With summer right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about fun outings for the family! Luckily, Chicago boasts an array of options that are mindful of children’s individual sensory needs.
The Filament Theatre is dedicated towards creating a performing arts experience that is accessible and friendly for all families. During sensory-friendly performances, the audience is allowed to talk and leave their seats throughout the duration of the show. Additionally there is lower sound level, low lighting, a reduction of strobe light, space throughout the theater for standing and movement, smaller audience size, and staff on hand to support families and their needs. They also have a social story available for download to support preparing children for the performance.
We Rock the Spectrum in Palatine and Franklin Park are gyms with a variety of sensory equipment including a zip line, crash pit, trampolines, tunnels, climbing structure, bolster swing, carpeted platform swing, hammock swing, rope bridge and climbing mountain. They also have sensory-based toys and a fine motor arts and crafts area. They offer both open gym times and classes for children of all ages.
The DuPage Children’s Museum offers adaptive play time intended for children and their families with disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, and/or sensory processing disorders. Modifications include, limited attendance, sensory kits (noise-canceling headphones, fidgets, weighted neck wraps, timers, and social stories), reduced lighting and noise, visual cues in exhibits, respite room for sensory breaks, and designated staff/volunteers to support children and their families as needed. The next scheduled adaptive play time events are Sunday, April 10th from 5:30-7pm and Saturday, May 21st from 5:30-7pm.
The Shedd Aquarium has a quiet room designed for sensory breaks, noise-canceling headphones, extended hours for guests with disabilities, and a sensory-friendly app to support families during their visit. Their Animal Spotlights are low-sensory experiences that introduces guests to select animals including dolphins, penguins, sea lions, and beluga whales. During Animal Spotlights, guests are given freedom to take breaks, as needed, to support their individual needs.
The Sensory Garden Playground in Lisle is a 37-acre playground designed with children with disabilities, sensory processing disorders, and autism in mind. It is certified Autism Friendly and features a sound garden, fragrance garden, tree top swings, and a 2 to 5-year-old playground.
AMC movie theater has sensory-friendly showings on the second and fourth Saturday of every month. Participating AMC theaters in the Chicagoland area include, 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, and Showplace Village Crossing 18. Accommodations include keeping the lights on for the duration of the film and lowering the volume to support the sensory needs of children and their families.
Lincoln Park Zoo offers sensory bags with fidgets, noise-canceling headphones, weighted lap pads, and special badges. The zoo also includes sensory information on all exhibits and zoo buildings to help guests easily identify areas with high and low visual and auditory input as well as the best times to visit.
Julie Kappas, MOT, OTR/L
Choose Chicago. (2022, January 25). Sensory-Friendly Attractions. Choose Chicago. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from https://www.choosechicago.com/plan-your-trip/accessibility-in-chicago/sensory-friendly-experiences-in-chicago/
Majewski, N. (2022, March 14). Sensory-Friendly Chicagoland and Activities for Children with Disabilities. Kidlist. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from https://mykidlist.com/sensory-friendly-events/