Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities in Lakeland & Central Florida

2018-01-19T18:23:54+00:00 January 17, 2018|Special Needs, Support Groups & Social Groups|

Here at Lakeland Mom, we are passionate about connecting families in our community to helpful local resources, and parents of special needs children are at the top of our list. For all of you moms, dads, and grandparents raising children with autism or other special needs, we know you face challenges with everyday activities that many of us take for granted, and events like movies, sports, and play spaces filled with children and loud noises are often too overwhelming.

The good news is that there are organizations in our community creating special opportunities for your family to enjoy these activities in a sensory friendly and/or special needs friendly environment. Our goal is to help you discover places where your kids will thrive!

Dates are included for 2018 (if could find them), but please check with these sources before heading out to be sure events are still scheduled.

Lakeland Special Needs Activities

Sensational Sundays at Family Fun Center

Sensational Sundays are a time designed for special needs children and their families to come and play in the Family Fun Center’s Funtasia Soft Play area. Upon arrival, the main lights will be turned off, games will be off and it will be a sensory friendly environment. Parents can relax knowing they are among friends and siblings can interact with other siblings who may have a special brother or sister of their own. While in Funtasia, your children will explore a 4 story maze of tunnels, tubes, slides and obstacles. It’s a healthy and fun attraction that will keep them engaged and entertained.  For ages 12 and under and less than 60” tall, socks are required for play. Although Sensational Sunday concludes at 12pm when Family Fun Center opens to the public, all day play is included in your admission if you wish you stay or even come back later in the day.

Sensory Friendly Special Needs Activities Lakeland

When: Select Sundays from 10:30am-12:00pm.
2018 Dates: Jan 28, Feb 25, March 25, Apr 29, May 27, (no date in June or July), Aug 26, Sept 23, Oct 28 (costume contest), Dec 2
Where: Family Fun Center is located at 4825 S. Florida Ave, Lakeland, FL 33813
Cost: $4.99 for children ages 1-4, $6.99 for children ages 5-12
More Info: For prices, dates, and additional information, visit the Family Fun Center website.

Sensory Storytime at the Lakeland Library

Sensory Storytime at the Lakeland Library includes stories and activities that are created for children ages 3-10 on the autism spectrum or with sensory sensitivities. As additional support, fidget toys and a Cozy Corner will be provided. Parental or caregiver attendance is mandatory.

Sensory Friendly Special Needs Activities Lakeland

When: Select Saturdays from 10-10:30. Typically 2nd Saturday of each month with a rare exception.
2018 Sensory Storytime dates: January 13, February 10, March 10, April 14, May 19 (3rd Sat.), June 9, July 7, August 11, September 8, October 13, November 10, December 8
Cost: FREE
Where: Lakeland Public Library – 100 Lake Morton Dr, Lakeland, FL 33801
More info: Call Melissa Estrada at 863.834.4275 with questions.

Mini Miracles Sunday School Class at First Presbyterian Church

Mini Miracles is a Sunday School Class in Room 109 offered during the 10:30 worship hour. It was developed for children ages 4-12 who struggle with Developmental delays, Autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, or any other special need. This class allows children with exceptionalities to play freely and have safe social interactions in a secure environment with specially trained adults. Pagers are provided so parents can attend worship without worrying about emergencies.

Sensory Friendly Special Needs Activities Lakeland

When: Sunday Mornings at 10:30am
Cost: FREE
Where: First Presbyterian Church – 175 Lake Hollingsworth Dr, Lakeland, FL 33801
More InfoFPC Mini Miracles Website

Spirit Gymnastics Youth Association HUGS

Spirit Gymnastics is offering HUGS – an adaptive gymnastics program designed especially for special needs individuals of all ages, developed by the United States Gymnastics Federation. This FREE program for ages 3 & up includes 1 ½ hours of training fun designed for Special Needs.  Parents are welcome to stay and participate or observe the program.  Instruction is provided by certified Spirit Gymnastics coaches and volunteers trained to work with special needs children.  Lakeland Regional Rehabilitation staff is partnering with us, providing occupational therapist that will volunteer in the program.

Sensory Friendly Special Needs Activities Lakeland

When: Mondays 12:30pm – 1:30pm / Saturdays 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Where: Spirit Gymnastics – 21 Spirit Lake Road, Winter Haven FL 33880
Cost: FREE – registration required
More info: Visit our Website or call 863.875.4839

TiAnViCa Horse Riding Academy

TiAnViCa provides recreational therapeutic horse riding for individuals with disabilities. It combines instruction in traditional horsemanship skills with concepts of physcial therapy to improve the strength, balance, and self-esteem for children and adults with physical, mental and emotional disabilities. Most of all, it’s FUN!

Where: 3380 Hwy 60, Bartow, FL 33830 (MAP IT).
More info: Visit or call 888-548-2972

Cobb Theatres Sensory Friendly Films at Lakeside 18

Sensory Friendly showings provide families with varying abilities the opportunity to enjoy a family friendly film where kids can be kids in a safe and accepting environment. The auditoriums are made more comfortable by brighter lights and the sound level is turned down. The audience is encouraged to be themselves and interact with the movie, while having fun without the worry of disturbing others. Dance, sing and enjoy the show!  Click here upcoming showtimes for 2018.

Sensory Friendly Special Needs Activities Lakeland

When: Select Saturdays at 10am
Where: Cobb Theatres at Lakeside Village – 1650 Town Center Dr, Lakeland, FL 33803
More Info: Cobb Website

Buddy Break

Buddy Break provides a safe place for VIP Kids and their siblings to have fun and establish meaningful friendships with other kids and adults while their caregivers get a much-needed FREE break from their overwhelming caregiving responsibilities. VIP Kids include kids with any physical, cognitive, medical or hidden disability, chronic or life-threatening illness, or those who are medically fragile.
Nearby Buddy Break Locations are below. Visit the website or contact the coordinators for more details on how to get involved with Buddy Break.

First Presbyterian Church of Lakeland – 175 Lake Hollingsworth Way, Lakeland, FL 33801
Buddy Break Coordinator: Alyss Ruster & Evelyn McMullen

North Lakeland Presbyterian Church  6725 N. Socrum Loop Rd., Lakeland, FL 33809
Buddy Break Coordinator: Wendy Nakamaru –
VIP Families Call: 863-944-1028, Ext. 863
Buddies Call: 863-838-2733

Special Creative Experience at Ultimate Dance Center

UDC is a place where everyone can enjoy the artistry of music through the use of dance and instruments. Developmental Dance exemplifies the essence of this mission by allowing students who are developmentally delayed to build self-esteem and use self-expression through dance and music.

When: Thursdays from 7-8pm for ages 9 – adult
Where: Ultimate Dance Center – 3234 S. FL. Ave. Lakeland, FL 33803
More InfoVisit website or call 863-644-5275

Gymnastics Etc. Special Needs Cheerleading Team

GymnasticsEtc GE All Stars has  partnered with the United States All Star Federation and the Special Olympics to start a Special Needs Cheerleading team! We want to offer special needs athletes an opportunity to perform at USASF sanctioned competitions. This program will help boost self-confidence and improve motor skills while the participants will have a great time. Special Need athletes of all ages are welcome.

Where: Gym Etc. – 3222 Winterlake Road Lakeland, Florida 33803 
More info:
 Visit website or call 863-667-1281

Buddy Ball at Lakeland City Baseball

Lakeland City Baseball’s LCB Buddy Ball™ League is for boys and girls with physical and/or intellectual disabilities, ages 5 and up. LCB Buddy Ball is headed by coach Chris Canning who has managed and coached baseball for LCB for many years. His experience in youth sports makes him well-qualified to head this program. You can contact Chris with any questions related to the LCB Buddy Ball League by clicking here. Each LCB Buddy Ball player is accompanied by a buddy, who can be a parent, sibling, friend or just someone wanting to help the players have fun and enjoy the game.

Where: Peterson Park – 3700 Cleveland Heights Blvd., Lakeland, FL 33803
More info: Visit the LCB website

Lakeland Community Theatre Out of the Box Troupe

A special needs theatre troupe consisting of 40 members ages 12 to 50 who meet once a week at Lakeland Community Theatre to work on improv, scene work, dance, poetery music, social skills and much more.  Twice a year, the troupe performs a one act musical production for the community.

Where: Lake Mirror Center – 121 S. Lake Ave. Lakeland FL 33801 
More info: 
Call (863) 603-PLAY (7529)

TOPS Soccer at Lakeland Futbol Club

US Youth Soccer, the largest youth sports organization, started TOPSoccer in 1991 to provide young athletes with disabilities an environment filled with meaningful learning, development and physical participation opportunities through the game of soccer. Lakeland FC TOPSoccer volunteer committee will work to help players develop, compete and achieve success according to their individual abilities. Through the efforts of people and parents like you a whole new world awaits these children, please reach out and bring them to our Lakeland FC soccer family.

More info: Visit the Lakeland FC website

Tampa Bay & Orlando Area Special Needs Activities

For those of you looking to venture a little further out, below you’ll find places in Tampa, St. Pete, Orlando and other nearby cities with sensory friendly and special needs activities.

AMC is proud to partner with the Autism Society to bring you unique movie showings where you can feel free to be you! We turn the lights up, and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing!  Click here for upcoming showtimes.

When: 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month at 10am (family friendly) and Select Tuesdays at 7pm (for adults)
Where: There are no AMC Theaters in Polk County, the nearest locations are in Brandon and at Disney Springs.
More Info: AMC Website

Sunshine Sunday is a special morning on the last Sunday of every other month. This program is a limited-engagement event for children with special needs and their caregivers. Children can explore the Museum with lights and sounds turned down and sensory adapted tools, special programs, and community resources at their fingertips. It’s during this time that children and their families can experience the Museum and unite with others on a similar journey.

When: Last Sunday of every other month from 10am – 12:30pm. Check the Glazer Museum Calendar to confirm upcoming dates.
Where: Glazer Children’s Museum – 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, FL 33602
Cost: Free for Members, $5 general admission.
More Info: Glazer Children’s Museum Website or Calendar

We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym was founded to provide a place for children of all ability levels to play and grow together. As the only kid’s gym that offers an all-inclusive philosophy we have found all children can benefit from our uniquely designed sensory equipment that is specifically designed to aid children with sensory processing disorders. However, in our experience, all children are able to benefit greatly from this equipment and by allowing children of all ability levels to play together they are able to learn a great deal from each other and become the best motivation for success on every level.

When: Check website for open play hours and special events
Where: 1076 E Brandon Blvd, Suite 102, Brandon, FL 33511
More Info: We Rock the Spectrum Website

We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym was founded to provide a place for children of all ability levels to play and grow together. As the only kid’s gym that offers an all-inclusive philosophy we have found all children can benefit from our uniquely designed sensory equipment that is specifically designed to aid children with sensory processing disorders. However, in our experience, all children are able to benefit greatly from this equipment and by allowing children of all ability levels to play together they are able to learn a great deal from each other and become the best motivation for success on every level.

When: Check website for open play hours and special events
Where: 12505 Starkey Rd, Largo, FL 33773
More Info: We Rock the Spectrum Website

Connect with your family, with other families and with resources in the community. Join us for Great Connections, an event just for children with special needs and their families. The second Sunday of the month, Great Explorations will close to the general public from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., will modify lights and sounds, and will provide a “cool down” room for families who need to take a break.

When: Second Sunday of the month from 10am-12pm
Where: Great Explorations – 1925 4th Street North, St. Petersburg, Florida, 33704
Cost: Free for Members, otherwise $5 per person
More Info: Great Explorations Website

The REP is pleased to offer Sensory-Friendly performances, specially designed for children with autism, Asperger’s, or other sensory processing disorders and special needs. Adjustments have been made to the show’s lighting and sound effects. A quiet room is available, should patrons need to leave the theatre at any time. A Social Story, a resource guide for parents and children, is also available for download, so patrons can get a feel for the theatre experience before the day of the show. We couldn’t find a list of upcoming Sensory Friendly shows, call the box office for more details. 

Where: Orlando Repertory Theatre is located at 1001 East Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803
More Info: Orlando Repertory Theatre Website or call (407) 896-7365

The Orlando Science Center is becoming more accessible by providing new sensory friendly experiences on select Sunday mornings. This sensory friendly experience will allow our visitors a chance to visit select exhibit halls at quieter volume settings with more light. Visitors will also be able to enjoy a movie with softer volume and more ambient light in our theater.

When: Select Sundays from 9-11am / 2018 Dates: February 25 & May 6
Cost: Regular Science Center admission applies. Free to Science Center members.
Where: Orlando Science Center – 777 E. Princeton Street, Orlando, Florida 32803
More Info: Orlando Science Center Website (they have a Story Guide available at the bottom)

Sky Jump Trampoline Park in Tampa hosts a time for individuals with special needs and disabilities to jump and to learn new skills in a safe, controlled environment. 60 Minute Jump session.

When: Second Saturday of the month from 9AM-10AM
Cost: $11.99 and includes one helper
Where: Sky Jump Tampa – 10137 E Adamo Dr, Ste 800B, Tampa, FL 33619
More info: Website or call (813) 328-1757

At Altitude we want all to gain the enjoyment and freedom of flight on a trampoline so each 1st and 3rd Saturday morning of the month we offer Sensory-friendly Saturdays! While the park is open to the public, during this hour it is less crowded, the music is turned down, no parties are scheduled, and 1 accompanying parent jumps free.

When: 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month from 9-10am
Cost: $11.95/per person (only from 9-10am)
: Altitude Trampoline Park – 4340 W Hillsborough Ave, Tampa, FL 33614
More info: Website or call (813) 399-1529

Visual Supports from CARD

Planning a visit to the Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo, MOSI, Dinosaur World, Glazer Children’s Museum, Great Explorations Children’s Museum? The Center for Autism & Related Disabilities at USF (CARD) has created visual supports for many attractions in the Tampa Bay Area. Visit their website to download these resources under the Autism Friendly Businesses Tab.

Visit our Directory to see a full list of Special Needs Resources.

Do you know of other sensory friendly activities or events in the Lakeland or Central Florida area?

Comment below or contact us to have them added to our list.

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