Families with Special Needs are our HEROES! We have always thought that. After attending AUSM’s Steps of Hope event in 2016, we knew that we needed to up our game to serve our heroes even better.
We decided to make this Special Needs ShortList as a launching point. This guide is for families in the midst of crisis–or friends of those families– who need a place to start. This is our first step, our first attempt. Feedback and suggestions are very welcomed.
The Special Needs ShortList is sponsored by the Autism Society of Minnesota.
The metro is becoming increasingly sensitive to the various needs your family may have. We are always collecting more ideas for you. Also, we have listed organizations and foundations that were designed to encourage and support families on similar journeys. This article contains affiliate links to Amazon. Family Fun Twin Cities receives a small commission on any sales through our site links.
Family Fun List
Cheap Skate, Coon Rapids • Sensory friendly skating sessions. No loud music, flashing lights or fog. Wheelchairs always welcome.
Chuck E. Cheese Sensory Sensitive Sundays, Maple Grove & Woodbury locations • Sensory-friendly experience on the first Sunday of every month.
Como Zoo & Conservatory • Autism & Sensory Friendly Early Entry Days • 9-10 am on select dates, exhibits, and activities designed for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. Before going, download a “Visual Schedule” and a “Sensory Map” to plan the day before. Also check out Como’s “Social Narrative” guide. ASL Interpretive Day on the first Wednesday of every month.
Madison’s Place Playground, Woodbury • This all-inclusive playground has sun-shaded play decks, swings, sensory play equipment and ramps for wheelchair access.
Maplewood Nature Center, Maplewood • We were alerted to the nature center’s water play in the summer, but after some research, we believe that you will enjoy this center at any time of the year.
Miller Park, Eden Prairie • The playground has accessible pathways and surfaces to allow non-mobile children to reach all levels of the play structure.
Nickelodean Universe, Bloomington • Thanks to an insider’s tip, Nickelodean offers Twilight Savings discounts after 5 pm. The lines are shorter in the evening. Also, according to a reader tip, Nickolodean allows kids to enter through the exit to avoid lines and they can ride the same ride two times in a row without getting off. Nickelodean’s website does not delve into this, but stop off at guest services to get the details.
Pump It Up, Plymouth • Special Needs Sensory Night • Every 2nd Monday evening of the month is reserved for special needs families. • $7.95/person, Advanced Tickets are Available
Eden Prairie and Plymouth Locations
Pump It Up, Eden Prairie • Sensory Jump Night • On the 3rd Tuesday of every month, special needs families are invited to get out and play in a safe environment. • $7/person, 6 pm-8 pm
Ramsey County Public Library, Roseville • Sensory-Friendly Mornings • Every Friday morning, the children’s wing opens an hour earlier for children who need a quieter environment to thrive. I believe it began as a summer program but has continued into the school year, but call 651-724-6032 for more information.
Dakota County Library • Sensory-Friendly Saturdays • Locations and dates vary, check the link for the next event. Siblings welcome.
Rosland Park Universal Playground, Edina • Playground designed to integrate a variety of play experiences and challenges while providing access to children with physical, sensory and developmental disabilities.
Shakopee Fun For All Playground • An inclusive playground has sun-shaded play decks, ADA accessible equipment and more.
St. Croix Trail Blazers • An Adaptive Horseback Riding facility, whose goal is to provide horse assisted learning, riding, training, and competitive sports opportunities to individuals with special needs in a safe learning environment through the adaptive equine experience. Ages 8+.
Three Rivers Parks • Adapted Programs • Three Rivers can customize or adapt most of its programs to individualized needs and offers special equipment to rent. Call to learn more 763.694.7725.
Valleyfair • Thanks to an reader tip, Valleyfair offers passes for special needs (including autism). Check in with Guest Services when you arrive and they’ll get you going.
Waterworks Park • Sensory-Friendly Hours • On select days during the season, sensory-friendly hours will offer earplugs, goggles and masks, and a quiet place with fidget spinners and other toys.
Wild Rumpus Bookstore • Sensory-Friendly Storytime • 2nd Thursdays of the Month, 9:30 am
Wild Rumpus is committed to the following (taken from their website):
- No music will play in the store before 12PM.
- Steps will be taken to keep animals calm, quiet, and happy, including covering the noisy birds’ cages so that they sleep during story time.
- Small objects, such as balls or small figurines, will be available for children to hold if they choose.
- Visual distractions will be minimized.
- There will be a clear schedule for story time with visual cues. Children will always be aware of what is coming next and how much longer story time will last.
- As with all of our story times, this is a no judgement zone! We all have unique needs and ways of expressing ourselves, and we at Wild Rumpus welcome and celebrate those differences.
West Minnehaha Recreation Center • Special Needs Tot Time • Currently Thursdays from 10 am to 2 pm. Park run tot times are subject to change and notoriously unreliable. We recommend calling ahead if you are not a regular: 651-298-5823.
American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis • Wheelchairs are available, ASL interpreters with 72 hours notice prior to visit.
Bell Museum of Natural History • The museum is committed to accessibility. Offers sensory-friendly Saturdays when the museum is open 2 hours early.
Leonardo’s Basement, Minneapolis • Everyone I heard from told me to include Leonard’s Basement in this list, so I am.
Mill City Museum, Minneapolis • Provide Closed Captioning , Assisted Listening Devices, ASL Interpretors with 2 weeks advanced notice.
Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis • Offers tactile diagram tours to those who are blind or have low vision, Listening Devices and ASL interpreted tours on first Sunday of each month at 1 pm.
Minnesota History Center, St. Paul • Exhibits are accessible by wheelchair and stroller. The Autism Society of Minnesota and the History Center have partnered together to make it an enjoyable experience for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders by training staff and designating quiet spaces within the museum.
Schubert Club Museum, St. Paul • FREE and very quiet. Lots of hands-on activities. Located in the historic Landmark Center. Open Sundays-Fridays, noon-4 pm.
Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul • You can ask for ear muffs for the IMAX or bring a pair of your own. They also provide amplified audio units and written scripts. Most films have a Audio Description available. When working, PCAs are provided a free admission. There are many hands-on exhibits.
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis • Monthly Sensory Friendly Sundays – FREE, but Registration Required – Come in early for special activities and a crowd-free museum experience.
Fidgety Fairy Tales • These Mental Health Musicals use humor, music, and performances by talented youth to raise awareness about children’s mental health.
Twin Cities Public Television (TPT), St. Paul • Sensory Friendly Second Saturdays • The station reserves an hour of its popular Second Saturday events for fans with sensory needs.
Stages Theatre, Hopkins • Sensory-friendly, ASL, assisted listening performances throughout the year. Wheelchair accessible seating is reservable.
SteppingStone Theatre • Scheduled audio & ASL interpretation, assisted listening, fully wheel-chair accessible.
Sensory Friendly Family Concerts, St. Paul (Schubert Club) • Inclusive, interactive concerts • Inclusive, interactive concerts for families in a sensory-friendly, accepting environment.
Z Puppets Rosenschnoz • Monkey Mind Pirates – Puppet Rock Opera helps children with sensory sensitivities learn to cope with stress.
Moore Than Dance Studio • Special Stars Dance Classes • Dance program for children with special needs.
Allergy: Allergy Support Group of Minnesota
Blindness: National Federation of the Blind
Cystic Fibrosis: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Deaf/Hearing Impaired: Minnesota Hands & Voices
Epilepsy: Minnesota Epilepsy Group
Learning Disabilities: LDA of Minnesota
Mental Illness: National Alliance of Mental Illness
Neonatology: Eden’s Garden
Various Disabilities: Pacer Center
PHS (I love everything about this company)