Finding Special Needs Activities in the NYC Suburbs

Jan 12, 2021

There are lots of amazing programs for kids with special needs in the NY, NJ and CT suburbs — here are a few of our picks…

If you’ve been raising kids in the city, making the leap to suburbia can feel overwhelming. You’re leaving your schools, your neighbors, your activities and your tribe — the parents, caregivers and support systems who keep your crew moving forward. That can be especially true if your kids have special needs. Finding the right activities, programs, classes and networks can take time — and heading to a new community means starting over. The good news? Like the city, the NYC suburbs are packed with safe and inclusive places kids of all ages and abilities can enjoy. We’ve picked a few go-tos in each area, but this is just the beginning. Your Suburban Jungle Strategist and agents can share more about activities, programs and services as well as both public and private school opportunities.

LONG ISLAND SUBURBS Great Strides Long Island (Middle Island)

Since 2009, the founders of Great Strides Long Island have worked to make it possible for anyone to benefit from the horse/human relationship. They develop equestrian programs and seek ways to fund lessons for those who cannot afford to pay. At Great Strides Long Island, they believe in the benefits of equine assisted activities for children, adults, veterans — of all abilities. Whether you’re a teenager with a love of animals, a child with CP or autism, or an adult that needs to get some exercise, horseback riding and other equine activities offer opportunities to strengthen your mind, body and soul.

Be the Best Sport (Port Washington)

Be The Best Sport is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization focused on providing special needs adaptive sports and socialization programs for children, teens, and adults. Their mission is to create and provide fun and exciting programs for children, teens, and adults with special needs ages 3 & up; such programs will offer recreational sports as well as socialization activities for the participants and their families.

Family Center for Autism (Garden City)

Family Center for Autism is an inclusive environment where people of all ages can explore a variety of activities, classes and programs. Driven by its genuine compassion and expertise in the field of autism, their mission is to provide services, vocational skills and socialization skills to all who enter this state of the art facility. Programs include art classes, behavior analysis services, birthday parties, school break sessions, music and movement, culinary classes, and individual services.

Adler Center for Special Needs Needs at the Mid Island Y JCC (Plainview)

The Adler Center For Special Needs, established in 2004, provides a comprehensive range of programs and services for participants starting at age 3 through adults with developmental disabilities including learning disabilities, language delay, ADHD, and Autism spectrum disorders. It offers a wide range of high-quality programming as well as inclusion opportunities during summer camp, vacations and school holidays.

WESTCHESTER SUBURBS Gigi’s Playhouse (Ardsley)

GiGi’s programs embrace the family and help aid the development of a healthy, successful relationship between parents, individuals with Down syndrome and siblings. GiGi’s programs aim to assist parents in maintaining high expectations for their child to achieve success in social, educational and employment opportunities in the future.  Their staff and volunteers support parents by encouraging the child to follow routines and fully participate in its programs.

Northeast Westchester Special Recreation (Hawthorne)

Northeast Westchester Special Recreation provides a variety of recreation programming for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Their programs are offered to individuals based on age and ability. Programming is available weekday afternoons, evenings and on Saturdays. They offer aquatics programming, Special Olympics training in a variety of sports, social activities, weekend-away trips and daily outings. The program selection may change from year to year and season to season. Since NWSR is community-based, they schedule programs in the twelve communities that they serve based on the needs of a program and the availability of a particular facility. Some transportation may be provided from one program to the next, however, participants must be transported to and from the program by their parents and/or guardians.

Grit Ninja (Pleasantville)

Grit Ninja offers a special needs class on Sundays from 9:15-10:00 am. This dynamic new gym bring a sense of fun and adventure to the fitness world through innovative “ninja warrior” obstacle course based fitness! During each action-packed session, aspiring ninjas will climb, swing, jump and run on ever-changing equipment design. No prior experience is required — coaches will be your guide as you tackle challenges that build strength, coordination, agility, balance, problem-solving skills, self-confidence, and, most importantly, GRIT!

SPARC (Yorktown Heights)

SPARC (Special Programs & Resource Connection) enhances the lives of people with developmental disabilities through high-quality therapeutic recreation activities. Participants work on skill development in a nurturing social community that does not otherwise exist in their lives. SPARC offers a wide range of recreational, arts, athletics and wellness programs for the Westchester County special needs community ages 5 through adulthood. Its mission is to provide fun experiences and engaging activities for over 1,500 participants in the greater Westchester County area, facilitated by highly trained and caring professionals in a structured, nurturing environment. SPARC programs are offered in partnership with area schools, recreational venues, arts organizations, community centers, and in residences, to create memorable experiences for participants and families alike.

We Rock the Spectrum Gym (New Rochelle)

A community hub for programming, a safe place for respite and therapy, and a home for parents and caregivers to find meaningful adult conversation, share their personal stories, and pick up helpful resources. The We Rock Gym offers birthday parties, private playdates, special events and class trips. Future plans are to include Break time, parents’ night out, one-on-one attendant care and much more. Gym includes: – Suspended equipment with swings – for balance and vestibular treatment – Crash mats and crash pillows – for fun, motor planning, and strength – Zipline – for stress release and joint and body relaxation – Trampoline – for building leg and core strength – Indoor play structure – for climbing and increasing playground skills – Sensory-based toys – for improved auditory processing and fine motor skills – Fine Motor and Arts and Crafts Area – for improved hand-eye coordination

Music Therapy Institute at the Music Conservatory of Westchester (White Plains)

Music Therapy addresses the physical, emotional, social and cognitive well being of children and adults with a wide variety of special needs. Using the inherent qualities of music, therapists design individualized programs to provide opportunities for social interaction, allow for emotional expression, increase attention, promote growth in motor skills, increase communication skills and alleviate pain and stress. Music therapy can make a profound difference in the lives of those who participate, encouraging healing, growth, and change. The Music Therapy Institute’s Board-Certified therapists all hold master’s or OhH degrees in music therapy.

NEW JERSEY SUBURBS The Connection (Summit)

The Connection is a non-profit, women-led organization dedicated to enhancing lives and fostering community. The programs and services offered to bring together individuals of diverse economic circumstances, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, culture, and physical and mental abilities to acquire skills, and build self-esteem. The Connection offers the following programs: Adapted Youth Yoga | ages 5-14 Enjoy different poses and fun stretches designed to engage the body, mind, and spirit. Individualized modifications to activities will be made as needed. Dance Foundations | ages 5-14 Children are introduced to basic dance techniques through innovative and creative body movement. Individualized modifications to activities will be made as needed. Adapted Warrior Challenge | ages 5-14 This coed class will focus on the foundations of Warrior Challenge activities and use a variety of specially designed warrior equipment including obstacle courses, rock wall, ropes, warped walls, and cargo net. Students will develop strength, agility, and confidence in a fun, challenging atmosphere. The class will have a lead instructor and volunteers to ensure safety and appropriate participation.

Jammin Jenn Music Therapy (Multiple Locations)

Jammin’ Jenn Music Therapy is one of the premier providers of Music Therapy in New Jersey. Utilizing the power of music as a medium, their practice specializes in helping special needs children and adults, especially those on the Autism spectrum. Capture the power of music and help special needs individuals rise to their potential. No matter a student’s need, this program strives to deliver music to special needs individuals with passion, skill, and experience.

Camp Excel (Manasquan)

Camp Excel is a comprehensive social skills program that includes academics to promote growth and avoid regression over the summer months, therapeutic activities to assist in making and keeping friends, sports to develop skills and build self-esteem, and recreational activities just for fun! Throughout the day, staff members provide encouragement and guidance in using appropriate social skills, giving children the opportunity to experience “in the moment” learning that stays with them.

The JCC of Central New Jersey (Scotch Plains) Adaptive Swim program

One-on-one 30-minute aquatics class, taught by trained swim instructors, is ideal for children with special needs. Lessons are adapted and customized to each child’s specific needs and challenges in the water.Their aquatics staff can help even the most hesitant child enjoy the water.

Camp Yachad Shadow Program

The 20-year-old Camp Yachad Shadow Program provides a 1:1 shadow for campers with special needs, aged 24 months through 8th grade, so they can fully participate in the camp experience within a same-age camp group. Each highly trained staff member provides individually tailored support to their camper to help the camper learn new skills, actively foster camper independence and help cultivate relationships with their peers.

CONNECTICUT SUBURBS Music Therapy at Westport School of Music (Westport)

WSM has offered individual music therapy sessions led by a board-certified music therapist for over 20 years. Students are children or adults who may have developmental delays, autism, processing disorders, dyslexia or other physical, mental or emotional disabilities, and challenges. Their music therapist first works to develop trusting relationships which ultimately encourage a student to express him/herself without judgment and grow in self-confidence. Individually-designed programs may include a combination of singing, instrument-playing, movement, song-writing and relaxation techniques to meet a student’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social concerns.

Swim Angelfish (Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford and Trumbull) Swim Whisperers Swim Lessons

Specifically trained and certified instructors identify and address the underlying issues of each swimmer. Armed with the Swim Whisperer® toolbox of strategies, Swim Angelfish Certified instructors assist swimmers of all abilities, including those with special needs, to overcome obstacles and learn to swim without discomfort. Private, semi-private, small groups and swim teams are available. Aquatic Therapy Licensed OT and PT aquatic therapists are trained in pediatric aquatic therapy. They use a multi-sensory approach utilizing therapeutic properties of the water to improve self-regulation, motor coordination, strength, balance, endurance, and more. Private, semi-private, and small groups are available.

SKY Zone Trampoline Park Sensory Hours (Norwalk)

Enjoy the freedom of jumping! Sensory hours provide a quieter, toned-down jumping experience for those with special needs. Sensory Sunday is the third Sunday of every month, from 9am-10am. Sensory Sunday is perfect for children with special needs and their families.

Looking for more insights on special needs programs in the suburbs? Let’s talk! Schedule a free Suburbs Strategy session now.

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