Explore Things To Do With Special Needs Kids & Young Adults

Special Needs families often face a daily roller coaster of challenges and joys. Want to go on an outing with a special needs child but not sure what to do or where to go in the New Jersey area? Looking for a comfortable setting that is judgment free for individuals on the autism spectrum or of different abilities? Here are some ideas to help. Many attractions welcome special needs visits, so be sure to ask.

1. Go play and enjoy all-inclusive playgrounds.

Also known as playgrounds for everyone, barrier free playgrounds or all access playgrounds. To name a few: Jake’s Place in Cherry Hill, Challenger Place in Colts Neck, Phil Rizzuto Park in Elizabeth, Central Park of Morris County in Parsippany.

2. Go see a sensory friendly or autism friendly performance or show.

Check venues for events: Bergen Performing Arts Center, Mayo Performing Arts, Paper Mill Playhouse, State Theatre New Jersey, Union County Performing Arts Center.

3. Go visit a zoo or animal friendly center.

Bring a smile to special needs children. Check out these sensory friendly zoos: Bergen County Van Saun Zoo, Bronx Zoo, Cape May County Zoo, Rizzo’s Reptiles, Turtle Back Zoo.

4. Go watch a movie at select AMC Theaters.

Sensory friendly films shown on the 2nd and 4th Saturday (family friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month. Lights are up and the sound is down. AMC Clifton, AMC Freehold, AMC Loews Jersey Gardens, AMC New Brunswick, AMC Rockaway, AMC Wayne.

5. Go explore a museum with special needs access programs and accessibility.

The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

Sensory Friendly Sundays. Exhibits modified for a comfortable environment for all. Upcoming dates: May 20, 2018, July 15, 2018, Oct 28, 2018, Dec 2, 2018. Pre-register. 215-448-1200

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC

 Discoveries Families Programs on select days. Take a Gallery tour plus do an art activity in studio. Upcoming date: May 20, 2018 (Reservations required 212-650-2010). Sensory Friendly Kits available for children.

The Museum of Natural History in NYC

Special needs Discovery Squad Tours for ages 5-14. See dioramas of animals and ocean life, plants, and rocks on a 40-minute tour. Upcoming open dates: July 14, 2018, Aug 4, 2018, Sept 1, 2018. Reservations required 212-769-5200.

Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC

Take a sensory-friendly guided tour June 2, 2018, 9:30-11AM. Registration required. 212-570-3600.

6. Go discover sea life at an aquarium.

Adventure Aquarium in Camden has accessible viewing areas, sound reducing headphones, weighted blankets, shark shack tour, tactile maps, and sign language interpreters. 844-474-FISH

7. Go visit a Planetarium.

Many offer special shows for kids with special needs. Doors are open, lights are dimmed, and sound is lowered.

The Raritan Valley College Planetarium featuring “The Sky Above”. Show with music, laser lights, about planets, moon, and constellation. 908-231-8805.

8. Go splash at a waterpark.

Many special needs children feel a sense of relaxation in the water.

Sahara Sam’s Oasis Indoor & Outdoor Waterpark judgment free evenings for individuals with special needs.
Upcoming dates: May 18, 2018, 6-9PM, Nov 9, 2018, 6-9PM. 856-767-7580.

9. Go jump at an indoor trampoline park.

Quieter and toned down jumping experience.

Sky Zone Allendale - sensory hours 4th Monday of each month, 4-6:30PM. 201-574-1800
Sky Zone Mt Olive - sensory hours 3rd Monday of each month, 4-6:30PM. 973-527-7000
Sky Zone Pine Brook - sensory hours 2nd Monday of each month, 4-6:30PM. 973-396-4001
Launch Trampoline Park Linden - Special Needs day with quieter private jumping time. 908-357-2908

10. Go experience a sporting event.

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, and Major League Soccer feature events that support Autism Awareness. Quiet rooms and sensory activities offered. Check listings (Yankees, The Mets,  mlb.com, Somerset Patriots, New York Red Bulls, NYCFC).