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
Elmwood Park Zoo is 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 families to enjoy the zoo in a relaxing setting before it opens to the general public. They even do 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
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. Check their site for dates.
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.
Photograph courtesy of Sesame Place.
1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford
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.
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
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.
401 DeKalb Street, Norristown
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.
Theatre Horizon’s Autism Drama Program also offers six-week courses for children and adults on the spectrum, from spring through fall.
227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville
Sensory Friendly Screenings offer a more inclusive atmosphere because everyone should enjoy their time at the movies. During Sensory Friendly Screenings the theater lights will be dimmed, the volume will be turned down, and the “no talking during the film” rule will not be enforced. To accommodate any dietary needs and restrictions, individuals may bring their own snacks to enjoy during the film. The Colonial welcomes movie lovers of all ages and abilities.
53 S. 69th St., Upper Darby
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.
AMC has partnered with the Autism Society to offer unique movie showings where they turn the lights up, and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing! Their Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month. Please check your local theatre listings for specific showtimes.
180 Mill Road, Oaks
Regal’s My Way Matinee gives everyone the opportunity to experience a movie with the lights turned up and the volume turned down. This becomes safe space where guests are free to express themselves by singing, crying, dancing, walking around, talking or shouting while enjoying Hollywood’s latest films! All screenings for the sensory friendly movies will begin at 10:30am on the second and fourth Saturday of the month for a special discounted ticket price!
Click here for more resources in Philly.
Photograph courtesy of Visit Philadelphia.