Columbus has fun activities, events, and offerings for ALL. It is an inclusive city, and we want to make it easier to find activities that are disability friendly and sensory friendly in Columbus for those living with disabilities, special needs, and autism spectrum disorders.
We need your help! This resource is new, and we want to gather as many fun activities as we can, so please comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are aware of ongoing or single events that are inclusive to all abilities.
Bridgeway Ohio has put together a great resources for learning at home for families with a child on the autism spectrum or with special needs. Check it out here: Tips for Remote Learning During School Closures.
Accessible Playgrounds in Columbus
Looking for accessible and all-abilities, all-ages playground options? Check out this list of accessible playgrounds in Columbus.
Activities for all
DanceAbility classes at Leap of Faith Dance Company
Leap of Faith Dance Company in Westerville is a nonprofit organization serving the central Ohio region. They are in their second year of offering Ballet and Hip Hop geared toward special needs students (ages 7 to 24). The DanceAbility classes are taught by certified integrative instructors who have a passion for this community and for dance! It is amazing to see how these students blossom when given the correct tools! For more information, you can visit the Leap of Faith Dance website.
DanceAbility is offering Summer programs too!
- 1 Day Summer Camp on Friday, July 10 from 12 pm – 5 pm; $35
- Summer Classes: Wednesdays, June 24 – August 5, from 6:15 pm – 7 pm; $65 for the 7 week session
Empower Sports at The Ohio State University
Empower Sports at The Ohio State University is a free community program that helps athletes with special needs develop social skills, self-esteem and overall well being. Events will bring Ohio State students together with our athletes to learn new games each week, with a focus on making sure all participants are having fun! Sessions fill up quickly.
Sensory Friendly Series at New Albany Symphony
Saturday at the Symphony Sensory Friendly concerts are designed for those on the autism spectrum, our friends in the dementia/Alzheimer’s community, or for those audience members needing a more relaxed concert experience. Performances are never longer than an hour and include pre-concert lobby activities.
During these concerts, audience members can feel free to move around, talk and BYO reinforcements and motivational systems. House lights will be turned on but dimmed, and “chill-out” zones, will be available in the lobby for those needing a break. Single tickets are $8 each – no ticketmaster fees if purchased at the door. Note: these are subject to cancellation depending on health and safety regulations at that time.
- Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. Songs About Ohio (tickets on sale August 1)
- Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. Santa and the Symphony (tickets on sale August 1)
- Saturday, March 20, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. A Whale of a Time (tickets on sale August 1)
Sensory Friendly Movies
NOTE: Movie theatres are currently closed, but should be reopening soon.
AMC Sensory-Friendly Films are geared towards enjoying an outing to the theatre in a safe and accepting environment. The theatres will have the lights up, sound turned lower, and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing! The series will feature four showings per month, on the second and fourth Tuesday and Saturday.
Family-friendly movies will be shown on Saturday mornings, and the Tuesday evening showing are films that may appeal to a mature audience on the autism spectrum. See schedule here; regular admission applies
Marcus Theatres hosts sensory friendly movie outings that are welcoming to all! The Reel Movies for Real Needs series features an inclusive environment, which makes it possible for families with special needs children to go to the movies together.
These first-run movies will be shown on select Saturdays at 10:30, locally at Crosswoods and Pickerington. To purchase tickets, click on the movie poster on the website and choose the locations and the Reel Movies for Real Needs showing (always at 10:30).
Gateway Film Center wants to make it easier for families and individuals with autism and developmental disabilities to enjoy a trip to the movies with Sensory-Friendly Films.
Screenings are played at a lower volume and the lights are kept up, plus no ads or previews. It’s an inclusive environment that encourages expression and prohibits “shushing”. Tickets to the screenings and popcorn are free and are presented in conjunction with The Ohio State University Nisonger Center. A craft will be available 30 minutes prior to the movie.
On the 3rd Saturday of each month, The Strand Theatre provides showings for children, families, and adults in the community who may benefit from an alternative movie experience, such as patrons on the autism spectrum or those living with other special needs. Lights are up, sound is down, and singing dancing, and movement are welcome. Closed Captioning and Assisted-Listening Devices are available. Tickets can be purchased at the Strand Theatre Box Office. The Box Office opens 30 minutes prior to the first show time daily.
- Frozen II, January 18 at 10am. Doors open at 9:30am. Free small popcorn and free canned beverage provided by the Autism Society of Central Ohio. See details here.
Indoor play places
NOTE: Indoor play places are currently closed
We’ve gathered a huge list of fun indoor play places and activities for kids in Columbus. Every option isn’t suitable for kids with special needs, but there are plenty of places to check out. We hope you can find some options that are perfect for your child’s needs, but We Rock the Spectrum is particularly recommended.
- We Rock the Spectrum: Oak Creek Center, 1250 E Powell Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035 614-396-8773
This amazing place offers an environment full of sensory equipment that is specifically designed to aid children with sensory processing disorders while they play and form friendships with their peers of all abilities. Open play includes includes full use of the gym with all equipment (swings, crash mats and pillows, zipline, trampoline, play structure, sensory toys), and an arts & crafts section that has: beading, painting, lanyards and much more.
- Better Together Playnasium: 5089 York Rd. SW, Pataskala, Ohio 43062
Safe, sensory-friendly play space focusing on inclusion and acceptance of all children, advocating for children with special needs and spreading awareness so that young children of all abilities can grow, learn and play together. See open play times and pricing here.
See upcoming disability- and sensory-friendly Columbus events below!
Many in-person events in Columbus have been cancelled for the time being.
Disability and Sensory Friendly Columbus Resources
The ASCO offers an amazing plethora of information, resources, referrals, family activities, support and more for individuals and families living with autism in Central Ohio.
Looking for a great location for a birthday party? You can rent out the party area at Easterseals Central and Southeast Ohio! While it’s not specific to sensory friendly or disabilities friendly parties, it’s a great option for kid of all abilities. The 3 hour package is $250. They also offer resources for support of families living with disabilities and special needs.
Other articles of interest
- Free or cheap events this weekend in Columbus
- Sunflower Fields in Columbus
- Nature walks and scenic hiking trails in Columbus
- Creeking in Columbus: Creeks and other water to explore
- Best Places for Canoeing and Kayaking in Columbus
- Drive in Theatres in Ohio
- Fun and Tasty Adventure Trails in Ohio
- Free outdoor movies around Columbus this Summer
- Farmers Markets in Columbus (and the changes for 2020)
- The most beautiful public gardens in Columbus
- Planetariums and Astronomy: Best places to see the stars in Ohio
- Walking labyrinths in Columbus and Central Ohio
- Caverns, animals, and more at Olentangy Indian Caverns
- Easton Drive-in Movies Sunset Series
- Explore the Magical Fairy Trail in Granville
- Details about Splash Pads in Columbus for 2020
- Best places to pick berries in Columbus
- The best Dog Parks in Columbus
- Best photography locations in Columbus