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5 Sensory-Friendly Activities for Neurodivergent Families around Bucks County this Summer

A local mom shares her tips for finding sensory-friendly summer adventures that excite her family, including her neurodivergent son and neurotypical daughter.

While my family and I enjoy lazy summer days, there’s nothing that excites us more than going on local adventures. For me (as my family’s Official Planner of Summer Fun), this means finding locations and activities for both my neurodivergent school-aged son and for my neurotypical toddler daughter.

I’ve put together a collection of five of my family’s favorite sensory-friendly spots for Summer 2024:

1. Helping Friendly Farm, New Hope

Helping Friendly Farm in New Hope provides a sensory-friendly exploration of their land. Equipped with a sensory barn, hands-on garden, and farm animals who are trained to be sensitive to the needs of guests, the farm is a perfect way to engage with nature for the entire family. The wheelchair accessible paths (pictured above) lead from the sensory barn to the garden and animals.

The farm is designed for families of anyone with ADD/ADHD/learning disorder, an autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, chromosomal disorder, chronic illness, developmental delay, Down syndrome, GARD, intellectual disability, mobility/movement disorder, mental illness, NORD, physical disability, and other invisible illness.

2. Elmwood Park Zoo, Norristown

Looking for peaceful mornings at the zoo? Look no further. Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown has “Quiet Mornings” on the last Thursday of every month, with the zoo opening an hour early at 9 a.m. for those with sensory sensitivities. As a Certified Autism Center™, Elmwood Park Zoo ensures an inclusive experience, offering opportunities like giraffe feedings at designated times throughout the day. Additionally, one-to-one aides and personal care assistants receive complimentary admission, further facilitating accessibility for all visitors.

The majority of staff at Elmwood Park Zoo have participated in special training, which focuses on how to properly accommodate individuals with autism or sensory needs, as well as their families.

3. Water Tower Cinema, Lansdale

Does your family love cooling off at a movie theater on the hottest days of summer? Water Tower Cinema in Lansdale offers sensory-friendly family movie showings on the second Sunday of each month. Grab your popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show!

Water Tower Cinema is proud to offer sensory friendly showings for children and adults with autism or other sensory processing sensitivities. These showings are designed to be a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for everyone. Every Second Sunday at 1PM*

4. Bucks County Children’s Museum, New Hope

Imagination has no age limit at the Bucks County Children’s Museum in New Hope, where the entire family can tap into their creativity and curiosity through hands-on experiences and sensory stimulation. From interacting with a life-sized Light Brite to learning about weather patterns and exploring a pretend grocery store, children of all ages can engage in immersive activities. To ensure an enjoyable visit for all, the museum provides Sensory Backpacks at the front desk for check out, which include sunglasses, ear muffs, and a fidget toy, and a Sensory Map, making it a welcoming and inclusive space for families to unleash their imagination and curiosity.

Plan your visit based on your child’s sensory preferences and learn more about each exhibit, read about each space in the museum with your child, and then play a quick game to help prepare for a fun visit using their digital tools in advance.

5. Sesame Place, Langhorne

At this Certified Autism Center™, your family is guaranteed to enjoy your visit! Sesame Place has low sensory rooms, zones, and parade viewing to ensure everyone feels welcome and can enjoy a day with their favorite characters.

Sesame Place Philadelphia Ambassadors receive specialized training to ensure they have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to cater to all children, including those with special needs. Their training focuses include: sensory awareness, motor skills, autism overview, program development, social skills, communication, environment, and emotional awareness.

Adventure has come to mean a lot of different things in my family. Sometimes it’s simple; other times, more elaborate. But most importantly, adventure is about making sure each of my family members can feel like their most adventurous and relaxed selves while having the fun that summer demands. I hope your family is inspired to do the same!

Bucks County Parent Contributing Writer. Rachel is a mom, educator and the founder of The Most Au-Some Journey, a Pennsylvania resource and blog for individuals and families of all abilities. To connect with her, email most-au-some-journey@gmail.com or follow her on Instagram @most_au_some_journey.