Sensory-Friendly Chicagoland and Activities for Children with Disabilities

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Indoor Activities

We have the scoop on sensory-friendly activities and events for children with disabilities! These all-inclusive events and activities are often limited to smaller group sizes to help reduce noise and activity, while increasing engagement and the ability for kids to move about. My son with a disability has the opportunity to enjoy activities without all of the external stimuli. He loves going to play places with smaller groups and going to museums and movies with less noise. 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 has the opportunity to enjoy these activities with our family because of these all-inclusive accommodations!

This article is sponsored by Hummingbird Therapy & Enrichment Center.

Hummingbird Therapy & Enrichment Center

Hummingbird Therapy & Enrichment Center
750 Pasquinelli Drive #204, Westmont: (630) 560-0136
9018 Heritage Parkway #600, Woodridge: (630) 442-7662
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Are you unsure as to whether your child is meeting developmental milestones? Hummingbird Pediatric Therapies now offers a free interactive online developmental screener for parents of children between the ages of 1-6 years old. If your child doesn’t fall between those ages and you have questions, just give them a call!

For 28 years, Hummingbird has earned the trust of families in the western suburbs. Today, Hummingbird has the most comprehensive pediatric therapy offerings and support for families in the Chicagoland area. All their pediatric therapists hold either a Master or Doctorate degree in their area of specialty. Hummingbird’s dedicated team of pediatric therapists will provide you and your family with the clinical expertise that you should expect.

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.

The Goodman Theatre in Chicago offers sensory-friendly performances. There are fewer sounds, lighting effects, and a more relaxed environment. They also offer sensory bags with noise cancelling headphones, fidgets, and a social story.

Blue Man Group in Chicago offers a sensory-friendly show time, typically a few times a year. They offer reduced sounds and lights, with optional ear plugs.

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.

The outdoor Sensory Garden Playground in Lisle in a a playgroup with the motto, “Play for All”. The Sensory Garden Playground is for children of all ability levels and is being built in stages. The first stage is complete at this 37 acre facility.

Chuck E. Cheese has special Sensory Sensitive Sundays, at participating locations throughout Illinois. The first Sunday of the month, they will open two hours early to give children with disabilities a fun and less-stimulating experiences. In Illinois the participating sites include Streamwood, Arlington Heights, Gurnee, and Crystal Lake.

Urban Air, in Bloomingdale, offers special event times for sensory-friendly play with limited entries. Check their calendar for when these special events occur.

Additionally, 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 adaptive play times. Pre-registration is required because attendance is limited. These special adaptive play times offer noise reduction headphones, fidget objects, weighted neck wraps, timers, and social stories.

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.

The Chicago Children’s Museum‘s Play for All invites children to experience their multi-sensory exhibits one hour earlier than the public. Participants must register in advance and space is limited. Chicago Children’s Museum also offers a calming corner on the third floor, accessible daily.

Brookfield Zoo’s Hamill Family Play Zoo contains a sensory area in which families may use to calm down and have some quiet time. BZ Care Kits are available at the North and South Guest Relations.  These kits are designed for guests with sensory disabilities and include zoo visual schedule books, noise-reducing headphones, name tags, if lost ID bracelets and stickers. 

The Shedd Aquarium 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. The aquatic show has special seating with modifications including limited capacity and streamlined entry with advance registration. On select dates, the Shedd offers extended hours for guests with disabilities. See the accessibility page for more information, including information on requesting a sign language interpreter, as well as a sensory-friendly app designed to make the visiting experience more enjoyable.

Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art offers a free sensory-friendly program for neurodiverse visitors of all ages. Registration is required and offers a chance for families to visit the museum before it opens to the public. Upcoming dates include March 27, 2022 and June 26, 2022 from 10 to 11:30am.

The Children’s Museum of Oak Lawn offers sensory friendly play sessions for children who would benefit from a more relaxed museum experience. They are often once per month, so check their calendar to find out when the next play date is scheduled.

Kohl Children’s Museum‘s special events called “Everyone Can Play” are free events that require pre-registration. This event is for all children and families who would prefer a more calm museum experience.

Inclusive Playgrounds

Check out our list of inclusive playgrounds in Chicago’s west suburbs to find playgrounds with features such as double-wide ramps, wheelchair swings, communication boards, 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 with family-friendly new releases. Please call ahead as 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.

Sensory-Friendly Events

The Chicago Dogs are hosting a Sensory Day at the ballpark on June 4, 2022 to support children with sensory sensitivity due to autism, ADHD, anxiety, and PTSD. Click here for the details and cost.


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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