A Guide to Sensory-Friendly and Autism Activities In Pittsburgh

by Janet Jonus

There are many Sensory-Friendly/Autism-Friendly events in the Pittsburgh area. You can find all of the dates and times on the FamilyFunPittsburgh Calendar here: http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/events/ Just type “special needs” into the search area.

Updated June 7th 2019

Check out these new events for June!

ICANdance Adaptive Dance Program

Special needs children can learn to dance at one of the ICANdance Adaptive Dance programs this summer. (There are classes in the Fall/Winter/Spring sessions as well.) The summer dance program is a fun, inclusive, week-long program for special needs kids.

There are three sessions. Classes are divided into age groups. The 5-9 year old age group will learn “Brain Dance”, Ballet, and Jazz. There is a class for children with Cognitive/Intellectual Disabilities, a class for kids on the Autism spectrum, and a class for the Blind.

Kids in the 10+ class learn Ballet, Jazz, and Contemporary Dance. There is a class for children with Cognitive/Intellectual Disabilities, a class for kids on the Autism spectrum, and a class for the Blind.

The ICANdance program was developed by the extraordinary dance teacher, Cassidy Negri. Cassidy developed the program through her experiences working toward her Master’s Degree in Adaptive Physical Activity. Cassidy has adapted dance to make it safe and fun for each special needs group.

Classes are Mondays through Fridays. Each class is 1.5 hours long. Students must be able to independently go to the bathroom OR have somebody who stays to assist with bathroom needs. The 10+ year old classes run from June 24-28 and July 15-19. The 5-9 year old classes run from July 8-12. Cost is $50 for the week. Look for our article and all of the details available on June 8th!

ICANdance is hosted by Siri’s School of Performing Arts at 33 Northgate Plaza Unit 6, Harmony PA 16037. The phone number is 724-453-0944. Details can be found here: http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/icandance-adaptive-dance-program-for-special-needs-kids/

Waterworks Cinemas Sensory Friendly Movies for $1.00

The Waterworks Cinemas presents their summer Movie Scoops. Admission is just $1.00 for kids. Plus kids can get a junior drink and junior popcorn for $3.00.

Sensory-friendly performances have the lights up and the sounds low. Showings are on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 100)Am with the doors opening at 930AM.

The schedule is:

  • June 19 & 20 – Paddington 2 (PG)
  • July 3 & 4 – How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG)
  • July 10 & 11 – Missing Link (PG)
  • July 17 & 18 – Sing (PG)
  • July 24 & 25 – Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (PG)
  • July 31 & August 1 – Peter Rabbit (PG)
  • August 7 & 8 – Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (PG)

For more information: https://moviescoop.com/waterworks/summermovies Waterworks Cinema is located at 930 Freeport Road, Pittsburgh PA 15238

Note: FamilyFunPittsburgh is aware Kennywood has announced they have received a Certified Autism Center (CAC) designation from the IBCCES. We are an autism-family. FamilyFunPittsburgh has been to Kennywood. We have reviewed the status of the certification. Most of the requirements for the certification are not in place at this time. Please see our complete review here:

1. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

The Children’s Museum has monthly Sensory Friendly afternoons on select Tuesdays from 100PM-500PM. The lights and sounds in the Museum are turned down and trained staff is on hand to assist. The Museum also has sound blocking headphones, weighted vests and blankets, and wrist assistance cuffs available on any visit. There are social stories available on their website. For more information, check here: https://pittsburghkids.org/visit/accessibility
The Children’s Museum is open to the general public during Sensory Hours but crowds are usually lighter on Tuesday afternoons.

2. Carnegie Science Center

The Carnegie Science Center has NEW Sensory Friendly hours and accommodations. The Science Center’s first Sensory Friendly Hours are scheduled for November 18th from 1000AM-100PM. Additional Sensory Sensitive Science Hours will also take place on the following Sundays in 2019: October 20. Accommodations include lower lights and sounds, special exhibits, assistance from trained staff, calm down areas, fidgets, headphones, sunglasses, and more. The Science Center is open to the general public during Sensory Hours but crowds are usually lower on Sunday mornings. For more information, read the article here: http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/?p=2946

3. AMC Theater at the Waterfront

The AMC Theater at the Waterfront has Sensory-friendly showings of the most popular Family films on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month plus a showing of a “more mature” film on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. Accommodations include a lower sound level, lights that stay on in the theater (not full lights but enough to see), plus guests are welcome to get up and move around, even dance, to the movie.
For more information, check here: https://www.amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films

4. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust sponsors Sensory Friendly shows throughout the year. Sensory Friendly show accommodations are show-specific but they usually include dim lights, lowered sounds, reduced special effects (no strobes, loud sounds, bright lights, etc.), calm down areas, fidget toys, and a special needs-friendly environment where guest can get up and move around. For more dates and times, check out the FamilyFunPittsburgh calendar: http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/events/

The Trust has announced the Sensory-Friendly performance of The Lion King at the Benedum. The performance in Saturday, September 14th 2019. Tickets are available NOW and limited. https://trustarts.org/production/65707/disneys-the-lion-king-sensory-friendly-performance

5. Prime Stage Theatre

Prime Stage Theatre on Pittsburgh’s North Shore presents classic theater and plays. Prime Stage welcomes patrons with disabilities with special performances for the hearing disabled, blind, and individuals on the autism spectrum and with sensory-processing disorder.

6. Pittsburgh Ballet Theater

The PBT offers a Sensory Friendly performance to The Nutcracker. This performance welcomes all special needs guests and their families. Accommodations include house lights on in the theater, reduced sound, reduced special effects, fidgets, trained staff, a calm down area, and relaxed house rules so get up and move around if you need to. The PBT page with more information is here: https://www.pbt.org/performances-tickets/sensory-friendly-performances/ You will find social stories and other information on their website.

PBT also offers Adaptive Dance classes at their practice facility in the Strip District. Classes are limited to 15 students. Accommodations include adaptive dance techniques in ballet and creative movement, a relax mat for breaks, and you are allowed to have an aide or parent present to assist. Classes are taught by PBT Instructors who have special training in special needs. For more information, check here: https://www.pbt.org/pbt-school/school-year-programs/adaptive-dance/

7. Flight Fit N Fun Trampoline Park Bridgeville

Flight has a Sensory Friendly Jump on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month from 600-800PM. The sound is kept on low (it is usually very loud) and the lights are dimmer. There is trained staff monitoring the jumpers. Flight is open just for Special Needs during these times. The cost is $8.00 for one hour and $15.00 for two hours. One family member or caregiver can jump for free with the special needs guest. Flight has a large jumping area, a younger child play area, a laser maze (lots of fun), and a three ninja warrior courses. For more information, check here: https://www.flightfitnfun.com/locations/pittsburgh/

8. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

The PSO has a yearly Sensory Friendly Performance. We will post as soon as we know when the 2020 performance date.

Accommodations include dim house lights, reduced sounds, fidgets, ear plugs, a calm-down area, a shortened 45-minute program, and the ability to get up and move around during the performance. Guests are encouraged to get up, clap, and dance and move to the music. ASL interpretation and closed captioning are also available. You can find social stories on the PSO website here: https://pittsburghsymphony.org/production/60274/sensory-friendly-concert

9. Little Lake Theater Canonsburg, PA

Little Lake Theater in Canonsburg offers Sensory Friendly performances throughout the year. Accommodations include house lights halfway up, reduced sound and light effects plus a warning when a sound or light effect may cause distress, a calm down area, trained staff, relaxed house rules that allow you to get up and move about plus sing and dance, and you are allowed to bring your own fidgets and comfort items. Little Lake has social stories, diagrams, and more on their website here: https://www.littlelake.org/sensory-friendly-performances

10. Pittsburgh CLO

The Pittsburgh CLO offers Creative Discovery Classes for children on the autism spectrum. Children learn in a supportive environment with specially trained staff. There are acting classes for kids 6-12 and musical theater classes for kids 6-17 (and an adult musical theater class for ages 18+). All classes are part of the CLO’s New Horizon Program. Each class is designed around the skills and talents of the students. Classes run in two sessions: September through January and January through May. For more information, check here: https://www.pittsburghclo.org/pages/new-horizons

11. Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh

The Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh have Storytime: Sensory Discoveries for children 3-5 years old. This program is for children with developmental disorders. The program has a story with stories, songs, and activities and is held at various library branches throughout the month. For more information, check here: https://www.carnegielibrary.org/event/storytime-sensory-discoveries-12/

12. Bounce U Zelienople

Bounce U has a Sensory Bounce on the last Monday of the month from 600-730PM. Accommodations include a limited number of people admitted (reduced crowds), reduced sounds, and trained staff. Bouncers are limited to special needs guests and their siblings. $8.50 per guest ages 2+ and $4.99 for guests 12-23 months. Reservations are required. Check the calendar here: https://www.bounceu.com/jacksons-pointe-pa/calendar/

If you have any Sensory Friendly activities to add to this list, please send it us via email: infofamilyfunpittsburgh@gmail.com

13.My Turn to Tri

The My Turn to Tri Special Needs Triathlon is open to all special needs kids. The My Turn to Tri was created by a South Hills family who wanted to share the family love of triathlons with their special needs son. All athletes get to compete in a swim/splash, a bicycle “anything with wheels” event, and a run/walk/wheelchair event. FamilyFunPittsburgh will let you know when next year’s race is scheduled. Read all of the details here: http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/my-turn-to-tri-special-needs-triathlon/