Families are always on the lookout for environments that work best for their family members with special needs.
For some time, some entertainment and educational enrichment venues such as movie theaters, museums, and cultural outlets have offered special times when the environment is adjusted to be more sensory-friendly.
“When a space or event is sensory-friendly, it has been deliberately designed to consider sensitivities. This way individuals with autism or others who are sensitive to a lot of activity can comfortably partake in the same activities as their neurotypical peers,” according to the Infinity Center for Behavior Services website.
Sensory-friendly environments are also sought for adults with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, according to several sources.
Now, following a test of sensory-friendly Saturday hours, one of the country’s biggest retailers—Walmart—has launched sensory-friendly hours from 8 to 10 a.m. (local time) every day at its U.S. and Puerto Rico stores. The sensory friendly hours began Nov. 10.
“During the back-to-school season, we changed the TV walls to a static image, turned off the radio and lowered the lights where possible,” stated Walmart in a news release. “The feedback of the pilot program was overwhelmingly positive. These changes may have seemed small to some, but for others they transformed the shopping experience…. We hope our customers and associates will find the stores to be a little easier on the eyes and ears.”
Here are a few other places that offer sensory-friendly experiences:
A trampoline park in Stone Mountain, Get Air, offers “Calmer Atmosphere” on the first Saturday of every month from 8 to 10 a.m.
“We offer a dedicated time just for jumpers with special needs,” states Get Air’s website. “Music is played at a lower volume and the park’s atmosphere is calmer. One parent or guardian can support jumpers on the trampoline for free.”
For details, go to getairsport.com/stone-mountain/events/special-needs/.
Chuck E. Cheese
“We’re proud to support families of children with autism and other special needs. Through our Sensory Sensitive Sundays™ program, participating locations open two hours early on the first Sunday of the month. They offer a quieter environment, dimmed lighting, and a trained and caring staff to ensure each guest has a safe, fun-filled visit.”
Known for its family-oriented arcades and children’s birthday parties, Chuck E. Cheese has locations nationwide, including 14 in Georgia.
For more information, go to Chuckecheese.com/sensory-sensitive-sundays.
“Our objective is to provide an exclusive and seamless experience for all guests,” states Zoo Atlanta on its website zooatlanta.org. “We strive to raise awareness of the needs and challenges faced by individuals with sensory processing disorders by supplying our team members with continuous training and by offering the resources and accommodations” listed below:
• Sensory bags containing special fidget tools, noise canceling headphones and other resources
• Weighted lap pads
• Quiet areas and headphone zones
Center for Puppetry Arts
On Sensory-Friendly Sundays, fidget toys, social stories, sound-reducing headphones and light-reducing sunglasses are available on request at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. In addition to lighting being adjusted in the museum, theater and Create-A-Puppet workshop, sounds are also reduced during shows. “Guests can respond and leave their seats and enjoy their quiet, contained beverages and snacks…” states the center’s website, puppetry.org.
The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta offers a sensory room and sensory bags with items such as headphones, marble fidgets, noodle fidgets, and tangle fidgets. The aquarium also has a sensory hour each day when it first opens from 8 to 9 a.m. or 9 to 10 a.m. when the venue has lowered guest capacity, reduced lights and audio and quiet spaces in galleries. Find more details at georgiaaquarium.org.