Things to Do with Kids with Special Needs This Spring

Plan your family's fun with one of these spring activities for kids with special needs.

Though COVID has kept many of the special needs events from happening, there are still places in Chicagoland that understand your need to get out of the house as a family. Your son or daughter may even make some new friends, which is always a plus!

Events

A.B.L.E. – Artists Breaking Limits & Expectations – Monthly Workshops

March 13 (Characters), April 10 (Improvisation), May 8 (On Camera Acting)

  • Address: The Menomonee Club Drucker Center, 1535 N. Dayton St., Chicago
  • Cost: $25, financial assistance available

Kids ages 8-14 with disabilities can enjoy learning to act at the workshops. No previous performance experience is necessary and all disabilities are welcome. A.B.L.E. also is launching a creative associates program to train veteran participants with disabilities to work with newer participants.

Sensory Friendly Play Session, The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn

March 9, May 11

At 5 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month, a limited capacity of visitors can stroll through the museum for up to two hours. Preregistration is required. The event is $7, free for members.

Sensory-Friendly Morning, Museum of Contemporary Art

March 27

Neurodiverse visitors of all ages can tour the MCA from 10 to 11:30 a.m. before the doors open to the public. The lobby lights are dimmed and a quiet space is available. Preregister at experience.mcachicago.org for free tickets.

Everyone at Play, Kohl Children’s Museum

March 6, May 29

From 2 to 5 p.m., explore exhibits closed to the general public with a child — 8 years old or younger — with special needs. A quiet room will be available. Online preregistration is required. Tickets $15.

Adaptive Play Time, DuPage Children’s Museum

March 19, April 10

The museum provides a modified environment for play and learning for children with disabilities, on the autism spectrum and/or sensory processing disorders and their families. These playtimes, 5:30-7 p.m., allow families to play in a less stimulating environment with limited attendance. Preregistration is required.

Sensory Sensitive Sundays, Chuck E. Cheese

March 6, April 3

The fun spot opens two hours early the first Sunday of every month for children with special needs and autism. Lighting and noise will be reduced and staff has been trained. Food and games will be offered. Locations in Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake, Gurnee, Skokie and Streamwood. Check before heading out.

Sensory Friendly Films, AMC Theaters

March 12, 26, April 9, 23

AMC has teamed up with the Autism Society to offer unique movie showings. Lights are up and sound is down and families can walk around or talk as much as they want. Check before going. Locations in Northbrook, Yorktown, Lake in the Hills, Naperville, New Lenox, Niles, River East and South Barrington.

My Way Matinee, Regal Lincolnshire

March 19, 22, April 16, 19

Lights are up and volume is down for families to enjoy the latest movies without judgment. Families can talk and move about as they wish.

Find more events for kids with special needs in our calendar

Attractions

Many local attractions offer apps, sensory maps and serene break areas.

Art Institute

The Art Institute has a map that outlines in green which rooms are usually quiet and aren’t crowded. The spaces highlighted in yellow have natural sunlight.

Brookfield Zoo

In addition to the sensory-friendly family room and a resource center to Hamill Family Play Zoo, Brookfield Zoo offers its BZ Care Kits, which includes noise-reducing headphones, visual schedules, self-identifying badges, social stories, and more. 

Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago Children Museum offers sound-muffling earphones and a “calming corner” on the third floor.

Field Museum for All

Field Museum guests can preview exhibitions and follow a sensory-friendly map through its Apple Store “Field Museum for All” app or its Google Play “Field Museum: Inclusion & Accessibility Tools” application.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Sensory bags are available in the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Searle Visitor Center, which includes noise-cancelling headphones, a stress ball and yellow-tinted sunglasses. A quiet room is located in the Member Center near the Searle Visitor Center. Tactile opportunities and places with high and low stimulation are listed on the zoo’s website.

Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry details which exhibits and attractions are loud, where flashing lights and disorienting displays are, and areas with low light in a sensory map.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier’s app, “Sensory Friendly Navy Pier,” features insider tips and a sensory-friendly map. Download it for free on the Apple Store or Google Play.

Shedd Aquarium

Visitors to the Shedd Aquarium can create a personalized schedule and communicate with museum staff through icons with the app “Sensory Friendly Shedd Aquarium,” which is available on the Apple Store and Google Play.

Playgrounds

Sensory Garden Playground

This suburban playground in Lisle is for all kids complete with a sound garden, tree top swings, sculptures and more play areas to come.

We Rock the Spectrum

With locations in Palatine (temporarily closed) and Franklin Park, this indoor playground features sensory-friendly equipment for kids to use.

Find more inclusive playgrounds for Chicagoland kids.


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