sensory-friendly activities Cleveland Akron Northeast Ohio

Upcoming Sensory Friendly Activities in Cleveland & Akron

Fun family outings can take a little more planning when your child has sensory processing difficulties. Not everywhere you go has built-in accommodations – but it is getting better. Every year, our Brecksville ABA therapists notice more and more organizations prioritizing inclusion. If you’re looking for some sensory-friendly fun in Northeast Ohio, check out our list of recommendations!

Sensory Friendly Saturdays at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Every third Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., the Cleveland Museum of Art welcomes guests on the autism spectrum, people with dementia, and others with intellectual or developmental disabilities who prefer a more calming museum experience with less stimulation (fewer crowds, noise, stimulation, distractions, etc.) to enjoy the galleries before they open to the general public. There’s a designated calming corner as well. Entry is free, but parking is $14 for non-members and $7 for members. Once participants enter, they are free to stay the whole day.

Sensory Inclusion Program at the Akron Zoo.

The Akron Zoo launched its sensory-friendly inclusion program, and with the help of KultureCity offers the following resources: Free sensory bags (noise-canceling headphones, Akron Zoo AAC board, fidget tools, etc.), weighted lap pads, four designated quiet areas, headphone zones (where overall volume tends to be higher), guest comfort station (includes adult changing table), and social story to review before your visit. The zoo also hosts regular “Zoothing Hour” events, where the park opens an hour earlier for guests of differing abilities who have a hard time with large crowds, loud noises, bright lights, etc.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Accessibility Resources.

This zoo is one of the top sensory-friendly activities in Cleveland. It has been “Sensory Inclusive Certified” by KultureCity since 2019, and in 2022 won the Northeast Ohio Parent Choice Awards for “Best Sensory-Friendly Outing.” Upon request, the zoo offers complimentary sensory bags, each containing noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, fidget toys, visual communications cards (including a feelings monitor and pictures to represent things a person might need, such as a break or snack). There are also numerous designated quiet zones, a quiet room, sensory map, and clearly-marked “headphone zones” to alert patrons areas that tend to be much louder. They also provide numerous “before you go” social stories to prepare neurodivergent kids about what they can expect during a visit.

Resources for Autism-Friendly Summit Metro Parks.

The park provides social stories about visits to the park, and staff are trained to assist individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Sometimes park staff will make special arrangements to help make visits more safe, comfortable, and enjoyable for neurodivergent visitors.

Cleveland Metroparks Offer Inclusive Outdoor Experiences.

In addition to providing sensory bags with headphones and fidgets at all five nature centers, the Cleveland Metroparks also offers borrowed wheelchairs, assisted listening devices, sign language interpreter services, and some accessible trails (each trail is marked according to difficulty scale). Many of the outdoor recreation programs offered through the park can be adapted with reasonable accommodations. Some examples include adaptive kayaking, mindfulness hikes, and discovery days.

Local libraries.

In Akron, Cleveland, and many other locations, sensory-friendly adaptations and events have become popular. Sensory-inclusive features include sensory bags (noise-canceling headphones, fidgets, and other resources, available at the children’s section desk), weighted lap pads, quiet zones, and social stories. Locations throughout the Cuyahoga County Public Library system include sensory story times (Westlake, Solon, Middleburg Heights, North Olmstead, Mayfield, and more), virtual adapted dance & movement classes, music therapy (Cleveland Heights, Lakewood, and North Ridgeville), P.A.L.S. Sensory Friendly Movies (Parma-Snow, Westlake, ), and inclusive play group outings (Independence, Lakewood, and Elyria).

Cleveland Children’s Museum – Sensory-Friendly Resources.

The Cleveland Children’s Museum has a number of resources to improve accessibility for families of children with autism, sensory processing disorder, and other conditions. They offer call-ahead accommodations (so families can avoid waiting in long lines), re-entry (if your child needs to take a break but return later that day), sensory support kids (noise-canceling headphones, sensory toys, and visual supports), a sensory-friendly room, pre-made social story, and make-your-own social story and visual schedule templates for both longer visits and shorter visits.

We Rock the Spectrum.

Inclusive kids’ gym that welcomes kids of all abilities a safe, indoor, judgment-free space to play with specially-designed sensory play equipment. There are two locations in Northeast Ohio (Cleveland & Stow), each offering their own times for open play, parties, classes, camps, parent date nights, etc.

Theater events.

Seeing live theater performances can be amazing, immersive experiences for people of all ages. But it can also pose significant sensory challenges – loud or startling sounds, bright or pulsing lights, seats situated close to lots of other people and the pressure to sit still and be quiet. Several local theaters are increasingly embracing opportunities to welcome guests with different sensory needs. For instance, sensory-friendly shows at Playhouse Square in Cleveland offer lower sound levels, house lights are kept on low throughout the shows, guests are free to talk and move about during the performance, there are designated calming areas staffed by volunteer specialists. Playhouse Square also offers video social stories for schools and families. Also in Cleveland, there’s Tailspinner Children’s Theatre Sensory-Friendly Shows. Upcoming accessible performances of “The Toothpaste Millionaire” will be held May 25th & May 26th.

A trip to the movies.

Canton Palace Theater Sensory Cinema Series features sensory-friendly showings of popular kids’ movies. The 2024 summer schedule includes Up, Frozen, Trolls Band Together, The Little Mermaid, Home Alone, Zootopia, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Regal Cinemas (in Hudson, Elyria, and Medina) also offers sensory-friendly showtimes.

What Sensory-Friendly Activities in Cleveland, Akron, and Northeast Ohio Do Your Kids Enjoy?

We’re sure we probably missed at least a few. (On the bright side – that means families have a growing number of options, which is something we’re thrilled to see more of as time goes by.)

Feel free to chime in & share the good word about what local sensory-friendly events you and your child have enjoyed in Northeast Ohio!

It’s our hope that one day inclusion will be more than an add-on bonus – but rather a standard offering virtually everywhere in society. We don’t want our kids missing out on cool experiences enjoyed by other kids. The more kids and families take advantage of sensory-friendly activities in Cleveland, Akron, and beyond, the more other organizations are encouraged to join the bandwagon.

For more information about Cleveland ABA therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy at Therapy and Wellness Connection, Contact Us Online or call our office (330) 748-4807. We also offer inclusive summer camp, social groups, homeschooling, day school, tutoring, vocational services and more! Serving Brecksville, Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron and surrounding communities.

Additional Resources:

KultureCity – Leading Non-Profit Organization on Sensory Accessibility & Acceptance for Those With Invisible Disabilities

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland ABA Therapist Summer Safety Tips for Kids With Special Needs, March 8, 2024, Therapy & Wellness Connection Blog