By Julie Landry Laviolette
Whether your child needs a sensory-friendly attraction, a quiet break or a patient, caring destination to explore, a trip to Miami can help make family travel memories that will last a lifetime.
Families traveling with a child on the autism spectrum or with special needs can find plenty to see and do in Miami, Fla.
Places to explore in and around Miami:
ZooMiami’s 750-acre lush, tropical open-air exhibits feature more than 3,000 animals. The zoo plans to create sensory bags for special needs guests with noise-canceling headphones and fidget toys. Quiet places are being identified and Zoo Sensory Guides are also in the works.
children’s museums in the country, this waterfront, 56,500 square-foot facility is chock full of interactive exhibits and hands-on play areas. It includes the Snoezelen Room, a multi-sensory environment in a relaxed spaced with reduced lighting. The space was created specifically for children with autism, sensory processing disorders, developmental delays and other special needs to enjoy with their families. Sensory Friendly Saturdays are held the second Saturday of every month with limited admission, sound and lighting adjustments and special activities.
Biscayne Bay in Miami through therapeutic sailing, swimming, kayaking and other watersports. Programs are offered seven days a week year-round.
Staff-assisted cruise vacations are available for families with children with special needs, including autism, Asperger Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, cerebral palsy and cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities. Autism on the Seas staff members help accommodate typical cruise services, plus provide respite care and private activities on regular cruises on Royal Caribbean, Disney and Carnival cruise lines, among others. Ports are located in Miami and nearby Fort Lauderdale.
Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, a short drive from Miami, offers therapy programs with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins for children with special needs and their families in the water and on land. Customizable programs are offered that include interactions with therapists and dolphins from the dock or in the water.
swim with the dolphins program and experiences to interact with penguins and seals also are available.
Sensory-inclusive activities have been designated throughout the Miami area by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs. The Sensory-Inclusive access symbol of an open hand with a headset designates events that are modified for sound and lighting, have remote viewing, noise-reducing headsets or other modifications to promote inclusion.
Sportsability Alliance, formerly The Florida Disabled Outdoors Association, offers offers a searchable database by county of parks, pools, beaches, attractions and events for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities.
The University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities posts a calendar of social events and activities around the city specially geared to individuals on the autism spectrum or with sensory issues.
Autism Speaks has a searchable database of autism-friendly events such as sensory-friendly movie screenings, beach bike rides and community walks.
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