Many kids’ schedules are packed with extracurriculars, but for children with special needs, it can be challenging to find programs they can participate in fully. We've rounded up some adapted classes and activities in the Hartford and New Haven areas that accommodate a variety of learning styles, so that kids with special needs—be they physical, social, or emotional—can partake in the same enriching fun as their peers.
Infinity Music Therapy Services
Infinity offers a wide variety of innovative and interactive music therapy group sessions for children of all ages and abilities. Groups are strength-based, meaning that therapists focus on the participants’ strengths and learning styles to create an enjoyable learning experience that helps children reach individualized goals within the group setting. Groups take place at Infinity’s clinic in Southington; therapists also design group services for preschools, public and private K-12 schools, daycares, and more. Contact the group for more information.
1678 Meriden Waterbury Turnpike, Southington, CT 06489
Music Together is an award-winning, research-based music and movement education program. According to the website, "While Music Together's Mixed Aged Class is not therapeutic intervention, children with special needs, including physical, cognitive, or neurological impairments, are welcome and often thrive in Music Together Mixed Age Classes with our "accept and include" philosophy, our understanding of developmentally appropriate practice, and our respect for different learning styles." Music Together classes can be found at various private centers throughout Connecticut; check out the website and you're sure to find a location near you.
King’s Speech and Learning
Music services are offered at King’s Speech and Learning Center as a means to accelerate verbal and social development in children who may have general delays, oral or verbal apraxia, social anxiety, or social language difficulties. Classes are taught by licensed musical therapists with the goal of providing a fun and safe place where children can have the freedom to enjoy music through singing, playing instruments, and dancing. Goals from Speech and Occupational Therapy or general behavior goals can be incorporated. The typical age range is 3-6.
Music Workshops, where students can play their favorite instruments, sing in a group, record a CD, and perform live for family and friends, are also offered. These are taught by music composer and guitarist Shay Bachar. For ages 8 and up of all music levels.
225 Hopmeadow Street, Weatogue, CT 06089
Yoga Movement Therapy™
Yoga Movement Therapy™ classes are for children ages 3-18 years old with special needs. Yoga is combined with free and guided dance movements set to music to enhance body awareness and add to the fun. Instruction is adapted by pairing verbal instructions with easily understandable pictures and examples. Tools such as pinwheels, bubbles, and beanie babies are used. The program was designed to best engage the sensory features of participants with an ASD (although it is appropriate for children with other special needs) and uses yoga, dance, and breathing techniques to elicit a relaxation response. Siblings, parents, and caretakers are encouraged to participate, making for a fun, healthy family activity. Classes are held in two greater Hartford area locations.
Beth El Temple, 2626 Albany Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117
Sacred Rivers Yoga, 28 Main Street, East Hartford, CT 06118
Full of Joy Yoga
Lani Rosen-Gallagher of Full of Joy Yoga is experienced in teaching yoga to children with varying special needs, including Down Syndrome, ASD, PDD, ADHD, and more. Her integrated approach supports all children’s natural development and positive sense of self in a gentle, safe, and fun environment. She offers a variety of family and children's classes for a range of age groups at various locations in Hamden and New Haven. She also travels to schools to tailor instruction to a particular program. Check her website for more details.
K21 Kid Strong Foundation
The K21 Kid Strong Foundation provides IKU Kyokushin karate instruction for children ages 5-18 with special needs in a compassionate environment. Kyokushin is a full-contact, stand-up style of karate. Appropriate social skills, respect for others, discipline to develop self-regulation, physical coordination, and strength are among the many skills addressed during the 1-hour instructional classes in a small group setting. Classes were designed in consultation with developmental pediatricians from CT Children’s Medical Center and Yale University Medical Center. Siblings are invited to join and train.
50 Albany Turnpike, Canton, CT 06019
Whippersnapper’s Play Gym
The Awesome Alligators class at Whippersnappers Play Gym is intended for children ages 3-9 with special needs. The class is facilitated by an instructor with a special needs background as well as an additional instructor. Various activities to help children learn, grow more independent, and practice their social and play skills while having fun are provided. Parent participation is required.
360 Sandbank Road, Cheshire, CT 06410
Manes and Motions
Manes & Motions Therapeutic Riding Center is a not-for- profit organization that is dedicated to improving the well being of children and adults living with physical, cognitive, and/or emotional disabilities through the benefits of equine-assisted activities. Therapeutic riding lessons are offered during the spring, summer, and fall. Lessons are staffed by Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International certified instructors. Manes & Motions is affiliated with the Hospital for Special Care.
874 Millbrook Road, Middletown, CT
Yale Center For British Art - Exploring Autism | Exploring Artism
This Saturday art program at Yale University's Center for British Art meets once a month and is for families with children ages 5 to 12 on the autism spectrum. Participants learn to look at and respond to art work in the museum's galleries, engage in group conversations, complete a follow-up art project in a museum classroom, and more. The needs of individuals with autism have been taken into account in the design of this program, but it is intended to be fun for parents, siblings, and other relatives as well. There is no fee but registration is required.
1080 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06510
Sensory Sundays at Imagine Nation Children's Museum
On the second Sunday of each month, Imagine Nation opens an hour early, at 10 am, for families with children with special needs to enjoy the multisensory interactive exhibits -- which invite children to touch, discover and create -- in a sensory friendly environment with modified lighting and sound adjustments. The museum is fully wheelchair accessible and equipped with an elevator. At 11 am the museum opens to the general public. Admission is a reduced fee of $5 per person.
One Pleasant Street, Bristol, CT 06010
For even more options, I recommend checking out Autism Families CONNECTicut for children on the autism spectrum. For children with physical disabilities, a great opportunity for the summer is the Hospital for Special Care Ivan Lendl Adaptive Sports Camp, which offers a week-long recreational and sports program.