking a picture with Santa is a classic holiday tradition for many families, but for children and families with special needs, visiting Father Christmas can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing activity. Many malls are helping eliminate this stress by providing sensory-friendly experiences that welcome guests with all types of special needs to visit with Santa in a controlled and welcoming environment. Families can visit Polaris Fashion Place on Sunday, December 1 and 8 from 9 – 11 AM for a free event prior to store openings with various accommodations, like dimmed lights, muted music, and activity tables to provide the most calming experience possible. RSVP a time slot here.
Additional Sensory-Friendly Dates and Locations:
December 1, 2019 from 9-11 AM at Dayton Mall
December 1, 2019 from 10-11:30 AM at Northgate Mall in Cincinnati
December 8, 2019 from 9:30-11:30 AM at Indian Mound Mall in Heath
December 15, 2019 from 12-5 PM at Coffee Connections of Hilliard
Day at a Museum
The freezing temperatures of Ohio winters often call for long days spent inside a museum. Various museums around Ohio offer sensory accommodations so all children and families can enjoy the exhibits they have to offer. COSI in Columbus includes a free calming room for those who need a break. The Calming Room, on the first floor near the Guest Services desk, is available whenever the center is open.The Cleveland Children’s Museum offers Sensory Friendly Time on the third Sunday of each month where the museum is opened an hour and a half early to preregistered guests to enjoy the exhibits in a quieter, less crowded environment. Additionally, the museum offers noise canceling headphones, sensory toys and visual supports upon request, and includes a sensory friendly room with special lighting and calming music. The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton offers sensory bags with fidget toys, noise-muffling headphones, nonverbal cards, stress balls and sensory identifying landwards upon request. The museum also has a sensory map that designates quiet zones, headphone zones and hands-on interactive areas.
A Musical Moment
Attend one of the multiple sensory-friendly musical performances this holiday season. Check out Santa and the Symphony by the New Albany Symphony Orchestra on December 21 from 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM for a specially designed concert for those on the autism spectrum. The Dayton Performing Arts Center is hosting a sensory-friendly performance of The Nutcracker, with dimmed house lights, lower sound levels, relaxed theater rules and the elimination of startling special effects December 20 at 2:00 PM. For even more Christmas and sensory-friendly performances, CATCO will host a special performance of Winnie the Pooh: A Christmas Tail for those with sensory sensitivities on December 14 at 4 PM, and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will perform a sensory-friendly version of A Christmas Carol on December 3 at 10 AM.