Photo courtesy of We Rock the Spectrum
Photo courtesy of We Rock the Spectrum

For Kids with Autism, Here Are 10+ Philly Places to Explore and Enjoy

Finding new and unique ways to engage your autistic child can be a challenge, but several venues throughout Greater Philly promote activities specially designed for children on the spectrum. We've combed the area and found ten locations and upcoming events that offer enriching programs to support the special needs of autistic children, from toddlers to teenagers.

1. We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym - Located in Northeast Philly, this setting offers open play at $12 for two hours with session packages available too, ranging from 3 play times for $30 to 12 for $100. Kids can enjoy specialized gym equipment, including hammock and carpet swings, zip boxes, trampolines, tunnels, and other activities designed with your child's needs in mind. Afterward, they can head over to the arts and crafts station and continue the fun. Dancing and social skills classes are also offered as 5- and 6-week sessions.

2. Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy - Consider having your child take therapeutic riding lessons at this Philadelphia location. After several introductory sessions, your youngster can participate in a riding class designed exclusively for children with autism. The program is ongoing and held weekly on Monday evenings. These half-hour sessions are limited to four children and run $42 per session.

3. Sensory Story Times - Story times for children on the autism spectrum are hosted at Richmond Free Library at 6 p.m. select Mondays throughout the year. Torresdale Free Library also offers a few sensory story times on Saturdays at 3 p.m. Children take part in singing and develop their fine and gross motor skills through movement activities and manipulatives. 

4. Sensory-Friendly Showings at AMC Theatres - Two Saturdays every month, AMC theatres throughout the U.S. host movie days where children with autism can come together to screen a new film. The theater lights remain on during the movie, and kids are free to do as they please without restrictions - singing, dancing, and walking are all encouraged. This month's line-up includes Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (PG), Christopher Robin (PG), and Alpha (PG-13). Contact your local AMC for dates and times.

5. Theatre Horizon's Autism Drama Program - Not far outside of Center City, you'll find this Norristown setting with programs for children 10 years and older. Help your child develop his or her communication and social skills with this small-class activity that integrates improvisation and play. You won't hear this often, but the cost varies depending on what your budget allows and ranges from $65-$180 per session. 

6 LEGOLAND Discover Center - On Tuesday, August 14, families with children on the autism spectrum can enjoy a sensory friendly LEGO® experience and music therapy. Guests can expect staff training by the Ruttenberg® Autism Center, reduction of sound and light levels in certain areas, music therapy sessions from MusicWorks® , quiet spaces, and a reduced center capacity.

7. Garden State Discovery Museum - Families in the Cherry Hill, NJ, area may enjoy an evening at the museum during its Open Arms - Family Evenings event, which is typically held on the third Sunday of every month, with some extra dates added throughout the year. This is an opportunity for children to socialize and engage with others in a safe environment and enjoy the museum. Admission is free, although families will need to sign in at the door.

8. Philadelphia Museum of Art - On August 22 and August 25, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting Sensory-Friendly Mornings from 9-10 a.m. The cost is included in museum admittance, but families do need to pre-register. With specially designed events and a toned down atmosphere, children on the autism spectrum can enjoy art and have fun at the same time.

9. Elmwood Park Zoo - This small town zoo in Norristown recently became the world's first zoo designated as a Certified Autism Center. Staff have been trained to provide an inclusive experience for all guests on the autism spectrum. The zoo was also audited to make improvements to its layout and program offerings. It now provides early morning access, noise-canceling headphones, and available quiet spaces.

10. Sesame Place - Another Philly area venue to be designated a Certified Autism Center (and the world's first amusement park to be given that title), Sesame Place has trained staff as well as a Ride Accessibility Program, which tailors the guest experience by matching individual abilities to park rides via a one-page questionnaire that can be downloaded and filled out prior to visiting. There are also quiet rooms and low sensory areas to offer some relief from the typical high sensory experience, including low sensory parade viewing spots throughout the park. Plus, noise-canceling headphones are available to checkout for the day on a first-come, first-served basis.

11. Storybook Land -  On September 21, Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey will be hosting an opportunity for children with special needs to explore Storybook Land in a sensory-friendly setting. This event includes reduced lights and noise as well as limited ticket sales to avoid overcrowding and wait times. Tickets to the park need to be purchased in advance. 

After your visit to one of these top locations, visit us on Facebook and let us know how it went. 

Photos courtesy of We Rock the Spectrum - Philadelphia

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