Sensory-friendly events make it easier to get in on the fun for kids with autism or who have other special needs. What do these events look like? At a movie or play, the sound is softer, the lights stay on, and the audience can move around and chat. Other venues host sensory-friendly play hours without background music and other distractions. Check out our full list, and let us know of any spots we might have missed!
Sensory Friendly Films at AMC
AMC’s Sensory Friendly Films showings are available at select theatres. They show family-friendly movies on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month at 10 a.m. Films for mature audiences run the second and fourth Tuesday evenings of each month. Visit the Sensory Friendly Films page on the AMC website to see upcoming movies.
Buying tickets online can be a little tricky, so here’s the easiest way. Scroll down to “Sensory Friendly Film Showings” on this page and note the date of the showing. Next, click the “Learn More” button beneath the image of the movie poster. This takes you to the movie’s generic landing page on AMC’s website. Click “Advance Tickets” and change the date to the day of the sensory screening, then scroll until you find the screening, which will be under “Digital.” Make sure you are selecting the showing marked as a “Sensory Friendly Film.” Then, pick the time of the showing (usually 10 a.m. for family-friendly films and 7 p.m. for mature films) to continue and complete your purchase. Done!
Here are the participating AMC theatres nearby:
- Showplace Naperville 16
- Yorktown 18
- River East 21
- Showplace Galewood 14
- Lake In The Hills 12
- Northbrook Court 14
- Showplace New Lenox 14
- Showplace Niles 12
- Showplace Village Crossing 18
Special Needs Screenings at Studio Movie Grill
Studio Movie Grill locations, including the one in Wheaton, offer Special Needs Screenings at 11 a.m. on two Saturdays each month with family-friendly new releases. You must purchase tickets at the box office.
Reel Movies for Real Needs at Addison Cinema
Special Needs Screenings at Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood Boulevard in Woodridge recently began hosting Special Needs Screenings. Tickets are $6 per person. Check out the Lego Batman Special Needs Screening on on Saturday, February 25, 2017, and keep an eye on their events page for future screenings, too.
Bright Stars Screenings at Hollywood Palms
Hollywood Palms in Naperville offers Bright Stars screenings on the first Wednesday and following Saturday of the month. Tickets are $5 per person. Click here to see the upcoming movie and find a link for tickets.
Lights Up Sound Down Showings at Goodrich Randall 15 IMAX
Sensory-Friendly Plays and Shows
Chicago Children’s Theatre is committed to serving children with special needs, especially those with autism. Their Red Kite Project includes camps, classes, and performances specifically tailored for kids on the autism spectrum. See their sensory-friendly performance page for upcoming shows and pre-visit resources, including sensory guidance and social stories.
Filament Theatre in Chicago offers sensory-friendly performances with fewer lighting effects, softer sounds, a smaller audience, and a more relaxed environment. The audience can talk or leave their seats. Additionally, all attendees are emailed a social story to help prepare for the performance at home. Find information and buy tickets here.
Blue Man Group hosts a sensory-friendly show at each of their locations. Although 2017 dates have not been released, you can sign up to be emailed when the shows are scheduled here.
At Sky High Sports Trampoline Park in Naperville, every Tuesday is Special Needs Day. Music is off and distractions are minimized during these sessions. The event runs from 3–6 p.m. and costs $5 per jumper (a parent or therapist can accompany for free). Siblings are also $5.
The Field Museum hosts Sensory Saturdays at its PlayLab on Saturday mornings, with tactile opportunities and sensory tools for kids aged 2–6 years old. They do require you to register beforehand. See their accessibility page for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gizmos Fun Factory in Orland Park hosts Special Needs Family Time on the first and third Monday of each month from 4–8 p.m. During the event, which costs $20 per child, Gizmos is closed to the public and families can access all of the attractions. They also receive a $10 game card. See their events page for more information.
Spectrum Toy Store in Chicago is a small toy store specifically for kids with special needs. It was founded by in-home behavioral therapist who saw parents buying special toys online, only to have their kids not be interested. At Spectrum, kids can try out the toys to bring home a winner. The shop also hosts regular events, activities, and workshops.