Special needs

Sensory-friendly fun for Autism Month

These sensory-friendly events and activities make family outings more fun and inclusive for kids with autism.

Sensory-friendly fun for Autism Month

Photo: iStockphoto

Kids with autism just wanna have fun, but sometimes the noise, lights and social expectations on family outings can all be a bit too much. April is Autism Awareness Month, and some trailblazing Canadian companies are tuning in to the needs of children with autism and sensory sensitivities by taking things down a notch. When the lights are not so bright and the crowds and noise are kept in check, kids with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) feel less overwhelmed in family spots such as restaurants, stores and movie theatres. We love these sensory-friendly events for Autism Awareness Month. Here’s hoping more companies will work on being inclusive and add year-round sensory-friendly events to their calendars.

Be our guest, says Cineplex Who doesn’t want to see Emma Watson’s Belle whirl around the dance floor with her shaggy-haired beau in Beauty and the Beast? Now kids with autism and their family and friends can share in the big-screen magic at a sensory-friendly screening of Disney’s latest release at one of 29 Cineplex cinemas across Canada. To kick of Autism Awareness Month. The volume will be low and the lights, up – and families can bring their own snacks to cater to special diets. There’s also a Calming Zone, in case any kid needs a moment away from the movie. And it’s not a token gesture for Cineplex; the chain offers sensory-friendly screenings every 4-6 weeks (at designated cinemas) to coincide with new releases.

Toys “R” all of us Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores across Canada are swinging their doors open early, on Sunday April 2, for Sensory-Friendly Shopping Hour. The World Autism Awareness Day event will give kids with autism and their families the chance to browse the aisles of under dimmed lights and without music or in-store announcements. There will also be designated quiet spaces and product demos and activities geared towards kids with ASD. The stores will also be fundraising for Autism Speaks throughout March and April – an annual tradition.

SkyZone is our new friend zone Trampolining is a great way to improve motor skills, fitness and muscle tone – all while working out frustrations and having fun. There are Sensory Hours allocated every month at Skyzone locations across Canada. Kids with Autism and other special needs can come along with their families to jump on the trampolines in a toned-down environment. The music will be off and the lights dimmed, so that kids can get their bounce and their mellow on.

Inclusive chow-down at Chuck E. Cheese’s Every first Sunday of the month from – starting this April 2 on World Autism Day – 10 branches of Chuck E. Cheese’s across Canada are hosting Sensory Sensitive Sundays. From 9-11 a.m., kids with autism and their loved ones can chow down on cheesy bread and churros – not to mention regular and gluten-free pizza – in a low-key environment. Parents can even bring their own snacks for kids with special dietary needs. The show and music will be turned off or down and the Chuck E. mascot will be keeping a lower profile. Dim lighting and a restriction on the number of diners, as well as special games and activities will make for a great morning out for all the family.

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