More and more places around central Indiana are realizing the importance of making everyone feel welcome. And that includes people with autism and special needs. Here are just some of Indy’s many institutions and attractions that have embraced people with special needs and sensory sensitivities.
1505 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis
Based in Indianapolis, ArtMix offers community art classes for people of all ages and abilities and provides an inclusive environment with programs that create learning, self-expression, and socialization opportunities. Professional teaching artists guide the classes through the art-making process.
3 Center Green, Carmel
Civic Theatre offers performances and accommodations to make all guests feel welcome for guests with social, cognitive and physical challenges. Inclusive performances allow guests to talk and leave their seats during the performance, and designated quiet areas are provided in the building that are supervised by trained staff. Other accommodations include blind and low-vision services, ASL interpretation and assisted listening, and mobility access.
Jubilate, A Choir for Children with Special Needs
Butler University’s Lilly Hall, 4603 Clarendon Rd., Indianapolis
Jubilate is a non-audition-based choir for singers with special needs in grades 3 through 9. In a fun and inclusive environment, children will learn proper singing techniques, music theory and sight-reading, part-singing and the social skills involved in being a member of a musical ensemble. The choir meets one day a week for 45 minutes.
140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis
The IRT offers multiple sensory-friendly performances throughout the season for select productions, including A Christmas Carol during the holidays. The IRT offers accessibility options for guests at every performance, including audio enhancement or neckloop devices, abbreviated large print programs, and sensory supports.
ADAPTIVE SPORTS & MOVEMENT
Various locations in Carmel
Whether you’re looking for opportunities to dance, play sports or try karaoke, Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation has something for everyone with special abilities. The catalog of options is constantly changing with specialized opportunities for different age groups; search keyword Adaptive on their website to find programs offered.
9032 Technology Dr., Fishers
For children ages 6 to 10, DeVeau’s Dynamos is an adapted gymnastics class that introduces children with special needs to the world of gymnastics, including tumbling, balance beam, vault and trampoline. Children will learn new movements to increase their flexibility, balance, strength, power and endurance.
Various locations in Indianapolis
Indy Parks & Recreation offers many adaptive programs at various park locations throughout Indianapolis. Individuals with special needs can participate in activities such as water aerobic exercises, dance parties, sensory-friendly skate sessions and more. Search keyword Adaptive on their website to find all the programs offered.
8070 Georgetown Rd., Indianapolis
Indy Stars provides a gym experience where children of all abilities can come together and achieve excellence in a comprehensive program of recreational and competitive gymnastics, cheer, tumbling and dance.
7128 Lakeview Pkwy. West Dr., Indianapolis
This adaptive athletics program gives all athletes opportunities to participate in various activities, which can be adjusted to meet their unique playing aptitudes. Mentors are paired one-on-one with each athlete to teach the techniques, skills and safe practices associated with each sport.
Adapted Recreational Soccer
Northwest corner of 650 & 800 N., Brownsburg
STAR Soccer (Success Through Adaptive Rec) adapts the game of soccer for children with special needs, and give kids the ability to participate in the same soccer programs that their siblings participate in. This unique soccer program adapts each program to the abilities of the players, places kids on teams not by age but by ability, and determines success by happiness and fun, not by score.
Special Abilities Swim Classes
Locations in Carmel, Geist and Noblesville
Stony Creek Swim Center has USSSA-certified special-abilities instructors who have completed in-depth training, and are highly qualified to teach children with unique physical, emotional and mental differences, including autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Classes meet for 30 minutes once a week.
Adapted Recreational Soccer
5616 S. 700 E., Whitestown
This soccer program is designed to bring the fun of soccer to all players, ages 8 and older, who have a mental or physical disability. The goal of TOPsoccer is to enable young athletes with disabilities to become valued and successful members of the Zionsville Youth Soccer Association, Indiana Soccer and U.S. Youth Soccer families. The program is free for all athletes who qualify.
1012 N Bluff Rd, Greenwood
Wright’s Gymnastics’ Special Forces program offers a place for those with different learning abilities to explore and experience the sport of gymnastics and ninja. The coaches take great care to ensure each child learns and grows at their own pace.
SENSORY FRIENDLY MOVIES THEATRES
Sensory Friendly Film Program
Various locations in Indianapolis
AMC offers unique movie showings where the lights are turned up, the sound is turned down, and visitors are invited to get up, dance, walk, shout or sing! The Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Wednesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month. Check website for local theatre listings and specific show times.
My Way Matinee
Regal Village Park, 2222 E. 146th St., Carmel
Regal’s My Way Matinee invites everyone to experience a movie with the lights turned up and the volume turned down. This is a safe space where guests are free to express themselves by singing, crying, dancing, walking around, talking or shouting while enjoying the latest films. All screenings for sensory-friendly movies begin at 10:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturday of the month for a special discounted ticket price.
Special Needs Screenings
3535 W. 86th St., Indianapolis
Studio Movie Grill’s Special Needs Screenings are designed for families raising children with special needs. Movies are shown with the lights up and the volume lowered, and children are free to move around, talk or even dance in the aisles during the movie. Sensory-friendly screenings are free for children with special needs and their siblings (parental guidance is always suggested). Adult tickets are available at before-noon price.
SENSORY-FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS & PLACES TO PLAY
125 S. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis
People with sensory sensitivities can enjoy watching a sporting event or concert at this Indy venue, which has been certified as a sensory-inclusive space. Guests can check out a sensory bag at no cost, which includes noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads.
3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis
The biggest children’s museum in the world has resources on its website that help prepare children with autism or sensory sensitivities for their visit. Parents can download a map (or pick one up at the concierge desk) that shows areas of the museum that are sensory-heavy, as well as those that might be less stimulating.
Sensory Sensitive Sundays
Various locations in Indianapolis
Every Sunday morning, Chuck E. Cheese opens its doors two hours early to offer a sensory-friendly experience at participating locations. Guests will find fewer crowds and a quieter restaurant environment, dimmed lighting, music turned down or off completely, limited character appearances, as well as full access to all the games and a full food menu.
Sensory Friendly Morning + Estridge Family Park
13400 Allisonville Rd., Fishers
The second Sunday of every month is sensory-friendly at Conner Prairie. Exhibit components that make noise are turned off, all quiet spaces can be utilized and staff trained in sensory-friendly practices are on hand in case anyone needs assistance. Also check out Estridge Family Park, a fully inclusive playground on the grounds designed with guests of all abilities in mind.
505 S. Capitol Ave., Indianapolis
The home of the Indianapolis Colts is now certified as a sensory inclusive venue. Lucas Oil Stadium provides sensory bags — which include weighted blankets, noise-canceling headphones and fidget tools — to guests who might feel overwhelmed by the noise and activity of the game or event they are attending. The stadium also provides designated quiet spaces around the venue.
1115 East, IN-44, Shelbyville
An exciting and safe alternative to typical playgrounds, SENSES is designed especially for kids who have autism, are on the autism spectrum, have sensory processing disorders, ADHD, Down’s syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, and all children who need and can benefit from sensory recreation.
10080 E. 121st St., Fishers
SkyZone’s Sensory Hours are meant for jumpers who might need more guidance on the courts. Each jumper is allowed one friend, family member or caretaker to jump alongside them at no additional cost!
Sensory Friendly Play
14450 Mundy Dr., Noblesville
Urban Air’s sensory-friendly hours on the first Sunday of each month are specifically designed for children with autism and special needs to enjoy time at the park without loud music and flashing lights. Parents jump with their kids for free.