Things to Do with Your Special Needs Kid for National Autism Awareness Month
These sensory-friendly events are perfectly crafted to keep them busy all April long.
Photo courtesy of Big Umbrella Festival
Planetarium at RVCC, 118 Lamington Rd., Branchburg
April 7, 5-6 pm; $8
This astronomy show, The Sky Above, will wow your mini astronauts. They’ll learn all about the planets, constellations and more through music, stories and laser lights. But don’t worry; doors stay open in case kids want to leave, audio is kept low and consistent, and lights are kept dim instead of dark.
Catch a Sensory-Friendly Movie
Going to the movies can be stressful for viewers with sensory difficulties. These screenings have dim lights on as opposed to darkness, lower sound and the freedom to get up and move around or leave the theater. AMC, in partnership with the Autism Society, screens sensory-friendly films on the second and fourth Saturday (family flicks) and Tuesday (mature) evenings of every month. See Ready Player One, the sci-fi flick about virtual reality, on April 10, Sherlock Gnomes on April 14 or Rampage on April 24. Check locations by you before purchasing.
On April 21, see Duck Duck Goose as part of My Way Matinee, a sensory-friendly screening initiative of Regal Theatre. Head to the Regal Manahawkin or UA Washington Township in Sewell at 10:30 am to see it for the special price of $6.50 a ticket.
On April 22, watch a double feature at Maurice Levin Theater at JCC MetroWest in West Orange. You’ll see Life Through a Lens, the story of a photographer with Adult Polyglucosan Body Disease, then Swim Team, about a NJ boy on the autism spectrum who forms a swim team of teens with special needs.
Various locations in NYC
April 10-May 6, times and prices vary
The famous Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is putting on the Big Umbrella Festival, an international celebration for kids on the autism spectrum. This is the first fest of its kid, as its completely dedicated to arts programs for special needs kiddos on the spectrum. See Up and Away, the work dedicated to kids on the spectrum that was commissioned by a major institution (that being Lincoln Center), at Clark Studio Theater, Oddysea, a production about two best friends named Crab and Turtle, a Very Young People’s Concert: Make-Believe at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse and more.
Topgolf, 10-13 US-1, Edison
April 28, 9-11 am; $50/bay
On Sensory Friendly Day, golfers around the country can go to the Topgolf nearest to them for all the fun of golfing, but with low lights and sound and reduced crowds. While the kids practice their swings with other little ones with Autism Spectrum Disorders, you’ll get to connect with other special needs families. Reserve your bay ahead of time online for up to six players (your group’s reservation scores you lifetime memberships and complimentary golf clubs, too).
Hit the Theatre
MPAC, 100 South St., Morristown
The Theatre at RVCC, 118 Lamington Rd., Branchburg
See Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, a magical musical based on the beloved book for little ones about construction vehicles that need to hit the hay, on April 10 at MAYO Performing Arts Center. This mellow performance will have modified sound and lights, plus kids can get up and walk around if need be. $8/head. Also at MPAC, Pete the Cat is hitting the stage on April 23. This kitty sets out to teach the family he moves in with to rock out and have fun. $12-15/each. If you’re closer to RVCC, See The Polar Bears Go Up on April 21, which tells the story about two polar bears who go on epic adventures, this time to the sky. $10/ticket.
69 Wesley St., South Hackensack
April 19 and 26, 3-5 pm; $17.49
The kids can go wild at this indoor play place that’s packed with bouncy trampolines, games and activities. They’ll catch major air at the park, but without the music, concert lights and whistles. Siblings and caregivers welcome. Besides wall-to-wall trampolines, they can explore an obstacle course, ropes course, slam dunk track and more. Bonus: the center has a new warrior obstacle and climbing hill, too.
April 8, 2 hours before open; call for pricing
On the first Sunday of every month, these play places and arcades will open two hours early just for kids with special needs and autism. They’ll get to enjoy all the usual fun, but with reduced lights and noise under the eye of trained and caring staff. Thanks to Easter, NJ locations will host this special needs event on 4/8, except for Deptford, Edison, Paramus, Union and Wayne. These centers will be hosting Sensory Sensitive Sunday on May 6.
LaGrande Park, 200 LaGrande Ave., Fanwood
April 14, 11 am-6 pm; free
This all-day fest is a fundraiser that benefits Autism New Jersey. Take the kids to enjoy local bands, explore food trucks and vendors, try their luck in an obstacle course, cuddle therapy dogs and more. Most importantly, visit the Chill Zone, a quiet room that caters to kids with sensory disorders. Have fun while raising awareness and funds for autism research.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
Yogibo locations at Bridgewater Commons, Freehold Raceway Mall, and Garden State Plaza
Every weekend starting April 7
Yogibo Family Furniture, a mod home decor store with awesome bean bags for kids, is teaming up with nonprofit KultureCity, an org dedicated to helping special needs families, to bring sensory rooms to NJ shoppers. Yogibo boasts sensory-friendly products that promote body awareness, focus and attention for those with sensory processing difficulties. Head there an hour before open (9 am) to peruse the shop during a sensory-friendly period and score 15 percent off your full purchase. Even better? Yogibo is donating 10 percent of each Puzzle Pillow to KultureCity.