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November 02, 2022

Inclusive Concerts and Recreation Opportunities

  • News
New Albany Symphony Orchestra photo

All Families are Welcome

Swimming and concerts are a high point in many childhoods, but what if your child has a disability and needs some additional help? No one should miss out on fun activities, and in the greater Columbus area, no one has to. Organizations in the community, ranging from Columbus Recreation and Parks to the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, offer sensory-friendly events and inclusive services to families of children and adults with specific needs so that everyone can enjoy fall fun.

“All of Columbus Recreation and Parks programs are inclusive, so if you sign up for something at your local rec center, we can send an inclusion specialist out, make an accommodation plan, and then work with the instructor to figure out how to accommodate for the participant,” Rae Nutter, recreation therapist with the city of Columbus parks and recreation, said. One of the many sports offered by Rec and Parks is swimming lessons. These inclusive lessons include kids with and without disabilities and are taught in a judgement-free environment. Kids of various skill levels can come to separate lessons tailored to them, even if they are older than other kids at a higher skill level. Nutter explained, “We go to the program right alongside them and provide whatever accommodations are necessary.”  

If sports aren’t for your loved one, The New Albany Symphony Orchestra offers something different. They plan three sensory-friendly family performances annually at the McCoy Center for the Arts. Each is tailored for those on the autism spectrum, the dementia and Alzheimer’s community, or people who are just looking for a more relaxed environment, Heather Garner, executive director of the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, said.

“Families are greeted in the lobby with activities including a craft table, communication cards, a snack table, and we have Maddie the theater therapy dog there for free snuggles as well,” Garner said. Other services include family restrooms, noise cancelling headphones, iPads, doodle pads, fidget toys, and a downloadable storyboard so families know exactly what to expect on concert day. Tickets to the event are free, so there is no commitment or risk if the day is not going well for a family.

These types of events are a cornerstone of the Boundless message, inspiring a limitless lifestyle undefined by any disability. “It’s so nice to hear that this is the direction that we’re heading as a community, that we’re including these people with disabilities and special needs and that we’re really thinking about what their needs are and making these activities inclusive for them,” Kristen Messer, clinical director of ELM at Boundless, said. “The individuals we serve often need just little manipulations of the environment; that use of headphones, having a fidget, something that isn’t so big, but some of them need more too.”

All these services are not just blessings for the individual, but also for the families and caregivers that look after them. “I think families and caregivers are just relieved when they get there and it’s an escape,” Garner said. “And that’s what we see as musicians looking out in the audience. It’s family supporting families, kids without disabilities supporting kids with disabilities, it really is one of the most rewarding things we do in the New Albany Symphony.”

For more information about the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, sensory-friendly events and programming at Columbus Recreation and Parks, and to learn how these organizations can serve individuals with special needs, visit the links below.

New Albany Symphony Orchestra

Therapeutic Recreation | Columbus Recreation and Parks Department (


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