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Fun Places to take your Child with Special Needs

Looking for some new family activities to do with your child with special needs? There are many good learning, therapeutic and developmental programs for children with special needs in our area, but most require a commitment to several classes or sessions. Sometimes you just want to go out for an evening or afternoon of fun. Here are a few suggestions.

uniquely fun

uniquely fun

Spend some time in a “reel” movie theater
AMC Webster 12 Movie Theatre has a variety of services for people with special needs. The Webster theatre, in partnership with The Autism Society, offers AMC Sensory Friendly Films on a monthly basis. The program provides a special opportunity for families to enjoy films in a safe and accepting environment where the lights are up and the sound turned down. Audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing! In addition assistive listening devices are available for all movies.  Since not all titles are made available by studios with captions and/or audio descriptions, use the theatre finder guide online for the appropriate icon to locate sight- and sound-assistive show times or call the theater. The theatre is wheelchair accessible and even offers plush recliner seats. Whether amplifying the audio, receiving narration about what’s happening on screen, using closed captioning to follow the dialogue, or attending a special sensory friendly showing, AMC Webster 12 has services to help make every film just right for you.
AMC Webster 12, 2190 Empire Blvd , Webster 14580
Guest Services: 671-0941

Make a family  art project
If you don’t mind getting a little messy, The Magic Paintbrush Project at the Pieters Family Life Center has just the thing. Families with special needs children are welcome to create art and have fun at specially designed workshops. At the Family Group Painting Workshop, for example, families get to create a floor-size canvas painting in a unique way alongside other families. No art experience is necessary! Check out the Pieters Family Life Center website to find out more about this and other family workshops that offer a unique focus on Ability. A typical workshop lasts about an hour and can include paint, clay, colorful papers, movements, communication, music and activities that are designed around you and your child’s needs. Each family will receive at least one piece of art created during their session.
Pieters Family Life Center,  The Magic Paintbrush Project. 1025 Commons Way
Rochester 14623 , 487-3500 ,

Take a walk in the park
Mendon Ponds Park has many recreational areas and a special sensory garden for people with visual or physical disabilities. Sharon’s Sensory Garden, located behind the Nature Center, has a diverse selection of plants, highlighting color, texture, fragrances, and form. Visitors are invited to touch, tear, and smell the plant life. The garden flowerbeds are raised and pathways through the garden are properly graded for visitors in wheelchairs. Plant listings and labels are in Braille and raised lettering to help educate visitors. For additional information, please call Mark Quinn at 753-7286. In addition to the sensory garden, Mendon Ponds Park is home to Wild Wings where permanently injured eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, and other “raptors” unable to survive in the wild are displayed for viewing. Visit the website and discover what else the park has to offer.
Mendon Ponds Park (park office) 95 Douglas Road, Honeoye Falls 14472
Park bordered by Clover Street on the west and Pittsford-Mendon Center Road on the east

Bounce the night away
If you are looking for a fun and active night out with the family, sign up for a MATT (Managing Autism Together Today) Family Fun Night at Bounce-It-Out. The kids can bounce their sillies out at this indoor playground with several big inflatables, plus an obstacle course, arcade games and snack bar. This activity group meets the second Wednesday of each month from 5:30-7:30pm and is open to families with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their siblings, friends and supporters ages 0-10 years old. Check out MATT’s website ( for registration information and for other events including parent groups for Dads and Moms who have children diagnosed with ASD.
MATT Family Fun Night at Bounce-It-Out, 3300 Monroe Ave #200, Rochester 14618

Area museums and the zoo are universally accessible and offer many amenities for guests with special needs which can usually be obtained with a phone call. Many places, such as Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Rochester, feature sensory friendly events where distractions and noise are dialed down, but you will need to check online or call for specific dates and times. Similarly, dance and theater groups such as the Rochester City Ballet and TYKES on occasion present special sensory friendly performances to young audiences.
Another resource to check out is Adapted Recreation Services (, a small local not-for-profit organization that partners with community fitness centers, municipal recreation programs and disability-oriented services in the greater Rochester region to provide programs and resources for people with special needs and their families to participate in recreational opportunities in the community. Several different activities are offered each season and enrollment is limited, so register early.
With a little planning, you can have a wonderful time out with your special needs child and make memories that are sure to last!
Kathi Nevin is a freelance writer who has raised three children in the Finger Lakes region.
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