Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities in Lakeland & Central Florida

Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities

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 indoor 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!

Looking for other special needs resources? Visit our Special Needs Guide or find more Special Needs Articles.

Lakeland Area Special Needs Enrichment Activities

Featured
Family Fun Center

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.

More Info: For prices, dates, and additional information, as well as a Social Story you can view, visit the Family Fun Center website.

Arcades + Video Games| Indoor Play + Open Gym for Toddlers| Indoor Playground Birthday Parties| Indoor Playgrounds| Laser Tag| Mini Golf| Nerf Gun + Laser Tag Parties| Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities| Sports + PE Field Trips| Sports Parties| Unique Birthday Parties| Unique Indoor Activities
4805 Florida Avenue South, Lakeland, Florida 33813
Featured
Polk Museum of Art
Art Lessons| Art, Music + Theater Field Trips| Gift + Home Stores| Homeschool Enrichment - Arts + Crafts| Museums + Historic Field Trips| Museums + Historical Attractions| Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities
800 East Palmetto Street, Lakeland, Florida 33801
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

Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities
175 Lake Hollingsworth Drive, Lakeland, Florida 33801
Lakeland City Baseball

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. 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.

Baseball| Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities| Toddler Sports
3700 Cleveland Heights Blvd, Lakeland, Florida 33803
Lakeland Community Theatre

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, poetry music, social skills and much more.  Twice a year, the troupe performs a one act musical production for the community.

Art, Music + Theater Field Trips| Drama + Theatre Classes| Homeschool Enrichment - Theater| Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities| Theatres + Performing Arts Venues| Volunteer Opportunities Available
121 South Lake Avenue, Lakeland, Florida 33801
Mini Miracles Sunday School Class

Mini Miracles is a Sunday School Class at First Presbyterian Church in Room 109 offered during the 10:30 worship hour 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. Sunday Mornings at 10:30am.

Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities| Sensory Friendly Church Programs
175 Lake Hollingsworth Dr., Lakeland, Florida 33801
Nathaniel’s Hope

Nathaniel’s Hope is dedicated to celebrating kids with special needs (VIP kids), as well as educating and equipping the community to provide practical assistance to VIPs and their families. VIP kids include kids with any physical, cognitive, medical or hidden disability, chronic or life threatening illness, and those who are medically fragile. The four main programs include: the VIP Birthday Club, Buddy Break, Make ‘m Smile and Christmas with Nathaniel’s Hope.

Nathaniel’s Hope also hosts special events throughout the year just for VIP kids and their families.

Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities
Social Spectrum Club

Social Spectrum Club is a safe space for children and teens with Autism and related disabilities to socialize, play, learn & grow. Kids and teens ages 6-17 with High-functioning Autism and their typically developing siblings/friends. Visit the website to learn more and join the club.

Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities| Special Needs Resources + Organizations
Lakeland
Southern Grace Dance Company
Dance Lessons| Homeschool Enrichment - Dance| Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities| Toddler Dance Classes
2300 East Edgewood Drive, Lakeland, Florida 33803
Special Needs Support Group - Polk County, Florida
Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities| Special Needs Support Groups
Special Olympics Florida

Special Olympics Florida provides year-round sports training and competition to children and adults 8 years of age and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Currently offering 17 sports in Polk County.

Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities
Spirit Gymnastics Sports Academy

Spirit Gymnastics Youth Association HUGS is an adaptive gymnastics program designed especially for special needs individuals ages 4 & up, developed by the United States Gymnastics Federation. This FREE program for ages 4 through adult & up includes 1 hour of training fun designed for Special Needs.  Parents are required to join their child on the gymnastics floor to ensure their safety.  Instruction is provided by certified Spirit Gymnastics coaches and volunteers trained to work with special needs children.

Visit the Spirit Gymnastics website for more details or call 863.875.4839.

After School Programs| Gymnastics + Tumbling Lessons| Gymnastics Parties| Homeschool Enrichment - Gymnastics| Indoor Play + Open Gym for Toddlers| Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities| Toddler Gymnastics
2830 Recker Highway, Winter Haven, Florida 33880
TiAnViCa Horse Riding Academy

TiAnViCa provides recreational therapeutic horse riding for individuals with disabilities. It combines instruction in traditional horsemanship skills with concepts of physical 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!

Horseback Riding Lessons| Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities
3380 Florida 60, Bartow, Florida 33830
Ultimate Dance Center

Special Creative Experience (9yrs – Adult) – UDC is the place where everyone can dance! Taught by in house FrediDance Project Company Members, The Special Creative Experience Dance Class meets weekly for fun social dancing & learning a routine for our annual Best In Dance Recital! This class focuses on developmental dance, allowing students who are growing & learning to build self-esteem and self-expression through dance & music! With popular dances like the electric slide, wobble & more the SCE Class encourages those with special abilities to enjoy dance & be themselves. Class meets Mondays at 7pm!

After School Programs| Dance Lessons| Group Fitness Classes| Homeschool Enrichment - Dance| Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities| Toddler Dance Classes| Yoga + Pilates
2930 Lakeland Highlands Road, Lakeland, Florida 33803
YMCA Par 3 / First Tee of Lakeland

YMCA Par 3, Home of The First Tee of Lakeland. home to a 9-hole, Par 3 course with a large Driving Range and 3 practice greens. Offering golf instruction for ages 5 & up, including adults. The Adaptive Golf Program (ages 8 and up) is a specifically designed golf instructional program for individuals with physical and mental disabilities.

Golf| Sensory Friendly + Special Needs Activities
1740 George Jenkins Boulevard, Lakeland, Florida 33815

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 Theatres Sensory Friendly Films

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 at Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa

Sunshine Sunday is a special morning on the last Sunday of every 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. Reservations are encouraged but not required.

When: Last Sunday of each month from 10am – 1pm.
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

We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym – Brandon/Tampa

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 Kids Gym – Clearwater

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

Great Connections at Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Pete

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

Orlando Repertory Theatre Sensory Friendly Shows

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 to view, 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

Sensory Sundays at the Orlando Science Center

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 (1 per quarter) from 9-11am – visit the website and scroll down for upcoming dates
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 Sensory Social Story available at the bottom)

iFly All Abilities Program

All Abilities Night at iFLY is a unique event that makes the dream of flight a reality for those in the special needs community. This program has been custom designed for those with physical and cognitive challenges to create an environment of support and inclusion, while focusing on making what seems impossible, possible.

Where: iFLY Orlando – 8969 International Drive, OrlandoFL | (407) 337-4359
iFLY Tampa – 10654 Palm River Rd, Tampa, FL 33619 | (813) 773-4359
More info: iFLY website

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 view 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?
Contact us to have them added to our list.

Guide to Lakeland + Polk County

Check out our Guide to Lakeland + Polk County for more parenting resources and local information including Things to Do with Kids, Education, Childcare, Healthcare, Classes + Lessons, Youth Sports, Birthdays, and more.