Summer time can be a fun and exciting time in children’s lives, but can leave parents—especially those with children with Autism—stressed out and at a loss for activities to keep the kids busy. Luckily, there are many options around the Tampa Bay Area for parents who need a safe, reliable place for their children to go during the day or a just a fun activity to enjoy with their children without worrying about sensory overload.
As the population of individuals with Autism grows, more and more businesses are making an effort to appeal to those on the Spectrum and their families. It can be tough to bring your child to places like movie theaters, museums, theme parks, etc. without worrying about them falling into a meltdown because it all becomes too overwhelming. Below is a list of programs and companies who have gone above and beyond to tailor their programs to benefit children with autism and sensory sensitivities.
YMCA Camp COAST – Clearwater, FL
Camp COAST (Children on the Autism Spectrum Together) is a coed, 7-week day camp for children with Autism, Asperger’s, and related disabilities ages 5-10. Children at Camp COAST will be able to participate in activities such as reading, performing arts, music, horseback riding, swimming, sailing, arts and crafts, sensory games, outside activities, singing, dancing, field trips, etc. with each week featuring a different theme. Camp times are Monday through Friday 8:00am to 3:00pm with aftercare available from 3:00pm until 6:00pm at no additional cost. Registration is currently open and camp begins June 20 st and goes on until July 29th. The cost is a weekly down payment of $35 and a weekly tuition of $100 per week for YMCA members and $150 per week for non-members. Parents should be prepared to pack their children a reusable water bottle, lunch, 2 snacks, tennis shoes, towels, and swim gear. The address is 1005 South Highland Ave. Clearwater, FL 33756. If interested, call: 727-461- 9622.
Warriors for Autism Summer Camp- Tampa, FL
Warriors for Autism Summer Camp is a specially designed, sensory friendly day camp for children with Autism ages 5-15. Activities include educational games, nature walks, horseback riding, exotic animal encounters, swimming, animal husbandry, gardening, and sensory friendly animal areas. The camp is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am until 3:00pm from June 20th until July 29th. Registration fees are $20 per child or $35 per family and advanced registration is required. Rates are purchased by the week; $200 for one week, $575 for 3 weeks, and $950 for all 5 weeks. The camp is located at Horsepower for Kids at 8005 Racetrack Road Tampa, FL. Space is limited so if you are interested, email Deena Rivera at: firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible!
Glazer Children’s Museum Sunshine Sunday- Tampa, FL
Sunshine Sunday takes place on the last Sunday of every other month at Glazer Children’s Museum. On these special days, children with Autism and those with sensory disorders may experience the museum with lights and sounds turned down and participate in special events. This summer, Sunshine Sunday will take place on July 31st from 10:00am until 12:30pm. Members will enjoy free admission; for non-members, admission is $5 per person.
Swim School- Various Tampa Locations
Mermaid Swim School pairs experienced instructors with children with special needs to teach them how to swim. Classes are purchased in packages of 8 ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hour classes and are conducted in your own home or community pool. Rates vary between $375-1075 for one student, $425-1075 for 2 students, $475-1075 for 3 students, and $525-1075 for 5 students depending on the length of the lessons. If interested, please contact 941-363- 1083, 727-210- 5233, or via email: email@example.com.
Seal Swim School will assess your child’s individual ability level and place them in either group or individual lessons as appropriate. Swim lessons are available in packages of 4 for $83 for 30 minute group lessons or $144 for 15 minute private lessons or 5 lessons for $103.75 for 30 minute group lessons or $180 for 15 minute private lessons. There is also an annual registration fee of $55 for new families. There are 3 locations to choose from: Lutz (813) 229-7946, South Tampa (813) 879-7946, and Wesley Chapel (813) 991-7946. Seal Swim School also has summer camp available for those children who may benefit from a 15:2 group setting. Summer camp takes place from June 13-August 12 from 8:00am until 4:00pm and extended care is available from 7:30am-8:00am and 4:00pm until 6:00pm. Camp cost is $185 per week or $50 per day, with extended care available for an additional $30 per week, per family. Parents are expected to provide a lunch but snacks and water will be provided for them. Camp Seal is located 1 block north of Seal Swim School at 19501 Holly Lane, Lutz, FL.
Sensory Friendly Films- Various Tampa Locations
Studio Movie Grill Special Needs Screenings located at 12332 University Mall Ct. Tampa, FL provides in-theater dining and service throughout the showing. On certain days, SMG provides family-friendly movies free of charge for children with special needs and their siblings with before-noon prices for adults. These screenings are shown with lights up, sound turned down, and children are free to get up and move about throughout the movie. Upcoming shows for this summer include Alice Through the Looking Glass at 11am on June 4th, Finding Dori on June 25th, and The BFG on July 9th.
AMC Theaters has partnered with Autism Society to present sensory friendly screenings on the second and fourth Tuesdays at 7pm and the second and fourth Saturdays at 10am. Sensory friendly screenings feature lights turned up and volume turned down. Children are free to move about the theater as they please. Local participating theaters are AMC The Regency 20, AMC Veterans 24, AMC Woodlands Square 20, and AMC Sarasota 12.
Cobb Theaters offers certain screenings, usually starting around 10am, with lights turned up and the sound turned down. Upcoming showings include Finding Dori on June 18th, Ice Age: Collision Course on July 23rd, Kubo and the Two Strings on August 20th, and The Wild Life on September 10th. Participating locations include Countryside 12 in Clearwater, FL, Lakeside 18 IMAX in Lakeland, FL, Grove 16 in Tampa/Wesley Chapel, and Cobb Tyrone Luxury 10 in St. Petersburg, FL.
LEGOLAND- Winter Haven, FL
LEGOLAND offers a variety of Autism friendly attractions such as Imagination Zone, Tot Spotswithin LEGO® TECHNIC and LEGO® CITY, along with a variety of LEGO® Play areas and Tots Spots. LEGOLAND also offers a Hero Pass for those with disabilities that gives immediate access to their first ride of the day and allows families to secure a ride time so you may come back later to enjoy the ride without waiting in the lines. Hero passes may be picked up at Guest Services outside the park.
The Florida Orchestra- St. Petersburg, FL
The Florida Orchestra has partnered with USF’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) to help create a sensory friendly orchestra experience for individuals with Autism and other disabilities and their families. House lights are left on and the sound is lowered to help avoid sensory overload. Children may also retreat to a designated quiet area, fidget toys and earplugs are provided, and the use of electronics or anything extra needed to make the experience comfortable and enjoyable is permitted. For more information on how to purchase tickets, call: 727.892.3337.
We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym- Clearwater, FL
We Rock the Spectrum is dedicated to providing a fun, safe, and creative environment for all children, but particularly children on the spectrum. Kids enjoy suspended equipment with swings for balance and vestibular treatment, crash mats and crash pillows for fun, motor planning, and strength, tunnels, zip lines, rock climbing wall, trampolines for building leg and core strength, indoor play structure for climbing and increasing playground skills, sensory-based toys, motor play toys and equipment, fine motor activities, arts and crafts, and an area with a chalkboard. We Rock the Spectrum offers mini camps which may range from 1 hour to 3 hours at a rate of $12 per hour.