Many families with children and individuals on the autism spectrum struggle to find activities and locations that are accommodating and enjoyable for their loved ones. However, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is working to change that by offering a variety of sensory-friendly activities and locations.
The North Carolina Aquariums in Pine Knoll Shores, Roanoke Island, and Fort Fisher offer a sensory-friendly experience for visitors with autism. These aquariums offer designated quiet areas, earplugs, and noise-cancelling headphones. Additionally, the aquarium staff has received training on autism and sensory sensitivities to better assist visitors.
The Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh offers a range of autism-friendly activities, including sensory-friendly films, exhibits, and programs. The museum also offers a sensory-friendly backpack that includes noise-cancelling headphones, fidget toys, and visual aids.
North Carolina State Parks offer a variety of outdoor activities that are suitable for individuals with autism. Hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife watching are just a few examples of the activities available. Many of the state parks offer accessible trails and facilities, and some even offer adaptive equipment for visitors with disabilities.
The North Carolina Symphony offers sensory-friendly concerts and performances for visitors with autism. These concerts have lower sound levels, dimmed lights, and relaxed seating arrangements. The symphony also offers pre-concert visits to the concert hall to help visitors prepare for the performance.
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro offers an autism-friendly environment for visitors. The zoo has a designated quiet area, noise-canceling headphones, and sensory bags available upon request. Additionally, the zoo staff has received training on autism and sensory sensitivities to better assist visitors.
Visual schedules are available for the Museum, Park, and special exhibitions in Meymandi Exhibition Gallery. Noise-canceling headphones and earplugs are available upon request at the Tickets/Information Desk.
The CSS Neuse Museum has partnered with non-profit organization KultureCity to provide a sensory inclusive experience for all museum programs and events. Sensory bags, equipped with noise-canceling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget tools, verbal cue cards, and weighted lap pads will also be available to all guests at the CSS Neuse Museum who may feel overwhelmed by the environment.
Here are some upcoming events that are sensory-friendly:
- North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences - Sensory Friendly Afternoon on April 3 from 1 p.m.- 4 p.m.
- N.C. Transportation Museum- Autism Friendly Day on April 23 from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m.
- N.C Maritime Museum at Southport- Sensory Saturdays from 9 a.m.- 11 a.m.
- North Carolina Zoo- Quiet Days
The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is committed to creating an inclusive environment for our neurodiverse visitors. From aquariums to state parks, there are plenty of sensory-friendly activities and locations to enjoy in North Carolina. We encourage visitors to take advantage of these offerings and enjoy all that North Carolina has to offer.