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Detroit Kid City holds sensory-friendly play for Autism families

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn — From bubble wrap painting to cardio drumming, Detroit Kid City is making play meaningful and calming for children with autism.

Detroit Kid City, a themed indoor play cafe, has partnered up with healthcare Centria Healthcare Autism Services to create a sensory-free place for kids who struggle with busy places.

From October to December, parents can enjoy the cafe portion without worry while children play pretend in their electronic-free themed spaces. The bi-weekly program includes activities like puppet shows, yoga and marble painting open to those 16 or younger and is handicap accessible. 

Children with special challenges are invited to join Detroit Kid City in Dearborn's sensory-friendly activities and crafts.

Fouad Bazzi, the owner of the Dearborn location on Michigan Avenue, said Detroit Kid City was planned to be organically sensory-friendly, to everyone in the community, regardless of abilities.

"We’ve worked with Centria Autism to develop a program of activities that encourage imaginative play, social interaction and activities that the kids can do at their own pace and without feeling overwhelmed," said Bazzi. "We love the value it adds to the community and our creative atmosphere really makes people think."

Bazzi, who has three children under the age of 4, said he created the company for children to exercise their imaginations while working on social and community skills inside a pretend city.

The city activities are miniaturized storefronts with sensory-friendly props where children can play inside banks, pizzerias, a post office, a music studio, a school, an art center, an automotive factory and a mini football field.

"The ambiance is a coffee shop for the first 50 feet and then beyond that is the city," he said.

Detroit Kid City, a themed indoor play cafe, has partnered up with healthcare Centria Healthcare Autism Services to create a sensory-free place for kids who struggle with busy places.

A few months after opening in January, Bazzi knew after receiving feedback from some of the parents that the place could offer more to children with special need and parents who need a place to work.

"I contacted Centria and we did a pilot in July which was successful with 65 kids," he said. "This round is our 90-day pilot and if it's successful, we'll sign a year contract with Centria to keep the program going."

Sessions are $10 running every other Wednesday at 5:30 - 7:15 p.m. launching this week. Families can register online ahead of events to save their space.

About 1 in 59 children have autism, according to Centria.

For many kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, loud noises, big crowds and long lines can feel overwhelming. Because of this, they often miss out on playdates or community events, said Dave Spencer, CMO of Centria Autism.

"We understand how difficult it can be for families to find new and interesting activities that are autism-friendly," Spencer said. "We want to make sure that kids don’t miss out on fun events because parents are worried about potential triggers or how others will react to their child. This will be a completely sensory-friendly, judgment-free fun zone."

Centria Autism operates in ten states and services 2,900 children. It operates as a division of Centria Healthcare and works to help parents of children with autism navigate through insurance and care systems while supporting them with a community of other families.

Schedule for Wednesday's through December:

  • Wednesday - Yoga
  • Oct. 16 - Bubble wrap painting
  • Oct. 30 - Halloween party
  • Nov. 13 - Marble painting
  • Nov. 27 - Cardio drumming
  • Dec. 11 - Puppet show
  • Dec. 18 - Dance party and meet Santa

Twitter: @SarahRahal_