Many might not realize New Jersey is home to various businesses and entertainment venues that accommodate children and young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. These individuals often have a sensitivity to bright lights and loud, sudden sounds.
As a professional who works with individuals with special needs, and a member of the New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA), I understand how critical it is for children and young adults to have a full range of experiences.
A growing number of businesses in NJ are designating certain hours of operation for those with special needs. There are trampoline parks with reserved times, movie theaters showing sensory-friendly films, autism-friendly live theatric performances, and bowling leagues.
In Monmouth County, there are several businesses such as the Count Basie Theatre, and the Two River Theater in Red Bank.
Chuck E. Cheese offers “Sensory Sundays” with reduced lighting and noise. The Kean Stage at Kean University, Mayo, State Theatre and other local venues offer sensory and autism-friendly performances. The Paper Mill Playhouse and Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway offers “sensory-friendly” performances throughout the year. AMC movie theatres throughout NJ provide sensory-friendly showings of current movies. Raritan Valley Community College offers “judgment-free programs” at its planetarium, while the annual Rockin’ for Autism music festival in Fanwood has a “chill zone” for kids who need a low-stimulation environment.
It is my hope that other businesses will be inspired by those who embrace full inclusion.
Children and young adults with developmental disabilities have so much to offer, and we must do all we can to ensure they have full access to entertainment, art, culture and social interaction, so they can reach their fullest potential.
See njsha.org/publicresources/usefullinks for information.