Special Needs Programs and Classes for All New York City Kids
[UPDATED: July 18, 2012] Some kids take so many extra curricular activities after school they barely have time to play, but for other kids, after school classes can be a real challenge. Whether they have a developmental challenge, delay, disability or disorder, or they just struggle with all things organized, many kids can not partake in the slew of general after school activities. Luckily, no matter how small or great a child's challenges might be, here in NYC there are a number of options for children of every ability when it comes to the exciting activities, sports, and amusements that their typical peers enjoy.
We hope that having some extra-curricular options will make it easier for you to offer your children more fun activities. And don't forget to ask about summer and holiday mini-camps. Many of these programs do offer them.
See our Special Needs Guide for more ideas, programs and services.
Creative Music Therapy Studio
20 West 20th Street Suite 803, Manhattan
Individual and group Music Therapy sessions as well as Children's Music Groups for children of "all functioning levels." Their expertise is in helping children with autism, mental retardation, physical handicaps, mental illness, chronic or life threatening illness, emotional disturbances, language delay, PDD and visual impairment.
Daniels Music at Go Fish
220 East 86th Street, Manhattan
Daniels Music (highly recommended, by the way) offers FREE after-school and evening music classes for children (age 3 and up) and adults of all abilities and challenges. Whenever needed, children are assigned a helper to assist them. Class offerings are too extensive to list here but they include Singing (voice and performance "labs"), Percussion, Keyboard, Guitar, Song Composition, "Band", and various Music-and-Movement classes. There are different levels for the classes. Some classes are youth-only, in others children and adults make music together.
Nordoff-Robbins Center For Music Therapy at New York University
82 Washington Square East 4th Floor, Manhattan
Nordoff-Robbins has a wonderful reputation in the realm of music therapy. They offer Early Intervention programs from infancy to preschool-age, as well as child and adolescent music therapy. Classes can be individual or group with an emphasis on vocal and instrumental improvisation.
Two locations: 907 Broadway and 317 East 89th, Manhattan
They offer Adaptive Instrument Instruction, Guitar and Piano, and Music Therapy, via individual as well as group lessons. Classes accept infants, children, and adolescents (as well as adults). Their innovative multi-faceted, multi-sensory approach to musical instruction is intended for people of all abilities. Phone 212-369-9492 for details.
Standing Tall: Music Together
463 West 69th Street, Manhattan
Among classes offered are the Music Together children's program (co-sponsored by West Side Music Together) for children with motor disorders such as cerebral palsy. Methodology is based on Conductive Education principles. They offer Saturday programs for children from toddler-age on up as well as after school programs.
109 East 50th Street, Manhattan,
The adaptive Aquatics Program specializes in helping children with a wide array of disabilities from age 3 months onward in a heated pool. Classes offer one-on-one instruction. All instructors have been personally trained by Swim Works owner and director Natalie Palmer, a certified Special Olympics coach.
Five locations, all uptown in Manhattan
They offer private and semi-private lessons for children with special needs in heated pools.
SPORTS and GYMNASTICS
Super Soccer Stars
Locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens
Soccer for children ages 4-12 with ADD, autism, and other forms of PDDNOS (Pervasive Developmental-Not Otherwise Specified). These weekly 45-minute classes are always grouped by age.
PowerPlay, Special Needs Gymnastics
432 3rd Ave, Brooklyn
Low student-teacher ratios let instructors focus on gross motor skills and increasing muscle tone and coordination. These 45-minute classes serve special needs kids ages 2-9.
Worksman Cycle Company
94-15 100th Street, Ozone Park, Queens
For children who want to ride bikes. Technically they aren't a class or activity but they are a bike company that does a lot of work for children with special needs. Their line-up includes specially modified kids’ bicycles and tricycles. If they don't have what you need in a pre-fabricated special bike they will customize a bike or trike to meet your child's exact needs. Word has it that their prices are very reasonable for this service.
DANCE AND YOGA
Locations in Bayside Queens and East Harlem
Ballet and dance instruction for children ages 3-17 with physical and medical challenges. Each child is assigned an assistant to help them succeed in class.
HIPPOTHERAPY (a.k.a. Horseback Riding Therapy) and
ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY
51 Caton Place, Brooklyn
Therapeutic horseback riding for children with disabilities. Lessons conducted under the direction of a NARHA-certified riding instructor and with the guidance of an experienced physical therapist, GALLOP clients learn to sit their horses properly, use their reins to command the horse, and ride at a walk and trot. Gallop NYC offers therapy to children with autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic head injury, post-stroke, pervasive developmental disorders, mental retardation and individuals who have suffered emotional trauma. They worked with one of my children; the instructors were patient, caring, attentive and overall excellent. Those stables can get mighty chilly in the Fall (dress warm!), but I definitely give Gallop NYC a huge thumbs up.
New York Therapeutic Riding Center
608 West 48th Street, Manhattan
Therapeutic Riding for children with physical, mental and emotional disabilities. These disabilities include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, CVA/stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, emotional disabilities, mental retardation, Down Syndrome, visual/hearing impairments, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), and autism.
Flying Manes Therapeutic Riding, Inc.
Riverdale Equestrian Centre
W. 254th St & Broadway, Bronx
Equine-assisted activities for children having physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges. Lessons led by a NARHA-certified instructor.
Puppies for Emotive Therapy Animal Assisted Therapy
145 West 96 Street, #1E, Manhattan
Many special needs children can greatly benefit from interacting with a certified therapy dog. Psychologist Barbara Wolf-Dorlester, PhD has Moxie, her gentle Kerry Blue Terrier, to share. (On a personal note, our last dog was a certified therapy dog and though we worked as a team in hospitals as opposed to working with people with special needs, I can testify to the emotional lift our dog gave even the most dejected patients as well as to the big gains in fine motor control; patients pulled themselves up to hug our dog, stretched out weak arms and hands just to brush her. A great form of therapy.)
FUN GROUP-ACTIVITY CLASSES THAT INCLUDE SOCIAL SKILLS
JCC Kulam and After-School Special Needs Programs
334 Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan
The JCC offers a very extensive "Kulam" Sunday (mostly in the morning) program for children ages 3-16 with a "variety of needs," including children on the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum and with varied communication and learning differences. Building social skills is always an integral part of all the classes which include a choice of: Gymnastics, Jewish Language and Culture, Sibling Play Groups (for sibs of special needs kids), Social Skills: "Build a Friendship", Music Therapy, Yoga, Striking Viking Story Pirates (Drama, Storytelling and Puppets), Dance, and Super Soccer Stars (mentioned separately above). In addition they offer separate after-school special needs programs including BOOST (social skills + swimming, soccer, and drama), Karate, Swimming, Soccer as well as an additional Striking Viking Story Pirates class. You can check out the Special Needs Class Schedules and Details. Also of note: The JCC also offers a list of Special Needs Babysitters trained through their own program. Contact Melissa Lader at 646.505.5729 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the above. And no, you don’t have to be Jewish to have your child participate.
92nd Street Y Nesher Programs
1395 Lexington Ave., Manhattan
The 92nd Street Y offers special needs children ages 4-20 a number of "Nesher" programs. There are after-school (3pm-5pm or until 5:45 pm for an extra fee) programs as well as Sunday Nesher programs. Nesher for 8-13 year-olds includes "Movement and Mind" (Dance, Movement, Yoga) and "Arts and Adventures" (multi-sensory arts enrichment including Comic Book Design and Science). Older group classes for 14-20 year-olds also include social Dancing and Science. Eligible children for this program are those with developmental disabilities including neurological impairment, mental retardation, speech and language delays, learning disabilities, PDD, Asperger syndrome and Autism. Ask to speak to Melanie Mandel, the Special Needs Program Director, for more information: main phone is 212-415-5500. And just as above, you don’t have to be Jewish to have your child participate.
Ready Set Play
85 Warren St., Manhattan
Playgroups for kids with special needs from age 2 up to age 8. Fun with the focus of helping kids with special needs learn to develop appropriate play skills.
SNACK: Special Needs Activity Center for Kids at Go Fish
220 E 86th Street, Manhattan
SNACK offers a variety of after-school and weekend activities for children ages 3-18. Their focus is on children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other similar developmental and behavioral disabilities There is at least one staff member for every two students and classes never have more than 8 children so kids get a lot of individual attention. Options include Swimming (held at alternate locations), Sports (soccer + yoga), Soccer, and Snacktivities, a two-hour socialization class including yoga, music, art, and drama. They offer free trial classes as well.
Primarily serving Manhattan residents (various locations)
The YAI Network provides various recreational services, after-school and weekend programs for children of varying disabilities. Specifically, word has it that The YAI Autism Center is now putting together an after-school arts programs for kids with ASD, including ballet and movement classes. Call YAI LINK at 1-866-2-YAI-LINK for more information.
Friendship Circle: Friends@Home and Children's Circle
Your Home in NYC
and / or
419 East 77th Street, Manhattan
Friendship Circle, sponsored by Chabad, offers two types of programs for special needs children of all faiths. Friends@Home pairs specially trained teenage volunteers to pay weekly visits to children with special-needs at their homes. During these one-to-two hours visits volunteers play board games, read stories, enjoy music, and engage in child-appropriate play with your child. All Friends@Home services are FREE of charge. In addition, Chabad's Upper East Side location sometimes offers Friendship Circle's after-school program for special needs children ages 5-10. This 45-minute class usually includes art, music, and cooking. Check for updates on these classes at Chabad's UES website. Inquiries about the Friends @ Home program can email email@example.com