Our son has sensory processing issues, most notably auditory. We’ve had many experiences of sitting at a restaurant when the environment suddenly becomes hectic with a crying baby and clattering plates, and our son immediately panics and erupts in tears. We do our best to anticipate and mediate the factors that are difficult for him and find that the best plan of attack is to know where and when we can go to create a stress-free experience for him.
Thankfully, there are some great places to go in Vancouver with children who have sensory and autism-spectrum challenges. The more you can find out about a destination beforehand, the more relaxed both you and your child will feel. The following places are worth checking out:
Cineplex sensory friendly screenings
Cineplex Entertainment offers Sensory Friendly Screenings in and around Vancouver. The movies are presented in a lights up, sound down environment and occur approximately every 4-6 weeks on Saturday mornings at 10:30 am. Take a look at the listings for Sensory Friendly Screenings coming up.
Grabbing a bite in peace
It’s essential to find not-too-busy, bright, noisy, or unpredictable dining environments for kids with sensory challenges. For our family, it’s been a process of trial and error to find the right spots that won’t overload our son. We’ve found a few tried-and-true spots that we can rely on to be calm and fairly quiet, including White Spot, ABC Country Restaurants, and even little cafes here and there in the city that are chill and quiet.
The key is to look for dim, quiet spaces with booths that help you feel enclosed from any hubbub. It’s a good idea to bring something to keep your child occupied whether it’s a favourite book, headphones, or just cuddling up for a chat in a comfy booth.
Check the hours of your local pool, or even call to find out when the quietest and least busy times are, so you can take your kiddo for a relaxing, rejuvenating splash that’s good for the body and mind.
Sensory evenings at Sky Zone
SKY ZONE SURREY IS NOW CLOSED
Offered most Monday evenings from 6 pm-8 pm (double-check their events calendar before you go), Sensory Night offers a quieter way to experience this family fun spot, with the music turned down and staff that have been trained by the Canucks Autism Network! Plus…it’s only $8 for the child and tickets for caregivers are FREE!
Nature is the greatest calming source around, and the best part is it’s free and plentiful in Vancouver. One of our favourite nearby spots is a quick hike around Rice Lake, a calm and quiet lake on the edge of in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. it’s easy, low-key, and not physically demanding.
Have any ideas for other sensory- or autism-friendly planes in and around the city? Please let us know in the comments below!
Heather Maxwell Hall is a Vancouver-born-and-raised writer and journalism school grad who loves the arts, her little family, and the Pacific Northwest. She cultivates good vibes by going on long walks, taking pictures, and discovering new things.