Every kid should take a trip to our state’s capital city at least once, but a trip to a city full of hustle and bustle, a city like Lansing, can be tough to navigate, especially if your child has autism or another sensory processing disorder.
But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go, because Lansing has plenty of opportunities for kids with sensory processing issues to have fun and learn a bit about the state’s rich history.
In fact, Tracy Padot, the vice president of marketing communications with the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, says that the region’s goal is to be the most sensory-friendly community in the state.
“We have partnered with the Mid-Michigan Autism Alliance and Michigan State University to offer trainings to our hospitality community in autism education so that if a guest is on the spectrum, we are able to accommodate them,” Padot explains. “In addition, the Greater Lansing CVB has worked collaboratively with our attractions to offer sensory-friendly programming and activities throughout the region.”
So far, more than 800 people in the community have undergone autism sensitivity training. Many of the organizations that those people are a part of have stepped up to offer toolkits full of fidget toys and headsets guests can use – plus programming that is sensory-friendly.
Among those organizations is the Potter Park Zoo, which was the first AZA accredited zoo in Michigan to become a Certified Sensory Inclusive Zoo. This 102-acre zoo offers its “Falconers” program, which provides special themed monthly events for those with special needs. The next one is Boo at the Zoo on Oct. 18.
“Kids can make crafts, play games and get up close to a different species of animal each month, with other families that have an interest in the zoo in a sensory-friendly environment,” Padot explains.
The Impression 5 Science Center, Abrams Planetarium and Wharton Center for the Performing Arts also get in on the sensory-friendly fun by turning the volume and lighting down and providing special programming and performances for all ages.
And if you need help finding the information on the special events, the GLCVB’s website offers an interactive calendar for families to check.
“On the web page, families can see when upcoming programs are being held and get a sense of what those programs entail,” Padot says. “You can also view virtual tours of the attractions because a lot of neuro-diverse individuals like to see a destination before they visit so they know what to expect.”
The goal, Padot adds, is to become an inclusive and welcoming community that offers something that everyone can enjoy.
“We’ve got more and more people trained and more and more attractions providing special programming,” she says. “We’re offering awareness so those that are on the spectrum or have sensory-processing disorders can find one of these activities that will be a right fit. It’s important to us that everyone feel welcome in Greater Lansing.”
For more information on Lansing or for help planning your trip, visit the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau online at lansing.org.