We’ve got a jam-packed schedule for our special kids this summer and fall, with activities ranging from festivals to movies to inclusive playgrounds. There’s something for everyone.
Sensory friendly movies
AMC Theatres The lights are up and the sound is down during the sensory-friendly film days. These take place on the second and fourth Saturdays for families, and on Tuesday evenings for mature audiences. It’s totally cool to get up, dance, walk, shout or sing during these shows. Check local listings for showtimes, addresses and more details. amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films
Studio Movie Grill Every Saturday, this theater shows a family-friendly movie free for kids with special needs and their siblings (adults pay $6.50). The lights are up and the volume is lowered, and kids are free to move and dance as they please. This summer, flicks included Wonder Woman, Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3. Check online for upcoming features. 11 a.m.; films change weekly, locations in Chicago and Wheaton; studiomoviegrill.com.
Get your wiggles out
Music-free Mondays at Airtastic At this bouncy playland, they have 10 inflatable play structures and two play areas. Every Monday, the music is off for those who don’t like the extra noise. Kids can bounce and play to burn off that energy. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays; $8.50 per hour or $10.50 for two hours; 850 S. Frontenac St., Aurora; airtastic.com
Chuck E. Cheese Sensory Sensitive Sundays Pop into this kids’ obsession, where they will dim the lights, get rid of the crowds, the show and the music in order to create a sensory-friendly experience. Two hours before regular opening hours on Sundays at all Illinois locations; regular prices apply; chuckecheese.com
Pump It Up Sensory Jump Night Bounce the night away on these special needs evenings, where the play areas are reserved for those on the autism spectrum and for their families. The lights are turned up and the music is turned off, so kids can bounce on the inflatables without any issues. Check your closest location for more details; regular prices apply; pumpitupparty.com
Chicago Children’s Museum Play For All Kids with disabilities may come with their families an hour before the museum opens. It’ll be quieter without all the crowds, and the museum has a therapeutic play guide to help kids who are working on therapies. The guide can help kids build their motor, sensory, language and social skills. The entire museum is wheelchair accessible. Free for the first 250 visitors; 9 a.m. second Saturday of every month; 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago; chicagochildrensmuseum.org
Special Needs Day at Sky High Sports The owner of Sky High Sports has a son with special needs, so he understands the importance of jumping. So every Tuesday, he turns off the music and dims the lights so that special guests can jump to their hearts’ desire. $5 for special needs guests and $5 for siblings with one parent or therapist free; 3-6 p.m. Tuesdays; 2244 Corporate Lane, Naperville; nap.skyhighsports.com
Festivals and playdate
Shorewood Crossroads Festival For two hours, there will be slow rides with no lights and no music for special kids at this festival. It’s essentially a carnival without the craziness of a carnival, and everything available during the regular festival will be available to the special families—but this experience will be tailored to the special needs of these children. Free for special needs children and their family; 1-3 p.m. Aug. 4; 25520 W. Seil Road, Shorewood; crossroadsfest.com
RiverFest Express The night before RiverFest will be a very special night. At this event, which initially marked the centennial for the village but is now an annual community event, they’ll have carnival rides, entertainment and food for special needs children and their families. Be sure to register. Free; 6-9 p.m. Aug. 16; Panton Mill Park, across from the Village Hall, South Elgin; riverfestexpress.net
Frankfort Fall Festival The Frankfort Fire Protection District Foundation organizes this annual event, which centers around a massive old-school carnival, complete with a Ferris wheel and roller coaster. They shut everything down for a very special two hours so that special needs visitors can have a little less stimulation. The sound will be off, and kids can ride their favorites for free. Bonus: if they play any of the games, they’re guaranteed to win something. Free; 3-5 p.m. Sept. 1; 24405 S. La Grange Road, Frankfort; frankfortchamber.com
The Playground for Everyone at Butterfield Park The theme here is inclusion, and the goal is that children with disabilities can play side-by-side with their friends without abandoning their usual means of mobility. There are double-wide ramps, social gathering places, accessibility to nearly every feature, a quiet escape zone and sensory stimulating activities. 385 W. Van Buren St., Elmhurst; epd.org
Owen’s Playground at Hillcrest Elementary School All the ramps here are double-wide, so friends in wheelchairs can travel through the park together. There’s also a relaxation station, a buddy bench, wheelchair swings and plenty of other wheelchair-accessible play equipment. 1435 Jefferson Ave., Downers Grove; dg58.org
The Sensory Garden Playground The playground provides space for kids of all abilities to play together. Its last free Play Day of the summer 10 a.m.-12 p.m., Aug. 19, where kids can explore the playground, plant flowers in the Fragrance Garden, blow bubbles, draw with chalk and attend sensory-friendly storytimes.
Fundraising for the next phase, an accessible treehouse, is under way. Eventually, the playground also will include a water play area and boulder climb. 2751 Navistar Drive, Lisle; playforalldupage.org