Special Needs

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Theaters with Sensory-Friendly Performances for NJ Kids

Taking littles to the theater opens up opportunities for exposure to the arts, building social skills, and learning about appropriate audience behavior. For children with autism, developmental disabilities, or sensory sensitivities (such as difficulties with bright lights, loud noises and sudden, surprising bursts of volume or activity), the theater can be an intimidating place.

Luckily, NJ is home to several performing arts spaces that offer exclusive performances for kids with special needs, so the entire family can experience the arts together. These sensory-friendly performances often include accommodations such as lowered volume and raised lighting, the ability to move about the theater freely, dedicated quiet areas, and trained staff to lend a helping hand should the need arise.

Read on for a list of theaters and upcoming performances where you can know that your child will feel welcomed and loved, just as they are. We hope you enjoy the show!

Summer Camps for Kids with Special Needs in the NYC area

It's tough to find the right summer camp for any kid. But if your child has special needs, like autism or ADHD, sensory-motor challenges, social anxiety, or learning differences, choosing a program can be especially nerve-racking: we want our kids to enjoy a traditional summer-camp experience, complete with swimming and lanyards and new friendships, while also receiving the kind of individual attention they need and with the option to avoid activities that might cause undue stress.

We've rounded up a number of camps favored by NYC families for their kids with disabilities or other challenges. Camps outside of New York City and on Staten Island provide bussing, so don't be discouraged by the seemingly far-flung locations: it can be especially therapeutic for kids to get out of the city for the summer.

While most of these camps cater exclusively to special-needs children, other traditional summer camps often offer inclusion programs for those with mild special needs (a few are mentioned below). Please consult our Summer Camp Guide for NYC Kids for a list of our favorite summer camps across the city to see if there are any that might work for your child.

Sensory Play Spaces and Experiences for Kids on Long Island

New sensory experiences are great for kids' development, from digging their hands into Play-Doh to swinging in a hammock. For those children with a disability or sensory issue, such interactions can be even more rewarding. Several museums and play spaces on Long Island have recognized this and built in unique sensory rooms and encounters into their popular children's attractions.

If lights, sounds, and crowds become major obstacles for your family, these half dozen spots will offer a calming environment geared at soothing little souls. 

New Sensory Room Opens at Long Island Children’s Museum

The Long Island Children’s Museum, part of Nassau County’s famed Museum Row in Garden City, is dedicated to providing fun, educational exhibits, programs, and performances to children and their families. But with its vast open spaces—it’s housed in a converted airplane hangar—bright lights, noise, and overexcited visitors, for some children a visit can be overwhelming.

With the needs of those children in mind, the museum in October 2017 opened a new sensory room. The dedicated space is the latest component of LICM4all, an initiative that helps the museum better serve all children and families.

New LICM4All App Helps Families Enjoy The Long Island Children's Museum Even More

The Long Island Children's Museum gets it: under the best circumstances, it takes planning to pull off a great outing with kids; if your child has special needs, even more so. That's why we think their new smartphone app isn't just smart, it's brilliant.

Designed specifically to support children with neurodiversities and physical challenges, the free LICM4all app aims to take the guesswork out of planning a visit to the museum. Before the trip, families can download the app from either the App Store or Google Play and create a totally customized schedule based on their interests, as well as their needs. Short videos offer a sneak peek into current exhibitions, while also showing kids what to expect — like that they may get a little messy at the Bubbles exhibit, or that they might have to wait their turn at the TotSpot. Meanwhile, the color-coded, sensory-friendly museum map identifies galleries that are quieter or louder, and a list of tips provides parents with helpful details on accessible parking, restrooms, service animals, and more.

Zylofone: Music Workshops for Hudson Valley Families with Special Needs

Finding supportive and inspiring arts and development programs for children with special needs isn't always easy. Luckily, families in Orange County and surrounding areas have Zylofone, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing such quality programming and opportunities. This Campbell Hall-based group provides music-centered workshops that promote creativity and growth in both physical and cognitive abilities.

Founded by a single mother who raised twin boys with special needs, Zylofone offers engaging and tailored programming designed to be compassionate, encouraging, educational and fun for students of all ages and their families.

Looking for more creative programming for children in Westchester and the Hudson Valley? Consult our Classes Guide and sign up for our newsletters.

Special Needs Programs and Classes for New York City Kids

Some kids take so many extra-curricular activities they barely have time to play, but for other kids, after-school classes can be a challenge. Whether your child has a developmental challenge, disability, or disorder, or they just struggle with all things organized, the slew of general after-school activities might not work well for them. Luckily, no matter how small or great a child's challenges may be, NYC offers a number of options for children of every ability.

We've rounded up more than two dozen great classes for kids with a special need or disability. Don't forget to ask about summer camps and holiday mini camps. Many of these programs offer them, too.

Check out our NYC Special Needs Guide for more ideas, programs and services, including sensory gyms, support groups, and sensory activities.

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