Sensory-Friendly Experiences for Kids on the Main Line
Here are the places working to make the Main Line more accessible for all.
With increasing awareness of the challenges children with sensory sensitives may encounter, has come the increased commitment of institutions and attractions to provide welcoming spaces. From relaxed performances to social stories to the addition of quiet areas, organizations have made adjustments to help make experiences more sensory-friendly and accessible for all. In addition to the many attractions in Philly, here is what you can find on the Main Line and beyond.
1661 Harding Blvd., Norristown
This year, Elmwood Park Zoo became the first zoo in the world to earn certification as a Certified Autism Center. They created a Sensory Guide to the zoo, detailing how each attraction could affect each sense; and social narratives to help prepare for a zoo trip. They also have a dedicated quiet space (located across from the Prairie Dog exhibit) for guests to take time out.
Throughout the year, Elwood Park Zoo hosts Early Access Mornings for guests with special needs and their family to enjoy the zoo in a relaxing setting before it opens to the general public. They even did a Boo Just For You night, a sneak preview of Boo at the Zoo events geared towards guests with special needs. Pre-registration is required for these events.
Plymouth Meeting Mall, 500 W. Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting
Upcoming dates: November 20
At their Sensory Friendly Days, LEGOLAND—with The Ruttenberg Autism Center and MusicWorks—provide a sensory friendly LEGO experience and music therapy. In addition to music therapy sessions, there is reduction of sound and light levels in certain areas, pre-visit social stories, and quiet spaces.
100 Sesame Road, Langhorne
Sesame Place is the world’s first theme park to be designated as a Certified Autism Center. Team members completed a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training at the theme park, and have worked to develop resources for kids with special needs, like a Sensory Guide, Quiet Rooms, and more. There are also opportunities to meet and interact with Julia, a little girl Muppet with autism, at 123 Smile With Me.
1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford
Upcoming dates: January 5, 2019
Three times during the year, the museum hosts free Sensory-Friendly Saturdays designed specifically for visitors of all ages on the autism spectrum or with sensory processing disorder. Registered guests get free admission before the museum opens, pre-visit social stories, hands-on activities along with support from experienced volunteers, fidgets, noise-cancelling headphones, and sensory break areas. Also for this year, the museum has a special Sensory Friendly Train Morning on January 5, where registered guests get early access to the Museum’s Brandywine Railroad display. For more information, or to register, contact Laura Westmoreland at email@example.com or call 610-388-8120.
In addition to the sensory-friendly mornings, Brandywine River Museum also created Sensory-Friendly Museum Packs, available for free during museum hours. These packs contain social stories, fidgets, noise-cancelling headphones, and activity suggestions. To request a pack, inquire at Visitor Services when purchasing admission.
9 Conestoga Road, Malvern
Upcoming dates: December 29
During Relaxed Performances, this theater becomes a “shush-free” zone and house lights remain on at a low level, so patrons with autism, sensory sensitivities, and other special needs can freely move around and express themselves and enjoy the show. They also create a quiet sensory lounge, and provide pre-show materials, fidgets, and other sensory toys to borrow as needed. The next performance will be Cinderella: A Musical Panto on the afternoon of December 29.
401 DeKalb Street, Norristown
Upcoming dates: December 1
Every season, the theater has a relaxed production of its major performance, where house lights remain on, sounds are reduced, and guests can talk, vocalize, and leave their seats as needed. The next one will be The Color Purple on December 1 at 3 pm.
Theatre Horizon’s Autism Drama Program also offers six-week courses for children and adults on the spectrum, from spring through fall.
53 S. 69th St., Upper Darby
Upcoming dates: November 10
Monthly morning Special Needs Screenings are shown with the lights up and the volume lowered. Children are free to move around and talk during the movie as well. The next screening will be The Nutcracker and the Four Realms on November 10.
Click here for more resources in Philly.
Photograph courtesy of Visit Philadelphia.