Equitable Fun

8 Sensory-Friendly Experiences in Houston

The museums, theaters, and performing arts organizations that have special days dedicated to children and adults with sensory sensitivities.

By Daniel Renfrow

The Museum of Natural Science is a Certified Autism Center.

There are endless fun things to do and places to explore in Houston. If you’re neurodivergent and have sensory sensitivities, though, it can often be hard to find something that meets your specific sensory needs. Thankfully, whether you’re a fan of space exploration or ballet performances, or just want to know every single thing about dinosaurs, these institutions have sensory-friendly experiences just to your liking. 

Houston Museum of Natural Science

A Certified Autism Center, this museum offers sensory-friendly events three times a year. For these special events, the museum’s exhibits and venues (including the Burke Baker Planetarium and Giant Screen Theater) are modified to turn them into sensory-friendly environments. The museum also offers several resources for those with sensory sensitivities year-round. The museum’s visual vocabulary cards can be used to create a visual schedule of one’s day at the museum, making transitioning between spaces easier. The museum also offers a sensory guide that allows guests and parents to determine what exhibits meet their family’s sensory needs. Also available are sensory backpacks, which can be checked out at museum services and provide guests with fidget toys, stuffed animals, ear protection, and sunglasses.

Main Street Theater

Main Street Theater offers several performances every year tailored to the needs of those who are sensory sensitive. Each sensory-friendly performance includes changes such as increased lighting, lower sound levels, additional trained staff, and prompt books so families can prepare for the show. Additionally, fidget toys and electronic devices (with headphones) may be used during these performances.

Certain days are designated as sensory-friendly at the Children’s Museum of Houston.

The Children’s Museum of Houston

The Children’s Museum of Houston also hosts sensory-friendly days throughout the year. During these special days, the museum dims its lights, limits extra sounds, and provides designated quiet rooms for guests. There are also story guides in order for guests and their families to familiarize themselves with the museum’s exhibits ahead of their visit. 

We Rock the Spectrum

We Rock the Spectrum is an indoor children’s gym and play area in Memorial tailored toward children with neurological differences. The gym includes suspended equipment with swings, crash mats and crash pillows, a zip line, trampolines, indoor play structures, sensory-based toys, and a fine motor and arts and crafts area. 

Space Center Houston hosts special sensory-friendly events throughout the year.

Space Center Houston

Four times a year, Space Center Houston hosts special sensory-friendly events. The events, open to all ages, allow both children and adults who are autistic or have sensory processing disorders to explore the center in a reduced sensory environment. The sensory-supportive setting includes modified lighting, music, and sound effects. Tickets to these events, priced at $15.95 (children age three and younger get in free) are limited, allowing guests to explore the center without having to deal with large crowds. Guests are also welcome to bring sensory-soothing equipment with them, such as noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, pressure suits, toys, and blankets.

AMC Theatres

AMC, which has three locations in the Houston area, partners with the Autism Society to offer sensory-friendly movie experiences for both autistic children and adults. These are available every Wednesday evening (for mature audiences) and on the second and fourth Saturday of every month (for families).

The Houston Ballet

The Houston Ballet offers sensory-friendly performances every season, when their shows are modified for audience members with neurological differences. Trained staff are also on hand throughout the performances to ensure positive experiences for guests.

The Hobby Center provides additional materials for parents to prepare their children ahead of their visit.

The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts

The Hobby Center offers sensory-friendly performances throughout the year tailored to the needs of autistic children and adults as well as others with sensory sensitivities. Accommodations include limited crowds, freedom to move during performances, low light levels, reductions in strobe lighting, the signaling of sudden loud noises and startling moments in advance, designated quiet areas, trained volunteers, and the free use of electronic devices during performances. The center also offers a social story titled “I’m Going to the Theatre” that parents can use to prepare their children ahead of their visit.

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