Certified Autism Centers in Toledo

It’s estimated that about 1 in every 36 children in the United States have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

Year-round, especially during the summer months, it may be difficult for families with an ASD member to find sensory-safe activities. Fortunately, there are 11 different businesses and organizations in Toledo that have become a Certified Autism Center (CAC). This designation is granted by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to organizations that have completed autism-specific training and offer visitors various ways to enjoy activities.

Toledo Zoo Sensory
Courtesy: The Toledo Zoo

The Toledo Zoo

The Toledo Zoo offers sensory bags that are available at no charge. These bags include noise-canceling headphones, a whiteboard with a marker for communicating, sensory and fidget tools, a social story, misting fan, and straws.

A sensory map is available to show visitors which parts of the zoo are most crowded and show designated sensory-friendly areas.

What about seeing the animals? The zoo includes calming viewing spaces at several exhibits.

Service animals are also welcome as long as the animal complies with ADA Title III regulations. Service animals must be on a leash unless the individual’s disability prevents using these devices or these devices interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of tasks.

Destination Toledo Sensory
Courtesy: Destination Toledo

Destination Toledo


Destination Toledo serves as the backbone for everyone visiting Toledo. After becoming a CAC, the hope is that the city will attract new visitors to the area and expand accessibility offerings.


Metroparks Toledo

Doneghy Inclusive Garden Sensory
The Doneghy Inclusive Garden at the Toledo Botanical Garden features a sensory water wall and plantings with olfactory and touch sensory components.
Courtesy: Metroparks Toledo

Perhaps one of the more accessible and popular options on this list, families can find numerous Metroparks sprinkled throughout Toledo that offer inclusive programming, multi-purpose trails for all ability types, and the ability to adapt several programs.

Some features include the Secor Barrier Free Playground, located at the Secor Metropark, and the Doneghy Inclusive Garden, located in the Toledo Botanical Garden.


Avenues for Autism

Avenues for Autism Sensory
Courtesy: Avenues for Autism

Their purpose is all in the name. This nonprofit organization advocates for opportunities for those living with autism to feel included, empowered, and to feel like they have the ability to succeed in life. This year, Avenues for Autism launched Autism Navigation Services to help autistic individuals develop and maximize their potential without limits.


National Museum of the Great Lakes Sensory
Courtesy: National Museum of the Great Lakes

National Museum of the Great Lakes

The museum partners with Spectrum Sailing, which provides maritime education, programming, and outreach for individuals living with autism. The museum promotes Spectrum Sailing and offers its members a chance to join.


Toledo Museum of Art Sensory
Courtesy: Toledo Museum of Art

Toledo Museum of Art

A staple in the Toledo community, the Toledo Museum of Art offers a plethora of sensory-friendly options to guests such as sensory kits that consist of earplugs, whiteboards for communication and various fidgets to calm nerves. Noise-canceling headphones are also made available at certain events, but the museum is actively working to have the headphones readily available.

Valentine Theatre Sensory

Valentine Theatre

The theatre has already established a sensory program that consists of putting on a series of shows catered to individuals who may require relaxed environments.

These performances feature several accommodations for patrons with sensory sensitivities that include low-level lighting, a quiet space with soft seating, and fidgets and headphones to use during the performances.


Wingate Wyndham Sensory
Courtesy: Wingate Wyndham

Wingate by Wyndham Sylvania

Wingate by Wyndham Sylvania is the first  Toledo-area hotel to earn CAC designation. This hotel nestled at the top of Sylvania the corner of Main and Monroe offers several low-sensory areas for guests who may need a break from any overstimulation. One area includes a view of a 10-mile creek to add to the tranquility of the room.


KeyBank Discovery Theater Sensory
The KeyBank Discovery Theater hosts two sensory-friendly showtimes with the lights turned up and the volume turned down.
Courtesy: Imagination Station

Imagination Station

Toledo’s premier science center is adamant about making science accessible to everyone who enters its doors.

The KeyBank Discovery Theater is a popular feature for those seeking a sensory-friendly environment. The theater hosts two showtimes for 3D educational films and twice weekly staff will adjust the lights and volume for all guests to see the big screen.

Visiting families can visit the science center’s calming room located in Little KidSpace, which anyone is welcome to use when playtime (and learning) become a little too much.

Families can also request noise-reducing headphones and earplugs, sensory-friendly bags for both adults and children that include headphones, fidget spinners, and social storyboards.

Guests can call 419-244-267 for specific accommodations or for further questions.

Toledo Speedway BMX Sensory
Courtesy: Toledo Speedway BMX

Toledo Speedway BMX

Toledo Speedway BMX made history when it became the first BMX track ever to become a Certified Autism Destination. You may wonder how that’s even possible with it being such a high-intensity activity, but the speedway offers noise canceling and ear-protecting headphones and a low sensory area to escape the races and events.


Toledo Santa LLC

What is Christmas without Santa Claus? Santa Tom gives everyone a chance to tell Santa what they want for Christmas in a calming environment. Santa is available for events and private visits.


Sylvania Chamber of Commerce Sensory
Courtesy: Sylvania Chamber of Commerce

Sylvania Chamber of Commerce

You’ll receive position-specific online training courses for your staff, most of which only take 30 minutes to complete. This training helps staff understand how to communicate with visitors with autism and sensory needs, empowering them to provide a great experience.

Other organizations that have distinguished themselves as CACs are Boyds Retro Candy and Visit Perrysburg.

Toledo Express Airport

Toledo Express Airport was the first airport in the country to become a Certified Autism Center. They hold multiple AccessTOL Airport Experience Events each year, by guiding individuals through certain airport experiences, such as getting screened through TSA, retrieving a bag at baggage claim and more. 

“Having the first airport in the country to become a Certified Autism Center not only speaks to Toledo’s efforts to be a welcoming and inclusive destination for all travelers, but helps fill a need for the 1 in 6 people with sensory needs, a significant community of underserved travelers that we welcome with open arms in Toledo,” Lance Woodworth, president and CEO of Destination Toledo, said.

Glass City Center

This is one of the more recent organizations to earn the Certified Autism Center designation.

“Having some of our area’s most beloved and most frequently visited venues become Certified Autism Centers is key to helping us reach our goal of making Toledo a Certified Autism Destination and welcoming an underserved market of individuals and families with sensory needs,” Woodworth said. “When we’re mindful of the needs of our guests, we’re not only making memorable and positive memories for them, but we’re also improving the quality of life for everyone who lives, learns, works, and plays in Toledo.”

Huntington Center

The Huntington Center recently earned the Certified Autism Center designation. “Our teams at Glass City Center and Huntington Center are committed to providing all of our guests with an outstanding experience,” Steve Miller, general manager at Glass City Center and Huntington Center, said. “Individuals with autism and their families are searching for activities and attractions that have their well-being in mind, and we want them to safely and enjoyably experience all of the exciting events happening at our venues.”

TARTA’s Paratransit Division

TARTA’s Paratransit Divisiion recently earned the Certified Autism Center designation.

“Public transportation is a vital lifeline to the community for those with mobility
challenges, and fulfilling our mission means doing everything we can to make sure
that everyone can enjoy the great things that northwest Ohio has to offer,” said Rick
Bailey, TARTA’s Chief Customer Experience and Mobility Officer. “Autistic and
sensory-sensitive passengers deserve to be able to reach their destination with a ride
that makes them feel valued and welcome. That’s what we focused on with this
training and will work to continue to improve on.”

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