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 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 2020 (if we could find them), but please check with these sources before heading out to confirm dates and times.

Lakeland Area Special Needs Enrichment Activities

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Family_Fun_Center
Family Fun Center Games
Family Fun Center Lakeland
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.

When: Select Sundays from 10:30am-12:00pm.
2020 Dates: See Website
Cost: $4.99 for children ages 1-4, $6.99 for children ages 5-12
More Info: For prices, dates, and additional information, as well as a Social Story you can download, visit the Family Fun Center website or read our post about Sensational Sundays.

Arcades & Video Games| Baby, Toddler, & Preschool Activities| Birthday Party & Event Planning| Birthday Party Venues (Team & Group Parties)| Fun Around Lakeland & Polk County| Indoor Play| Indoor Play for Ages 5 & Under| Laser Tag| Mini Golf| Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities
4805 Florida Avenue South, Lakeland, Florida 33813
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Lakeland Tropics Futbol Club (formerly Lakeland FC)

TOPS Soccer at Lakeland Tropics FC (formerly 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 Tropics FC website

Activities for Ages 5 & Under (Music, Dance, Sports, etc.)| Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities| Soccer
910 Granada Street, Lakeland, Florida 33805
500 West Carter Road, Mulberry, Florida 33860
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Ultimate Dance Center Lakeland
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!

Activities for Ages 5 & Under (Music, Dance, Sports, etc.)| After School Care with School Pick Up| Birthday Party Venues (Team & Group Parties)| Dance| Group Fitness Classes| Homeschool Enrichment Activities| Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities| Volunteer Opportunities Available| Yoga & Pilates
2930 Lakeland Highlands Road, Lakeland, Florida 33803
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
Building Buddies

Building Buddies is the combination of Social Spectrum Club- a social program for tweens and teens with autism and related disabilities – and Bricks 4 Kidz – an experience-based educational program focused on exploring the concepts of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) with children and teens.

Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities
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.

Activities for Ages 5 & Under (Music, Dance, Sports, etc.)| Baseball| Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities
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.

Drama & Theatre| Homeschool Enrichment Activities| Performing Arts Venues| Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities| Volunteer Opportunities Available
121 S Lake Avenue, Lakeland, Florida 33801
Lakeland Public 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 required.

When: Select Saturdays from 10-10:30. Typically 2nd Saturday of each month with a rare exception. Visit the Library Calendar to see upcoming dates.
Cost: FREE
Social Story: Visit the CARD website to download a social story about visiting the Lakeland Library.

Free Activities and Classes for Ages 5 & Under| Libraries| Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities
100 Lake Morton Dr, 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| Special Needs & Special Kids
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
Special Needs Playdates and Support Group - Polk County, Florida
Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities| Special Needs Parent 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.

Activities for Ages 5 & Under (Music, Dance, Sports, etc.)| After School Care with School Pick Up| Gymnastics & Tumbling| Homeschool Enrichment Activities| Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities
2830 Recker Highway, Winter Haven, Florida 33880
Sunshine State Superkids

Providing children with special abilities and underprivileged children with an innovative adaptive sport and STEM program for free. Innovative fun programs for these special children including soap box derby race events.

Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities| Special Needs Resources & Organizations
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| Sensory Friendly & Special Needs Activities
3380 Florida 60, Bartow, Florida 33830
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 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 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 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

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)

Altitude Trampoline Park Tampa Sensory Friendly Saturdays

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)
Where
: Altitude Trampoline Park – 4340 W Hillsborough Ave, Tampa, FL 33614
More info: Website or call (813) 399-1529

iFly Orlando All Abilities Night

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, OrlandoFlorida
More info: Website or call (407) 337-4359

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?
Contact us to have them added to our list.