Weather icon

Fun Things to Do with Special Needs Kids in The Palm Beaches

Having a special needs child can make life more complex in many ways, but never quite as much as when you’re trying to plan fun things to do. Wheelchair concerns, sensory concerns, crowd concerns, meltdown concerns – everything must be thought out ahead of time before giving something a try. It’s easy to understand why it may be tempting for some parents to throw their hands up and call it a day; sometimes, it’s just easier.

Play Day
Photo by Renee Travis

With that in mind, we decided to do some of the heavy lifting for you. Families with special needs can find plenty to do in The Palm Beaches, and some of them are even free! Here is a quick punch list of fun things to try.   

Jupiter Flatwoods Trail

The Jupiter Flatwoods Trail was the first natural area in the state of Florida to become autism friendly. The 0.5-mile trail that makes up the Jupiter Flatwoods Natural Area is paved, making it wheelchair accessible throughout the entire adventure. Offering visual and sensory scavenger hunts, “sensory walls” and swinging benches with plenty of nature to behold, it’s a fun, FREE thing to do on a lazy afternoon.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Located in Juno Beach, Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is a nonprofit organization focused on ocean and sea turtle conservation.

The center offers Sensory Backpacks available for checkout at the welcome desk. Each backpack includes headphones, sunglasses, gloves, fidget spinners, and communication boards.

Additionally, Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Sensory Saturdays is an opportunity for adults and children on the autism spectrum that are looking for an inclusive experience while visiting the facility with their friends, families and caregivers. Sensory Saturdays allows them to experience the LMC facility with minimal crowds and sensory triggers.

Sensory Saturdays is held before operating hours and exhibits are altered for anyone looking for a quieter time. During these hours, kids and adults can explore the outdoor hospital and indoor exhibits with reduced lighting and sounds.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach

Spanish River Park

Situated between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, Spanish River Park and its 94 acres have a lot to offer the adventure seeker. Make a day of it at this picturesque park. Pack a picnic and take it to their newly designed playground, which has a pour and play surface to make it easy for wheelchair users to navigate, including transfer stations that give access to the entire playground.

Don’t miss the zipline, which was a huge hit with my crew! Want to head to the beach instead? The park features a tunnel under A1A that leads to the beach, with a mat placed partway on the sand to accommodate wheelchairs. Clean public bathrooms, camping, fishing and nature trails complete the Spanish River Park package.

Cox Science Center and Aquarium

The Cox Science Center & Aquarium in West Palm Beach features more than 100 hands-on educational exhibits, a 10,000-gallon aquarium, full-dome digital planetarium, quarter mile-long Fisher Family Science Trail, new mini-golf course, traveling exhibits, and many more hands-on, minds-on experiences for the whole family!

The Center hosts Sensory Saturdays on the 1st Saturday of each month from 9:00 – 10:00 am. These hours are specifically designed for families affected by autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing or cognitive challenges or other guests requiring assistance for disabilities.

The best times for a quieter visit are Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10:00 – 11:00 am and weekday afternoons after 2:00 pm (during school year).

Little boy at the Cox Science Center

Sugar Sand Park Science Playground

Sugar Sand Park is one of the best-kept secrets in Boca Raton. As a mom, free is my middle name, and this park does not disappoint!

The playground itself is an impressive three-story structure, with a dizzying number of ways to have fun. The designers of the playground did an incredible job making it inclusive to everyone, to an extent I’ve never experienced before. A few new impressive features include wheelchair-accessible swings and slides, sensory walls, a quiet nook, an expanded climbing structure that allows access to people of all ages and abilities, ramps wide enough for wheelchairs, and a sign language alphabet board. 

Don’t forget to grab a carousel ride on your way out. It will be the best $1 you’ve spent all day!

Please note: If your child is prone to wander or get lost, this may not be the best option for you.

The South Florida Fair

One of the most anticipated events in The Palm Beaches, the South Florida Fair welcomes families with unique abilities or sensory concerns from January 12 to January 28, 2024.

Staff members have been trained by medical professionals to both recognize attendees with sensory needs and to handle sensory overload situations. There are also many tools in place to ensure that individuals of all abilities can have fun at the fair, including sensory backpacks and quiet areas!

Learn more about this sensory inclusive fair!

The South Florida Fair - Photo courtesy of The South Florida Fair

Children’s Science Explorium at Sugar Sand Park

Also part of Sugar Sand Park, the Children’s Science Explorium is a wonderful spot for exploring both the indoors and outdoors. The first Saturday of each month offers visitors the opportunity to explore the museum in a sensory-modified setting with sound and lighting adjustments. My crew loved playing with the Magna tiles and the multiple science stations. From the gravity well to the magnet table, to the pneumatic tubes and beyond, they were delightfully entertained. And just a few steps outside brought us to the butterfly garden and nature trail, where we walked and talked about nature and the many things the kids saw along the way.

The Chocolate Spectrum

Located in Jupiter, The Chocolate Spectrum is a family-operated artisan chocolate company with a heartwarming mission.

Founded in 2013 by Valerie, inspired by her son Blake, who has autism, the company employs individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. Starting in Valerie’s home kitchen and later moving to their shop in Jupiter in 2016, their goal is twofold: crafting delicious chocolates and providing opportunities for individuals with special needs. Through training and employment, they empower over 50 individuals with autism and other special needs, focusing on fostering valuable business skills.

For those interested in their Apprenticeship Programs, inquiries can be directed to valerie@thechocolatespectrum.com. All proceeds from sales contribute to funding their programs, which are accessible both in-store and online, with nationwide shipping available year-round. Their offerings include a variety of treats such as chocolate-covered strawberries, truffles, birthday gift boxes, chocolate bars, and more.

Sponsored

Plan Your Stay

Browse lodging options in the one, the only, the Palm Beaches and discover America's First Resort Destination in sunny South Florida.

Get Our Newsletter

Get A Visitors Guide

en_USEnglish