While Northeast Ohio has many family-fun places to visit in the winter, some families still face the challenge of finding sensory-friendly venues to visit with their loved ones with autism. Luckily, many popular attractions in the area are now considering the ways in which they can be more inclusive to all visitors. Below are a few larger attractions now providing fantastic accommodations for individuals with sensory processing issues.
1. Quicken Loans Arena
Not only is Quicken Loans Arena home of our NBA Champion Cavs, but it also houses “The Quiet Space,” a sensory room used to accommodate guests with sensory processing needs. A sensory room is available at all events that take place at the Q. Guests can also check out (at no cost by leaving an ID) weighted lap pads and sensory bags, which contain fidget toys, noise-cancelling headphones and other helpful items at the Guest Services Booths. Use this social story to prepare your loved one for an exciting visit to the arena. For more information on their sensory sensitivity accommodations, contact Jenn Franz at [email protected]. (Source: The Quicken Loans Arena)
2. The Children’s Museum of Cleveland
The Children’s Museum of Cleveland (CMC) and Monarch Center for Autism’s Welcoming Spaces Program have joined together to develop customized visual, social, communicative, sensory, and behavioral supports that can be found throughout the museum. Some resources that the museum offers include call-ahead accommodations, social narratives, visual schedules, visual/sensory maps, ticket desk tool kits and video models. The museum also has a sensory-friendly room that is equipped with special lighting, classical music, liquid tile mats and a tactile wall. (Source: The Children’s Museum of Cleveland)
3. Cleveland Museum of Natural History
This month, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is hosting Sensory-Friendly Sunday on February 25. This event allows guests to arrive before open hours to avoid crowds, noise and distractions. Families can stroll through the galleries at their own pace and relax in designated “quiet areas” throughout the museum. Registration prior to the event is highly encouraged.
To prepare for your visit, the museum has provided three visual stories to help introduce your loved one to what it’s like to visit the museum.
Training or in-training service dogs are welcome in all public areas of the building except the Perkins Wildlife Center & Woods Garden. Service animals are restricted from Perkins Wildlife Center & Woods Garden due to the collection of live animals that may react strongly to the presence of dogs.
Visitors who require special assistance may inquire with Protection Services near the museum’s Wade Oval entrance. (Source: Cleveland Museum of Natural History)
4. Playhouse Square
Playhouse Square’s sensory-friendly initiative is dedicated to increasing access and inclusion for children and families impacted by autism spectrum disorders and other sensory, social and cognitive challenges or issues.
The theater provides various sensory-friendly performances throughout the year, all of which provide the following adjustments:
- Lower sound levels, especially for startling or loud sounds
- Guests are free to talk, leave their seats and move freely during the performance
- House lights in the theater are left on low throughout the performance
- Designated calming areas staffed by volunteer specialists are available
- All are welcome in a judgment-free environment
Check out Playhouse Square’s video social story about visiting the theater.
The Playhouse Square sensory-friendly initiative was developed in partnership with Milestones Autism Resources and the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, who co-sponsor the events in this series.
(Source: Playhouse Square)
5. The Akron Zoo
Last year, the Akron Zoo became the first zoo in Ohio, and the second in the nation, to become certified as a sensory inclusive zoo.
With the launch of this initiative, Akron Zoo now trains all staff and volunteers on autism and other sensory needs. The park provides helpful grounds signage designating quiet and headphone areas for visitors, plus sensory bags that include fidget toys, noise cancelling headphones and more. Weighted lap blankets are also available.
Anyone needing a sensory bag during their visit can check one out for free at the office located in the Welcome Center. The zoo has five quiet zones for guests who are in need of a quiet break, including a guest comfort station, which is a private room for guests to use. In addition, the zoo has designated a few areas that may be louder than normal, like the carousel, where guests with sensory needs may need to use noise-cancelling headphones.
(Source: The Akron Zoo)
To find more autism-friendly venues and events in Northeast Ohio, check out Milestones’ comprehensive calendar that includes social and recreational activities, support and therapy groups, resource fairs, workshops and more. If you and your family are planning a trip to Cleveland, use this Travel Tip Tool Kit to prepare your family for smooth travels.
— Written by Sydney Barnes, communications and outreach assistant at Milestones Autism Resources in Warrensville Heights, Ohio.