Kids with sensory sensitivities enjoy going to museums, plays and events like their neurotypical peers. However, they may need some modifications to make the experiences accessible for them.
Select AMC Theatres
Movies can transport children to another world, but they can be overwhelming to the senses. Select AMC Theatres in Washington, Maryland and Virginia host sensory-friendly movie showings where lights are turned up and the sound is turned down. During these screenings, it’s OK to get up and walk or sing along. Catch AMC’s Sensory-Friendly Film program on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. On these days, one showing of the biggest hits supports family-friendly, sensory-friendly screenings. Check your local theater for showtimes. amctheatres.com
B&O Railroad Museum
Select Sundays at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore are designated as Sensory Sundays. During these visits, the museum features a special sensory activity, such as making Snow Dough, and sensory-friendly tours and train rides. During Sensory Sundays, the museum turns off all music, provides low lighting and designates quiet areas. Museum staff also provide sensory kits and a community table with resources from local organizations. The museum presents several stories about the museum and train rides to prepare young engineers for their visit. 901 W. Pratt St., Baltimore | 410-752-2490 borail.org
National Children’s Museum
Young visitors who need extra support can borrow a sensory backpack. The backpack includes noise-reduction headphones and fidgets to help ease sensory stimulation. This museum also has two specially designed quiet spaces. Parents can find the Quiet Room and the Hideaway Tree nook space featuring acoustic-absorbing materials and lower light levels. The museum plans on introducing sensory-focused sessions in the future. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 202-844-2486 | nationalchildrensmuseum.org
ARTECHOUSE DC is where art and technology combine. Its highly immersive and interactive exhibits are other-worldly. Many children love the sensory experience of visiting ARTECHOUSE DC, but a visit can seem overwhelming for some visitors. To ensure exhibits are accessible to everyone, ARTEHOUSE DC hosts sensory-friendly sessions. Before visiting, guests can review a Social Narrative, view a First Person Exhibition Video featuring live sound and check out an Exhibition Experience Map. During its Sensory-Friendly Programs, ARTECHOUSE DC lowers the sound in the Immersion Gallery and provides a “take-a-break” space for those who need to rest from the experience.
1238 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. https://artechouse.com/plan-your-visit-dc/?locations=dc
Imagination Stage excels at making sure all families feel welcome and can enjoy the theater. Select performances are modified to make them welcoming to kids who need sensory support. Accommodations start before the show begins with a pre-visit social story so that kids know what to expect once they arrive. During the show, the sound level and brightness of the stage lights are reduced, staff raise glow sticks before something surprising happens on stage and quiet areas are available for anyone who needs a break. 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda | 301-961-6060 imaginationstage.org
The Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center offers sensory-friendly performances for many of its shows. The organization’s website offers several resources for areas to prepare children for their visit. These resources include social stories, a virtual tour of the building and maps with designated quiet spaces. During the show, guests may talk and move around, strobe lighting is reduced, lights are kept on and sounds are quieter than a typical performance. Kennedy Center staff are trained to assist families who need extra support. 2700 F St. NW, Washington, D.C. | 800-444-1324 | kennedy-center.org