Sensory-Friendly Chicagoland: Activities and Events for Special Needs

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Indoor Activities

We have the scoop on sensory-friendly events for children with special needs! These all-inclusive events are often limited to smaller group sizes to help reduce noise and activity, while increasing engagement and the ability for kids to move about. There are many new options of theaters, play places, museum times, and movie screenings that accommodate special needs. My whole family enjoys these experiences and my son with special needs has the opportunity to enjoy these activities with our family because of these all-inclusive accommodations!

Sensory-Friendly Chicagoland: Activities and Events for Special Needs

Sensory-Friendly Theater

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 can download a social story to help prepare for the performance at home. Find information and buy tickets here.

Sensory-Friendly Play Places

We Rock the Spectrum in Palatine and We Rock the Spectrum in Franklin Park are gyms with specialized equipment for all ability levels to play, learn, and grow. They offer open gym times and classes. There is a host of staff available to help children grow beyond the expectations of their doctors and therapists.

At Sky High Sports Trampoline Park in Niles, every Tuesday is Special Needs Day. Music is off and distractions are minimized during these sessions. The event runs from 4–6 pm and costs $5 per jumper (a parent or therapist can accompany for free). Siblings are also $5.

Additionally, due to the pandemic, many indoor play areas are now offering private rentals at reasonable rates! This option lets you have the whole place to yourself.

Sensory-Friendly Museum Play

The DuPage Children’s Museum is currently open for pre-registered private play times. Normally, the third Thursday of every month is Family Night Out at DuPage Children’s Museum from 4:00 – 8:00 pm; this may change when the museum reopens.

The Field Museum hosts Sensory Saturdays from 9:00 am – 10:00 am, 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 due to limited space. See their accessibility page for more information, or email accessibilityeducator@fieldmuseum.org.

Currently, the Chicago Children’s museum is closed. Once re-opened, Play for All at the Chicago Children’s museum has normally been the second Saturday of every month. The museum invites children to experience their multi-sensory exhibits one hour earlier than the public. Participants must register in advance and space is limited.

Brookfield Zoo is currently open, but the Hamill Family Play Zoo is still closed. Once re-opened, they will likely resume hosting Hamill Family Play Zoo: Sensory-Friendly Mornings. The Hamill Family Play Zoo also contains a sensory area in which families may use to calm down and have some quiet time.

The Shedd Aquarium is currently open and has created a quiet room providing a dedicated space that can be used as a calming room, prayer room or place to privately recharge mobility devices, which is available any day you wish to visit the museum. Once aquatic shows re-start, they will have special seating withs modifications including limited capacity and streamlined entry with advanced registration.

Sensory-Friendly Immersive Experiences

The FRIENDSTM Experience: The One in Chicago is now Autism certified – offering private on-site quiet rooms for guest with sensory needs to take a break and with 80% of the staff trained for proper guidance through the experience, noting which areas may be sensitive. Sit on the famous orange couch, hang out at Central Perk, in Rachel & Monica’s kitchen, sit in Joey & Chandler’s recliners, recreate the hilarious Pivot scene with Ross and more.

Sensory-Friendly Movies

AMC’s Sensory Friendly Films

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. 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. It can be tricky to order these tickets online, so we recommend calling the theater to make sure you’re getting the right screening.

Participating AMC theatres nearby:

Special Needs Screenings at Studio Movie Grill

Studio Movie Grill locations, including the one in Wheaton, offer Special Needs Screenings at 11 am on two Saturdays each month with family-friendly new releases. Please call ahead, they are not running every weekend yet. You must purchase tickets at the box office.

Reel Movies for Reel Needs Marcus

Marcus Theaters hosts a Reel Movie for Real Needs event monthly. Check the Marcus website for a list of running movies on Saturdays at 10:30 am.
Participating Marcus theaters nearby:

Hollywood Boulevard Special Needs Screenings

Hollywood Boulevard in Woodridge recently began hosting Special Needs Screenings. Tickets are $6 per person. Keep an eye on their events page for future screenings, too.

Bright Stars Screening at Hollywood Palms

Hollywood Palms in Naperville offers Bright Stars Screenings. Check the schedule because show times are currently limited. Tickets are $5 per person. Click here to see the upcoming movie and find a link for tickets.

If you know of another program, activity, school, class, camp, or event for kids with special needs, please let us know! You can comment below or email Annie at annie@mykidlist.com. As always, you will find more fun things to do with kids here on Kidlist.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Thank you!!!!

    Reply
  • Stephan Bilski
    June 16, 2019 9:01 am

    Thanks to all who are responsible for making places more accessible to special friends.

    The problem my son and I are having is we love concerts! My son uses a wheelchair and he can’t stand. We need the wheelchair section. We have been to more than 100 concerts all over the country. And venues think they provide a section for wheelchairs that it’s just ok to be in the building. But when the concert starts, everyone stands and blocks our view. Sometimes they stand for the entire show. It is very frustrating to see my son sit while everyone is standing and watching the act. And some people use the handicap section with canes and stand during the entire show. (New Jersey is the only place that requires proof of disability to purchase a ticket in the wheelchair section)
    I would love to see these venues create a section where the people who sit in front of the wheelchair section, are forbidden to stand during the show and they know in advance they can not stand during the show.
    Thank You Stephan Bilski Oak Lawn Illinois

    Reply

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