Without doubt, people who are challenged with special needs can experience sadness, insecurity, isolation, and exclusion. With increased attention paid to autism, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, and other conditions, research and resources seem to be increasing.
Unfortunately, some of these programs are not publicized sufficiently to provide easy access for families who are faced with the responsibility of designing a quality life for their children. There are, however, several organizations here on Long Island that help those with special needs live their best lives possible. And, we’ve compiled a list just for you.
For more educational and developmental programs for Long Island kids, see our classes and enrichment guide or our Long Island Special Needs Guide.
Children can thrill to music classes at the Adler Center in Plainview.
Adler Center for Special Needs — Plainview
Mid-Island Y JCC
45 Manetto Hill Road
The Adler Center provides comprehensive services for children through young adults (ages 3 to 21) with developmental disabilities, including learning issues, language delays, ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. It offers a range of quality programming seven days a week. Programs include inclusion opportunities during summer camp, vacations, and school holidays. All programs are open to the public and include art, cooking, fitness, sports, Saturday night bowling, Teens Night Out, and more to help your child or teen to develop in a supportive and fun circle of influence.
Be The Best Sport — Port Washington
Various locations in the community
Socialization can be challenging for those with developmental disorders, especially in the area of sports. Whether the challenge includes impulsivity, hyperactivity, shyness or distraction, getting your special-needs child involved in a sport does not have to be a dilemma. Be The Best Sport's mission is to create fun and exciting programs for special-needs kids ages 3 and older. Athletes of all language and physical abilities are accepted and there's a FREE trial class for families. Sports include basketball, bike riding, fitness, kickboxing, karate, soccer, track and field, and more. Classes can be taken at various locations in Port Washington, and Be The Best Sport partners with the Mid Island Y JCC in Plainview and can be a one-stop for those interested in programs offered by both organizations.
Family Center for Autism — Garden City
1517 Franklin Avenue
Housed in a state-of-the-art building, the Family Center for Autism offers a variety of programs for children and adults with special needs. There are respite classes available seven days a week scheduled by age group. Your toddler, for example, can enjoy soccer, music and movement, sensory gym, and sensory art. Your older child can participate in those same classes in addition to art, yoga, baking, karate, multi-sports, hip hop, and more. Teens also can enjoy Minecraft, Super Girls, or even Glamour Girls, Culinary Connections, jewelry making, Zumba, cartooning, and more. The center is staffed by certified behavior analysts.
RELATED: Indoor swimming classes for Long Island kids
Holistically inclined Pop Earth offers classes in cooking, fitness, dance, and more..
Pop Earth — Dix Hills, Westbury
Short for Population Earth, Pop Earth is a nonprofit focused on providing holistic health treatments and options to those with special needs, including autism and other developmental disorders, at little or no cost. Participants enjoy art, nutrition workshops, fitness, massage therapy, modern dance, music, and yoga in locations in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. The organization hosts a celebrity chef barbecue fundraiser in June at Oheka Castle in Huntington.
Theresa Academy of Performing Arts (TAPA) — Long Beach
250 Lido Boulevard
Professionally trained volunteer "buddies" greet you with a smile as you arrive at this facility. Participants are even embraced as they enter. TAPA aims to provide quality programming in the performing and fine arts for children and young adults with special needs as well as their typically developed siblings and friends. From weekend respite classes to its After School in the Arts group and private lessons, and more, TAPA offers a range of classes including art, dance, drumming, music, yoga, Zumba, and more. It also offers a fun and creative summer camp with workshops in Creative Sign Language, Friday Night Social or Daytime Early Education classes. Scholarships are available for families who can demonstrate need.
Spirit of Huntington Art Center — Huntington Station
2 Melville Road North
The Spirit of Huntington Art Center provides special-needs children and veterans the opportunity to develop art and creative expression skills that can transform their lives. Some regularly scheduled classes include "Artists Come Alive," sculpture, and adult art. If you're looking for a summer camp for your budding or blooming artist, The Spirit of Huntington in conjunction with Noah's Ark hosts weeklong programs in Centerport and Huntington Station.
RELATED: Drop-in art locations for Long Island kids
Variety Child Learning Center offers reading programs and more for special-needs children and their families in Nassau and Suffolk.
Variety Child Learning Center — Levittown, Syosset
Various locations in Nassau and Suffolk
Variety Child Learning Center is a state-approved special-needs school. Located in Syosset with an annex in Levittown, both locations are accessible to families in Nassau and Suffolk counties and extend some programs to children and families beyond their daytime hours. Programs include social skills development, fine motor groups (Fabulous Fingers), grandparents groups and more, VCLC opens its arms to families who have been approved by the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Whether it's an ongoing class or vacation respite, children receive quality care from experienced professionals.
Photos courtesy of the centers.