For parents of children with sensory sensitivities, outings can be challenging. A crowded museum may be overwhelming; thus, not an option for these families. Even going to a movie theater can be difficult, due to the volume and darkness. Thankfully, there are several venues around RVA that create sensory friendly environments, striving to make all families feel welcome.
Every Tuesday, for the first open hour, Build-A-Bear stores offer sensory friendly time. During this hour visitors will enjoy dimmer lighting, little to no music, and a comprehensive guide that allows caregivers to plan their visit in advance. There are no age restrictions, and siblings are welcome.
Twice a month, on Saturday mornings, Byrd Theatre hosts a sensory-friendly showing of a family movie. For these showings, lights are kept on, and sound is turned down.
On select weekends at Cinema Cafe, patrons with sensory sensitivities are invited to sensory friendly shows. The movie theater is a safe space where guests can enjoy themselves freely – by singing, dancing, or talking.
In an effort to give those with sensory sensitivities and their families an opportunity to have a positive movie theater experience, volume is kept low and lights remain dim, not dark.
Children’s Museum of Richmond
The third Friday of the month, CMoR hosts Special Nights. These free events are open to families with children of disabilities. Sensory supports as well as a cool down room are provided.
Several local libraries offer sensory-friendly story times. These story times are smaller and more adaptive than other story times. Check your library’s event calendar to register.
Additionally, Chesterfield County Public Libraries (Clover Hill & Bon Air branches) offer a sensory hour, opening the library at 8:00 A.M. on designated days. For this hour, those with sensory needs can browse the library in a quiet environment.
Science Museum of Virginia
SMV has a host of resources designed to help those with sensory needs. Prior to your visit, consult the Curiosity Guide. This informative guide describes the museum’s activities and sensory-related activities in each area.
Additionally, sensory backpacks are available for free during your visit. With help from Autism Society Central Virginia, SMV created the sensory backpacks, complete with sunglasses, sensory fidget toys, noise canceling headphones, and more to make the visit accessible to those with sensory concerns.
A Quiet Zone on Level 0 offers low lighting, tactile objects, and other ways to promote self-regulation and relaxation.
Finally, multiple times throughout the year, SMV hosts Minds of All Kinds. A less crowded museum, ASL interpreters, and sensory tables are only a few offerings available to guests with disABILITIES.
On August 21, join SOAR365 at The Diamond for Disability Inclusion Day. Sensory break bags, lower speaker volume, and a sensory-friendly gate entry are just a few ways this event is sensory-friendly. Disability Inclusion Day at The Diamond is free for everyone.
PARK365 was designed to support those with disabilities, making this playground ideal for children who have sensory concerns. The calming water and garden as well as the sensory play areas make this park not only accessible; but also, loved by many in our community.
From sensory backpacks to reducing a movie’s volume, the efforts to promote inclusion are clear. We are so thankful to these organizations that make outings accessible for families of those with sensory concerns.