Bright lights. Loud music. Lots of people. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be overwhelming for kids with sensory sensitivities, including many on the autism spectrum. Here are some of our favorite sensory-friendly holiday activities.
Visit With Santa
Simon Malls’ Caring Santa events offer a subdued alternative to the typical mall meet-and-greet with Mr. Claus. Held before the malls open, lights are dimmed and music is turned off. Families can register for free, time-specific tickets at the links below:
The Fashion Mall at Keystone: Dec. 2, 9-11 am
Greenwood Park Mall: Dec. 2 & Dec. 9, 8:30-10 am
Dec. 2: eventbrite.com/e/caring-santa-122-tickets-51278763161?aff=erelexpmlt
Dec. 9: eventbrite.com/e/caring-santa-129-tickets-51278814314?aff=erelexpmlt
Castleton Square Mall: Dec. 9, 9-10:30 am
You can also catch Santa at the HAWK Foundation’s VIP Christmas Celebration, a free holiday event for families of children with special needs on Dec. 7 from 5:30-7:30 pm at the Hussey-Mayfield Library in Zionsville (thehawkfoundation.org/events/vip-christmas-celebration-tickets).
In Johnson County, families of children with autism are invited to a pancake Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 8 from 9-11 am at Greenwood Christian Church, put on by the Johnson County Autism Support Group. The cost is $10 per family, and families must RSVP to [email protected]
Mr. and Mrs. Claus will also make an appearance at the Sensory Friendly Christmas Party in Wanamaker, a new event this year on Indy’s southeast side: facebook.com/events/748299445519494
Looking for something different? Families can do yoga with Santa at Link to Learn Behavior Therapy in Noblesville! Check out Sensory Yoga with Santa on Dec. 8 from 10 am-2 pm for a 30-minute yoga class, followed by a holiday craft for $8 per child: linkedbehavior.com
Get in the Holiday Spirit
Explore Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum downtown during the museum’s monthly Sensory-Friendly Morning Dec. 3 from 9-10 am, when lights are lowered and extra sounds are limited (regular admission rates apply: indianamuseum.org/default.aspx?p=142288&evtid=1244989&date=12/3/201). Children with sensory sensitivities and their families are also invited to stay for the Explore Without Boundaries program, from 10-11 am, for musical storytelling and sensory art aimed at children ages 3 to 10 ($7 per member child, $10 per non-member child.
Other sensory-friendly holiday celebrations include Adapted Movement Programs’ Winter Festival at the IUPUI gymnasium on Dec. 1 from 2-5 pm (free tickets online, $5 at the door, petm.iupui.edu/community/adapted-movement-programs/index.html), and Easter Seals Crossroads’ Autism Family Support Group Party on Dec. 12 from 5:30-7:30 pm (RSVP to [email protected] or 317-466-1000, Ext. 2488 by Dec. 5).
Go to a Show
Nutcracker Short & Suite will feature excerpts from the classic holiday ballet performed in a casual, inclusive setting on Dec. 2 at 1 pm and 3 pm. A partnership between Village Dance Studio in Whitestown and the Adaptive Program at Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation, house lights will be raised and dance space will be open for those who want to dance along. The 1 pm show will have music very lowered for those with sensory sensitivities, while the 3 pm show will have music raised for audience members who have a hard time hearing ($5 for 3 to 12 year olds/$10 for 13+: villagedancestudio.com/nutcracker-short-suite.html).
The Indiana Repertory Theatre will host a sensory-friendly performance of “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 26 at 2 pm (tickets start at $27: irtlive.com/plays-and-events/2018-2019/a-christmas-carol-2018)
And don’t forget the movies! AMC Theaters show Sensory Friendly Films four times a month at both Castleton Square 14 and Indianapolis 17, including Saturday morning showings for the younger set and Thursday evening movies for teens and adults (amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films), while Studio Movie Grill’s Special Needs Screenings are 11 am on Saturdays, and children with special needs and their siblings are free (studiomoviegrill.com/Movie/Film-Series/Special-Needs-Screenings).