Autism Awareness Month (or Autism Acceptance Month, as some organizations recently have been referring to it) is right around the corner (it starts April 1), and businesses across the country are preparing to celebrate and support kids of all abilities. One great way to do that is through adaptations that recognize that many kids with autism struggle with sensory issues. Here's what's going on at the national level in terms of sensory-friendly events:
AMC Theaters is offering sensory-friendly movie nights on the second and fourth Tuesday and Saturday of every month. This is actually an ongoing event during which participating theaters turn up the lights, turn down the volume, get rid of previews, and invite viewers to stim, dance, sing, shout, and move around as needed. Fun!
Chuck E. Cheese
Chuck E. Cheese is also kicking off an ongoing sensory-friendly event during April. Starting April 2, locations will host Sensory Sensitive Sundays all over the U.S. on the first Sunday of every month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. There will be still be games and pizza, but you can also expect less people, no music or shows, dimmed lighting, and no mouse mascot.
Autism Speaks Walks
Autism Speaks will also be holding many of its annual Autism Speaks Walks in April. These vary based on locale, but you can learn more about when and where they're happening in your community on the Autism Speaks site.
Beyond all these national events, many local businesses come out in support of autism acceptance. Start by seeing what your local Autism Society has to offer, and from there, ask around at the places you already shop, play, and visit in your community.
Believe me—this method works! Recently, I learned that a nearby salon offers haircuts for kids with sensory issues. These happen throughout the year, and the stylist dims the lights, turns down the music, and then opens early, so the child with sensory issues is the only customer in the store. It's such a great idea—and one that I wouldn't have learned about without asking.
Likewise, last time I was at our local jumping/inflatable play place, I asked them if they ever hosted sensory-friendly days. They said they didn't as such, but then they went out of their way to assure me that they were more than happy to turn off the music and turn down the lights during slow times.
So, all that's to say if you're looking for some sensory-friendly fun during Autism Awareness Month, be sure to check out these national events and then ask around your community—I bet you'll find a lot of wonderful opportunities for the whole family to have fun!
Jamie Pacton writes middle grade and young adult fiction, drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons. Find her at www.jamiepacton.com.