April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, and that’s just the beginning of Autism Awareness Month. What better way to enjoy the day with your special needs child than by having some fun together?
There are a handful of local spots hosting sensory-friendly events, meaning they’re calmer and especially suited for children on the autism spectrum. You can expect lower volumes, softer lighting and more freedom than at non-sensory-friendly events.
Sensory Sundays at Chuck E. Cheese
Starting Sunday, Chuck E. Cheese will host Sensory Sundays on the first Sunday of every month two hours before store opening. Special needs guests will be able to chow down on pizza and play games just like anyone else, but with smaller crowds, dimmed lights, no music or mascots and a trained staff. There are 12 NJ locations participating in this promotion, so there are plenty of options as to where you can take your family.
Caring Bunny Meet-and-Greets at Simon Malls
Simon Malls, 14 of which are in NJ, will have sensory-friendly visitation with the Caring Bunny in five locations. This is perfect for special needs kids who may be overwhelmed by long lines and large crowds while waiting for photos with the Easter Bunny. This way, special needs kids can get a private, peaceful photo session with their favorite rabbit—minus the stress.
There are tons of special needs events going on at other times besides this weekend, too. AMC theaterss host family-appropriate Sensory Friendly Films on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month. Participating locations include Clifton, Elizabeth, Freehold, New Brunswick, Wayne and West Orange.
Local Sensory-Friendly Shows
Many NJ theaters offer sensory-friendly performances. Visit The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts in Toms River for an Afternoon of Magic & Illusion (Apr. 6), Englewood’s bergenPAC to see the solo variety show Pirate School (Apr. 13), Wayne’s Shea Center for Performing Arts for Madeline and the Bad Hat (Apr. 16) or Hopewell Theater to watch The Great Muppet Caper (Apr. 18).