Capital city calm: 9 sensory-friendly spaces in Lansing

Capital City Calm: 9 Sensory-Friendly Spaces In Lansing

Photo courtesy Ann Arbor Family Press via Facebook.

By Lisa Green

May 7, 2024

Everyone deserves a fun day in Michigan’s capital. We’ve got the scoop on inclusive resources and sensory-friendly spaces at Lansing’s attractions.

Michigan’s capital city. Home of the Spartans. And, recently, the most sensory-friendly city in Michigan.

Lansing, in the past few years, has become a remarkably welcoming city for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. Gradually, the city has begun to shift towards a trend of inclusive spaces that are sensory-friendly and ADA compliant. Accessible Journeys Magazine named Lansing one of the top destinations for autistic families in the U.S.

The Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Mid Michigan Autism Association, and leaders at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts have teamed up with the goal of making Lansing the most sensory-inclusive city in Michigan. Overall, they have trained more than a thousand people in spaces such as restaurants, hotels, and regional attractions on how to create supportive and welcoming environments. Lansing was also the first city to be certified in the Able Eyes Accessible Cities program, which allows individuals to see an attraction before visiting, so they know what to expect.

Sensory-friendly attractions are important for individuals of any age who have ASD, ADHD, Epilepsy, sensory-processing issues, learning disabilities, or other types of disabilities and neurodivergence. An estimated one in six children are affected by neurological conditions, with that number increasing.

Attractions that are not specifically sensory-friendly or otherwise inclusive may present environmental barriers to patrons from these special populations, which could potentially prevent them from experiencing the best attractions Michigan has to offer.

Why are these spaces needed? Sensory-friendly spaces reduce stress in the neurodivergent population and offer enhanced socialization opportunities. They also offer opportunities for patrons to develop language and social skills, which are especially valuable for some individuals with ASD.

We’ve assembled a list of all the places in Lansing doing their part to deconstruct barriers and promote inclusivity. But check Lansing’s website for sensory-friendly events and updates on the spaces.

Play Michigan All Inclusive Playground

201 E Shiawassee St, Lansing, MI 48933

Capital City Calm: 9 Sensory-Friendly Spaces In Lansing

Photo courtesy Community Foundation via Facebook.

A brand new Lansing attraction as of September 2023, Play Michigan is the Capital Region Community Foundation’s $3.2 million investment in accessibility on downtown Lansing’s waterfront.

Play Michigan is an all-abilities universally accessible playground that includes all components, not just a few special pieces of equipment. The space is handicapped accessible and entirely barrier-free. Even family members with physical limitations can enjoy playing with their children and grandchildren. The park was designed with disabilities in mind, with Disability Network assisting with the park’s design.

Protective rubber flooring and barriers to water access are included for children’s safety. A quiet place with benches is located to the side of the playground, which especially helps for sensory-friendly capabilities.

Potter Park Zoo

1301 S Pennsylvania Ave, Lansing, MI 48912

Potter Park Zoo, Lansing’s zoo, is noteworthy as the first AZA accredited zoo in Michigan to become a Certified Sensory Inclusive Zoo. A special sensory map, along with proper signage, guides sensory-mindful visitors to special areas like quiet areas, headphone zones, and where to pick up sensory bags.

Thanks to a partnership with KultureCity, the Potter Park Zoo is able to offer sensory bags on loan for free in the Welcome Center and Discovery Center. Bags include a sensory map, fidgets, headphones, sunglasses, verbal cue cards, and a VIP lanyard.

The FALCONERS program offers additional support and events, such as special sensory-friendly nights for seasonal events like Boo at the Zoo and Wonderland of Lights.

A special communication board is located in the park’s playground, which shows picture symbols on a stationary board. It helps support interaction in the playground area to facilitate interactions by pointing at pictures.

A Social Story is available online for guests to help prepare for their zoo experience here.

Impression 5 Science Center

200 Museum Dr, Lansing, MI 48933

Capital City Calm: 9 Sensory-Friendly Spaces In Lansing

Photo courtesy Impression 5 Science Center via Facebook.

Sensory-Inclusive Time: Third Wednesday of the Month at 5:30 p.m.

Impression 5 Science Center is a science museum in downtown Lansing, featuring hands-on exhibits that provide fun educational experiences about science for learners of all ages. At any time, the Impression 5 Science Center has helpful sensory-friendly resources, such as sensory backpacks containing noise-reducing headphones, sensory tactiles, PE cards, and Social Stories. Accessible amenities such as weighted blankets are also available.

The Sensory Friendly Hours are sponsored by MiABLE. These once-a-month experiences alter select exhibits to reduce stimuli from lighting, sounds, and smells. Rotating pop-up activities are offered as well. The building itself also has a limited capacity to emphasize the sensory-friendly experience.

Capital City Market

600 E Michigan Ave Suite 100, Lansing, MI 48912

Capital City Calm: 9 Sensory-Friendly Spaces In Lansing

Photo courtesy Capital City Market via Facebook.

Sensory-Inclusive Time: Second Saturday of the Month from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Capital City Market is a neighborhood grocery store in Lansing’s Stadium District.

Thanks to the Mid-Michigan Autism Association, once a month, the market offers Sensory Friendly Mornings for an inclusive shopping experience. During this time, the store dims the lights and turns off the in-store music, to make for a less stimulating environment. The store is still open to the general public during this time, but it is a lower-traffic time period.

Capital City Market also has a virtual tour available through Able Eyes.


2015 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI 48912

Capital City Calm: 9 Sensory-Friendly Spaces In Lansing

Photo courtesy Theraplayoga: Therapeutic Playful Yoga for Diverse Abilities via Facebook

One of Lansing’s more unique attractions is TheraPLAYoga, a sensory-inclusive yoga studio aimed at neurodivergent, disabled, and trauma-impacted children, teens, adults, and caregivers. In fact, it’s Michigan’s first and only adaptive yoga studio for this population.

The studio is the labor of love of Gloria Treviño, a disabled and neurodivergent mom who found yoga and mindfulness helped her and her autistic son. She specifically focuses on getting away from yoga stereotypes that involve “being thin, white, able-bodied… having a brand-name mat, and wearing Lululemon pants” and instead focuses on play-inspired therapeutic yoga, which focuses more on alleviating, reducing, or preventing physical and mental pain and suffering.

Gloria focuses on trauma-sensitive, sensory-integrated somatic practices, creative expression, and play for maximum sensory-friendliness and inclusivity.

Wharton Center for the Performing Arts (MSU)

750 E Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824

Capital City Calm: 9 Sensory-Friendly Spaces In Lansing

Photo courtesy Wharton Center for Performing Arts via Facebook.

The Wharton Center for the Performing Arts has a total of four different performing venues which incorporate everything from Broadway musical theater to orchestra shows to live music and more. Sensory-Friendly Performances (SFPs) are made possible by Delta Dental of Michigan, AF Group, and Peckham, Inc.

Throughout the season, the Wharton Center offers SFPs which feature low-level house lights on throughout the performance, removal of strobe light effects, and lower sound levels. The environment is inclusive and populated with trained staff, with audience members welcome to stand, move around, and enter and leave as needed. Sensory supports, such as fidget toys and earplugs, are available. There are special spaces, including quiet and calm spaces and an Activities Area. Accommodations to the performance include a Social Narrative (pictures and text for the theater-going experience, a Character Guide (pictures identify each character in the show) and ASL interpretation upon request.

On SFP days, audience members are welcome to bring their own support items, like headphones, comfort objects, seat cushions, special snacks, manipulatives, electronics, and so on.

For more information on SFPs at the Wharton Center, use their contact form.

Abrams Planetarium (MSU)

755 Science Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824

Capital City Calm: 9 Sensory-Friendly Spaces In Lansing

Photo courtesy Abrams Planetarium via Facebook.

Sensory-Inclusive Time: Third Sunday of the Month at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Thanks to sponsorship from MiABLE, the 141-seat Abrams Planetarium offers specific sensory-friendly shows. What makes these shows different is that the shows run with the lights up and reduced sound. The theater doors are kept open and the lobby is kept as a calming area.

Planetarium shows are astronomy education focused and use a Digitar 5 projector. Every show incorporates a live star talk about what the night sky is currently doing. Individual shows offered each month rotate, so check the website for details.

MSU Museum

409 W Circle Dr, East Lansing, MI 48823

Capital City Calm: 9 Sensory-Friendly Spaces In Lansing

Photo courtesy Michigan State University Museum via Facebook.

Located within the Natural Science Building, the MSU Museum is Michigan’s first Smithsonian Affiliate. Exhibits are interdisciplinary, and involve the arts, science, culture, and technology. The CoLab Studio, started in 2022, is a new experimental initiative that offers new approaches in program design, implementation, and community engagement.

Thanks to the Mid-Michigan Autism Association, sensory toolkits are available on loan visitors with sensory needs. Additionally, each gallery has “Sensory Signage” at the entrance.

Fenner Nature Center

2020 E Mt Hope Ave, Lansing, MI 48910

Capital City Calm: 9 Sensory-Friendly Spaces In Lansing

Photo courtesy Fenner Nature Center via Facebook.

The Fenner Nature Center is a 134-acre green space and environmental education center with over four miles of trails and plenty of hands-on exhibits. Attractions include green spaces like the Pollinator Garden and Prarie, as well as a Monarch House. Another attraction is the unique Sensory Trail.

The Visitor Center has been updated specifically for sensory-inclusivity. This part of the park offers hands-on exhibits and live reptiles and amphibians. For inclusivity, the building now features LED lighting and allergen free carpeting. They have also incorporated large screen televisions and touch pads for those needing assistive devices. Sensory backpacks are available upon request.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Capital city calm: 9 sensory-friendly spaces in LansingCapital city calm: 9 sensory-friendly spaces in Lansing




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