Ever since we moved to southern Brooklyn from the Upper West Side, I've been on the hunt to replace all of the amazing special needs activities we had access to in Manhattan with only limited success. That's why I was really excited to stumble across the FREE Inclusive Services at the Brooklyn Public Library program.
The program, formerly known as The Child's Places, takes place at five borough branches and is a lot more than books. The activities, geared toward children with special needs ages newborn to teen, include reading, playing and clubs where participants engage in a variety of enriching hands-on activities. True to their name, the offerings are inclusive, which means you can bring siblings of all abilities. So no more schlepping to Manhattan when looking for FREE fun for my special needs tween.
The Inclusive Services program is currently offered at five Brooklyn Public Library branches: Flatlands, Saratoga, Red Hook, Sunset Park and Greenpoint. All programming is FREE and open to families of children with special needs. The facilities are all barrier-free and many staff members have special education backgrounds. The specific activities vary from location to location, but here are some highlights.
Read and Play
Aimed at children with and without special needs ages newborn to 5 years, Read and Play includes a book and structured playtime to help participants develop their social and language skills. ASL interpretation is available with prior arrangements and sessions at Red Hook and Saratoga are also offered in Spanish. This class meets at all five branches. Visit the website for the complete schedule.
After School Stories
Also offered at all five locations, After School Stories is a craft and story session geared toward children ages 5-12 of all abilities (great if you need to bring a sibling...or three.) Adaptive scissors, paintbrushes and other tools are available. ASL interpretation is available with prior arrangements and sessions at Red Hook and Saratoga are also offered in Spanish. Visit the website for the complete schedule.
This club meets April through October at the Flatlands, Sunset Park and Central branches, which are all equipped with sensory gardens. Sessions include songs and storytime before working and learning in the garden.
Since my son is about to become a teen, I'm particularly excited about this offering. Aimed at individuals ages 12-23 of all abilities, this club meets monthly at the Flatlands, Saratoga and Red Hook branches, where kids are able to socialize and build together.
Adaptive Gaming Arcade
This club for teens meets monthly at the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, and lasts a whopping three hours. That may not be enough time for some game-obsessed kids!
In addition to these regular programs, the Brooklyn Public Library offers Parenting Workshops and Educational Events at various branches, as well as in-school Class Visits. There is also a Parents Resource Center at the Flatlands branch featuring books, CDs and other materials for parents of special needs children.
For more information, visit the website or call 718-253-4948.
Find out about more great special needs programs in our Special Needs Guide.
This post originally published in December 2013.