From live theater to movie screenings and art activities, we’ve collected North Texas’ best events for children with special needs.
Catch a matinee at one of these area theaters that offer sensory-friendly film screenings: showtimes exclusively for kids on the autism spectrum or with other special needs. The staff turns down the volume, turns up the lights and opens up the aisles for kids to move freely around the theater.
Studio Movie Grill dine-in theaters offer Special Needs Screenings at 11am on second Saturdays. See Dolphin Tale 2 on September 27 and The Boxtrolls on October 4 at all area locations in Dallas, Plano, Arlington, Colleyville and Lewisville, plus a theater in The Colony set to open before the holidays. All kids and siblings get in free while parents pay $6. The special needs screenings only occur when a kid-friendly film is playing in theaters.
AMC Theatres in Garland, Mesquite, Arlington and Frisco offer Sensory Friendly Films one Saturday per month. Mark your calendars for Dolphin Tale 2 on September 27 and Book of Life on October 25, starting at 10am. Get your tickets for $6.50 each. The sensory friendly films only occur when a kid-friendly film is playing in theaters.
Starplex Cinemas offers its Sensory Friendly Screenings on the second Saturday each month at 10am. Kids get in free with each adult paying the regular matinee price of $5. Watch Planes: Fire & Rescue on August 9 and The LEGO Movie on September 13.
Lake Worth, 817/289-2680
LOOK Cinemas recently launched Sensory Sensitive Cinema with 9am screenings on select Saturdays. See When the Game Stands Tall on August 23 and Dolphin Tale 2 on September 20 for $5 per person. LOOK hopes to extend the series year-round.
Setting the Stage
These theaters keep kids front and center with live shows tailored just for those with autism or hearing impairment.
Dallas Children’s Theater hosts an American Sign Language interpreter for one performance of every show and three sensory-friendly performances per season. Next up is Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale on October 11. Go early to enjoy craft activities adapted for kids with special needs. Should the need arise during a production, find a temporary retreat in the nearby quiet room.
Artisan Center Theater invites an ASL interpreter to sign at one performance per show during the school year. Check the website for to-be-announced dates for Into the Woods, Sleeping Beauty, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and more Artie’s Playhouse shows in their new theater space.
State of the Art
With Dallas-Fort Worth’s vast selection of museums, access to new exhibits and priceless works of art is never far from reach. Simply give a call to the customer service office for each venue’s specific accommodations, and for special programming that goes above and beyond.
Dallas Museum of Art opens up early for kids with autism during its quarterly Autism Awareness Family Celebrations. Before the crowds arrive, access the art activities, musical skits and a quiet sensory room in the C3 studio. Stay tuned for the 2014–2015 dates. All the events are free, along with the DMA’s already free general admission.
SMU Meadows Museum helps adults and teens ages 15 and older with low vision to employ their other senses: touch and hearing. Join the regularly scheduled Drawing from the Masters workshops for a talk and informal drawing session with special tools and tactile graphics, which are images on raised surfaces. Experience the graphics for yourself during drop-in family workshops on Thursday evenings and select Saturday mornings this fall.
For playtime on more inflatable bounce houses and trampolines than you could ever fit in the backyard, join these private sensory jump sessions.
Pump It Up Frisco hands over access to its bounce houses from 6:30–8pm each fourth Monday year-round. Admission is free for parents and $7 per child ages 2–18. Don’t forget a pair of socks for siblings and therapists, both welcome to jump.
Elevate Trampoline Park hosts sensory jumps each summer for private access to its wall-to-wall trampolines, dodgeball courts, basketball dunk courts, rock climbing wall and bungee system. Pay $10 per session from 9–10am each Friday through August 22, or get a 10-visit Punch Pass for the discounted price of $70 and share one pass among siblings.
Water Park Playtime
Temperatures remain sky high even at the tail end of the season, so cool off during these special swim times for kids with special needs.
Wet Zone opens up early for Angel Swim on Saturday, August 9. Enjoy the city water park from 8:30–10:30am before the public shows up at 11am. A discounted rate of $4 includes admission for the rest of the day.
Hawaiian Falls Water Parks offer free admission to all “champions” at all five area locations: The Colony, Garland, Mansfield, Roanoke and White Settlement. For Champions Day on Saturday, August 9, show up at 8:30am for a two-hour swim session. Print out the free ticket online and pay $5 per family member for all-day admission.
Gym Class Heroes
These indoor learning gyms are outfitted with specialized equipment to help children develop their motor functions and language skills.
It’s a Sensory World blends playtime and therapy in a format designed for kids to play together with their parents, with trained staff or to work with tutors in the S.M.A.R.T. model enrichment program. Stop by open gym Monday–Saturday to check out the trampoline, rock climbing wall and ball pit. Sign up for a parents’ night out on weekends or for a Peer Playdate. Fees start at $18 per hour per child and $9 for siblings.
Farmers Branch, 972/239-8100
Sense-Able Gym not only offers yoga, music therapy, regular tutoring and more special programming, but also sensory-engaging activities you just won’t find at your neighborhood park. Check the open gym schedule Tuesday–Saturday for age-specific playtimes. One-time visits for kids of all abilities are $12 and $6 per additional sibling.
Make new furry friends at this farm offering private tours for families and small groups.
Grisham Farms offers a petting zoo full of goats, alpacas, pot-bellied pigs, hedgehogs, chinchillas, bearded dragons and more. Owner Stephanie Grisham, a certified special education teacher, caters her tours to adults and kids with special needs. Call to schedule a visit; the farm is open by appointment only. Admission starts at $6 per person.
In Full Swing
These brand new or recently renovated playgrounds are open year-round and designed to accommodate a variety of disabilities.
Mary Heads Carter Park’s all-accessible playground, renovated last spring, boasts wheelchair ramps to the central play structures and to a teetering pirate ship with plenty of space to roll around on deck.
Hope Park’s design team took extra efforts to make big kids, toddlers and your entire family feel at home at this community-built playground. Check out the braille panel by the slides and images of kids of all abilities incorporated into the design.
Casey’s Clubhouse wins for the most whimsical playground with wheelchair accessibility. After playtime around the giant tree house, wishing well and water skiing turtle, cool off at Dove Waterpark right next door.
For a complete list of accessible playgrounds in Dallas-Fort Worth, visit our interactive map.