Adaptive Open Swim at The Waterpark – A Sensory Friendly Experience


Let me set a scene for you: Imagine that it’s a fairly crowded afternoon at The Waterpark. Justin Bieber’s “Baby” is playing from the overhead speakers, kids are splashing and laughing, lifeguard whistles are blowing, and the smells of the concession stand hot dogs and popcorn are wafting out from behind the glass windows.

Now PAUSE. Imagine that you also have a sensory processing disorder.

The scene above moves from a typical summer day at The Waterpark to a scene full of challenges to overcome. The Waterpark can be very overwhelming to people who have Sensory Processing Disorders or people who have difficulty in loud, crowded, or bright environments. Sometimes the work that it takes to overcome all of those challenges just isn’t worth it, so families may opt out of participating all together.

At the Monon Community Center, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to participate fully in their community. We love The Waterpark and we know that it provides wonderful memories for families. This leads me to my favorite event at the entire Monon Community Center, the Adaptive Open Swims.

A couple of summers ago, a parent approached me about the Adaptive Program hosting a sensory friendly evening for families. She explained to me that her family couldn’t enjoy The Waterpark during open hours because her child would often become very overwhelmed and he would cover his ears and cry. When we began exploring, we found that this challenge was not limited to her family. Another family told me that they couldn’t come because their child would run from them when overwhelmed and they could lose him very easily. One father explained how their children would go around and try to eat other patrons’ concession items. I heard over and over that this was a need for our families and the idea for Adaptive Open Swim Nights was born!

Our Inclusion Program Intern, Katie Smith explained it perfectly when she said, “I got the opportunity to volunteer at this event last year and it really made such an impact on me. The water slides, the lazy river, and the activity pool are all open (fully guarded with lifeguards) but the music is off, the concession stands are closed and there are only about 100 people there! Getting to see these families spending quality time together in a place that is typically a challenging environment really warms my heart.”

This summer The Waterpark is home to three Adaptive Open Swim Nights on June 13th, July 11th, and August 8th from 7:30-8:45 p.m. Pre-registration is required. A big thank you to Allegion for sponsoring the Lazy River!

Be on the look-out for other sensory-friendly events at The Monon Community Center during the year including Nutcracker Short & Suite & Sensory Storytime.