Autism Friendly – Not Just in April but all Year Long
For the families that struggle with autism, the Lehigh Valley and surrounding area offers friendly places to visit and special organizations and events to join.
A recent study of parents by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that 1 in 45 children, ages 3 through 17, have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is much higher than the previous CDC finding of 1 in 68 American children with autism. Behind these epidemic numbers are families struggling with autism.
During the month of April, National Autism Awareness Month, it is a time to promote autism awareness, accept autism, and think of the many facing a new autism diagnosis. As a parent with two children on the spectrum, my duty is to share my knowledge with others. For the families that struggle with autism, the Lehigh Valley and surrounding area offers friendly places to visit and special organizations and events.
Here are some autism friendly places to visit in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding area, along with special organizations and events to be a part of.
Via of the Lehigh Valley is a non-profit agency that provides services for adults and kids with disabilities like autism. They have a series of fundraising events throughout the year. April 29 marks the Via Spring Ball at Iron Lakes Country Club in Allentown.
On July 20, they will host the Via Golf Classic. It takes place at the Northampton Country Club in Easton. On September 10-11, there is the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon. The two-day event includes a walk, run, and kids races throughout the Lehigh Valley. (vianet.org)
On April 2, Autism Speaks celebrated World Autism Awareness Day with its international Light It Up Blue campaign. Thousands of iconic landmarks, communities, businesses, and homes across the globe unite by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families around the word affected by autism. Individuals everywhere wear blue in honor of the autism community.
April 16 marks the Lehigh Valley Autism Speaks Walk at its new location at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. The Walk helps raise funds to support research and programs that are changing the future of those who struggle with autism. April 17 is Lehigh Valley Phantoms Autism Awareness Night at the PPL Center in Allentown. Four dollars from each ticket will go towards the Lehigh Valley Autism Speaks Walk. (autismspeaks.org)
Autism Resource Community Hub of Lehigh Valley (ARCH of LV) offers several resources for families. Some of these include behavioral health services, counseling, after school programs, social skills groups, summer therapeutic programs, and support groups. Parent Partner Robin Urenko from ARCH of LV gives a few of the following resources for families.
The Miracle League of the Lehigh Valley (miracleleaguelv.org) has a special needs baseball program.
Equi-librium in Nazareth (equi-librium.org) has a therapeutic horseback riding program.
Kobushi Family Karate Center in Wescosville (kobushifamilykaratecenter.com) offers special needs karate.
For special needs dance lessons, there is the Grand Jete Studio of Dance in Macungie (grandjetedance.com).
ARCH of LV will have a special fundraising event on April 29. The Seventh Annual Wine Event will take place at Blue Mountain Vineyards & Cellars in New Tripoli. Silent and live auctions will be held throughout the evening, including original artwork by individuals with autism spectrum disorder. (elwyn.org)
Dorney Park in Allentown has taken steps to provide accommodations for all types of disabilities, including autism and related disorders. Guests with mobility impairments or ASD can now receive a Ride Boarding Pass with wait times. (dorneypark.com)
FreeFall Trampoline Park
On the first and third Tuesday of every month, this indoor trampoline park in Bethlehem presents Special Needs Night. From 5 to 7 p.m., special needs jumpers and their families/caretakers can bounce for a discounted price. (freefalltrampolinepark.com)
With locations in Allentown and Easton, BounceU holds Sensory Bounce Events throughout the year. They add extra staff to assist parents, minimize external distractions like loud music and lighting, and limit the number of reservations. (bounceu.com)
On June 25, by advance RSVP, Autism Society of Lehigh Valley will have a trip to the family park Knoebels. Autism Society of Lehigh Valley is a volunteer organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with autism and their families who live in the Lehigh Valley. They coordinate recreational group trips for families. (asalehighvalley.org)
Lehigh Valley Mall
The holidays can go a bit smoother with visits to the Caring Bunny or Caring Santa. On special calendar days, the Lehigh Valley Mall is open two hours early for visits that are fun and sensory friendly. These private events are perfect for families with special needs. (simon.com/mall/lehigh-valley-mall)
Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre
This summer, Allentown’s Muhlenberg College will once again present their Summer Music Theatre. The staff will dedicate a sensory friendly afternoon to a performance from the children’s theatre series. (muhlenberg.edu/main/academics/theatre-dance/smt)
Sky Zone Trampoline Park
Every fourth Monday of the month, Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Bethlehem presents Sensory Friendly Night. From 6 to 8 p.m., children and adults with special needs and their families can jump for 60 minutes for just $8.00. (skyzone.com)
Zoellner Arts Center
Sensory friendly performances are offered at Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. Each production takes into consideration lighting and sound, special training of staff, and relaxed house rules, including allowing the use of iPads and designated quiet areas. (zoellner.cas2.lehigh.edu)