Sensory Playtime

Sensory Playtime is a safe place for children with sensory sensitivities, such as those with autism, to play. The new feature at Children’s Museum of the Highlands will be available by invitation only on the first Saturday of each month.

SEBRING — The Children’s Museum of the Highlands is a favorite place for kids to play. Youngsters seem to love to climb on and into exhibits and imagine they are racecar drivers, pilots, forest rangers and more. However, for some children with sensory sensitivities, the bright lights and noises may be a bit much.

The Children’s Museum is addressing the issue with a new program called Sensory Playtime. The public can drop by from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 219 N. Ridgewood Drive in Sebring to learn about activities and new items the program will offer.

Executive Director Kelly Dressel said Sensory Playtime is a safe place for children with sensory sensitivities, such as those with autism, to play. The program will be limited to 30 guests to keep the noise level down. It will take place from 8:30-10 a.m. the first Saturday of the month beginning on May1.

“I had no idea the need was so great,” Dressel said. “We want this to be a safe spot for all children to play. We want the entire family and siblings to be able to play together.”

The program will be by invitation or RSVP only. Dressel is working with school guidance counselors and others for a list of children with special needs who may benefit from the program.

Some considerations for Sensory Playtime are lowered lighting, soft flooring, elimination of “ticking” noises, and tactile exhibits and puzzles. The museum has invested in a calming room and a comfort rocker.

The idea for Sensory Playtime came about when parents expressed their wish for a play space that was gentler to sensitive children. When parents receive the invitation, a PowerPoint slide show will be included that gives descriptions and pictures of the museum so children know what to expect.

She said the the public’s response has been overwhelming. A Community Grant from the Mason G. Smoak Foundation for $2,200 helped to get the program on its feet. Dressel said the museum could not accommodate every problem, but this is a good start. If warranted, Dressel said the museum may have to add more play times. She said she would search for more grants so more sensitive can play.

For more information on the Children’s Museum of the Highlands, call 863-451-5385 or email Kelly Dressel at director@childrensmuseumhighlands.com.

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