With a child on the autism spectrum, planning a visit to places families often go, such as the movie theater, museums, parks, and restaurants can be a lot more complicated. As a mother of a child with autism, MaryBeth speaks from personal experience when sharing some of the many opportunities for activities and events for kids on the autism spectrum:
“My son, Michael, is 10 and was diagnosed with high-functioning autism a few years ago. But even before the diagnosis, going anywhere with him was an adventure. I never knew what to expect – would he enjoy it or would he be overwhelmed and overstimulated and just want to go home? (We also have an 8-year-old daughter and didn’t want her to miss out on activities and we did want Michael to expand his horizons.) After Michael’s diagnosis, a whole new world was opened to us. We were exposed to more resources and activities designed for children on the spectrum. It was wonderful to be able to do things as a family and not worry too much about Michael becoming overstimulated, and if he did, that we would incur funny stares if he had a meltdown.”
Here’s a quick sampling of the offerings available for kids on the autism spectrum in the Fox Cities. Please note that many of these activities are also open to all children having special needs:
Reel Movies for Real Needs
Marcus Theaters has a special program once a month featuring a regular movie, but with the lights turned up and the volume turned down. The movies are shown on a Saturday morning and regular matinee prices apply. It’s a great opportunity for parents who want to take their child to a movie, but sure how they’ll react. More Information.
Northeast Wisconsin Children’s Museums
The Building for Kids Children’s Museum has a lower sensory experience and special programming created especially for children on the autism spectrum. Free admission for children on the spectrum and their families from 8:30 am-10 am on the third Saturday of the month. More information.
Green Bay Children’s Museum offers a day designed especially for children with special needs and their families once per quarter. The museum will be closed to the general public to avoid large crowds while providing altered lighting, sound modification, sensory activities, and more! Admission rates are reduced to $5 per person and children under 15 months, museum members, therapists, and nurses are all free. More information.
Fond Du Lac Children’s Museum offers Play for All nights throughout the year. This is a free program for children and families with autism, providing families an age-appropriate, quiet place to come play in a welcoming environment where children can try new things while developing their communication, social and motor skills, and self-confidence. Exhibits adapted to make the museum more comfortable and enjoyable. Specialists, trained staff, and play partners are on hand. There are Social Storybooks, Resources Kits (noise-blocking earphones, blankets, information, etc), and Picture Exchange Communication System are available during Play for All and at all times at the front desk. More information.
There are a couple of programs in place that allow children on the spectrum to engage in sporting activities that they might otherwise miss out on. Sometimes as kids get older the competition is more intense it is helpful to find more tailored sports experiences.
Miracle League of the Fox Cities offers children with all kinds of disabilities play baseball with the help of a buddy.
TOPS, while a soccer program in Kimberly, allows kids on the spectrum a chance to get their kicks.
Xavier High School also teams up every year with the Autism Society of the Fox Valley for a football camp that lets the kids score touchdowns, punt the ball, tackle and more. The event happens every September.
Fox Cities YMCA also offers fitness, swimming, yoga, and other classes and events geared toward kids on the autism spectrum and with other special needs. More information.
Monkey Joe’s opens its doors to children with autism and their families on the first Saturday of each month from 9 to 10 a.m during the fall, winter, and spring months. Admission is free for members of Autism Society of The Fox Valley, $5 for non-members. The children can enjoy the surroundings while parents can talk to each other and share information.
Sky Zone will turn off the music and dial down the distractions for the comfort of their jumpers every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month from 9:30-11:30am. The event is held outside of general public hours when children & adults with special needs and their siblings, family & friends are all welcome to come jump! They will make every effort to accommodate all jumpers with any kind of special needs (they even have a wheelchair lift). The price to jump anytime during the two-hour session is $10 per jumper (+$2 for reusable Sky Socks if you don’t already have a pair). More information.
If you know of other activities designed for children on the spectrum, we would love to hear about them.