Best Enrichment Activities for Autistic Children


About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder in the United States – a rate that has doubled over the last 15 years. Researchers estimate that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism can be as high as $2.4 million. But even harder than the financial burden, is the emotional toll it takes as parents try to help their children through behavioral issues, social stigmas, and a world that, at times, doesn’t seem to fit their needs.

For Autism Awareness Month, we’d like to shine the spotlight on a few local programs, events, and groups taking great strides to create safe, accepting spaces where kids and parent can take a break, relax, and enjoy what all children should have access to – stories, songs, sensory activities, and socializing.

Upcoming Autism-Friendly Events in NYC

  • Air Play – Watch in amazement as colorful umbrellas, balloons, and acrobats take flight in New Victory Theater. The accessible 11:30 am, April 14th performance offers special features like lowered sound, dim-not-dark lighting, a calming corner with fidget toys and bean bag chairs, gender neutral restrooms, and autism specialists available to lend a hand.
  • Autism-Friendly Program for Ages 6-18 – Visit Queens County Farm Museum on Wednesday, July 25th from 9-11 am to observe livestock such as goats, sheep, alpacas, pigs, hens, and steer. Take a tractor-drawn hayride. Tour the growing fields, sensory gardens, and historic farm houses. Families will receive a site-specific social story and trip preparation sheet prior to the visit.
  • Big Umbrella Festival – For the month of April, Lincoln Center is hosting its first-ever theatre festival geared toward young audiences on the spectrum. Kids can explore jazz instruments, the world of chamber music, ballet movements, storytelling, short films, puppetry, and sensory-filled performances that are warm and welcoming. Don’t miss the hugely popular Light Show or Up and Away.

Autism-Friendly Programs in NYC

  • Adaptive Climbing – With centers in Brooklyn and Queens, Brooklyn Boulders invites children ages 4-17 to try out rock climbing for a discounted price, geared specifically toward individuals with disabilities and their siblings. If your child loves the affordable and accessible clinics, there are opportunities to climb outdoors, travel, and engage in friendly competitions.
  • Sensory Friendly Films – Participating AMC locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens invite families with children 2+ to special engagements on Tuesday evenings, as well as the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, where the sound is turned down and the lights are turned up. Kids can sing, dance, get up out of their seats, and express themselves without reprimand. The latest screenings include Ready Player One and Rampage for older kids, as well as Sherlock Gnomes and SGT Stubby for the younger squad.
  • The Discovery Squad – The American Museum of Natural History is one of our favorite field outings. Who doesn’t love giant sea mammal, dioramas, and real dinosaur bones? On select Saturday mornings, you can take a 9 a.m. guided tour customized to kids ages 5-14 on the spectrum, developed in collaboration with the Seaver Autism Center. Spots are selling out, so be sure to advance register for an upcoming tour on July 14th, August 4th, or September 1st.

Come Join Our Shine Family!

We all want the best for all kids – for them to reach their true potential. Research shows that art therapy, storytelling, and inclusive classrooms offer some of the greatest benefits for kids who fall within the spectrum. Shine camps, classes, workshops, and parties provide inclusive settings, where all kids can explore multiple modes of learning. We also offer on-location activities and support for birthday parties, as well as Family Coaching.

Contact us with any questions on our offerings to see how we might be the missing piece of the puzzle you’ve been looking for to help with your family dynamic.

Additional Resources:

Science Daily – Art Therapy Best Practices For Children With Autism,

Autism Parenting Magazine – Ways Storytelling Can Benefit Autism Kids,

Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry Longitudinal follow-up of academic achievement in children with autism from age 2 to 18.

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