Disclaimer: This “Tuesday Top Ten” was bumped (rudely shoved) to Wednesday for the first time ever thanks to Beth Israel Medical Center, where we spent 5 hours in transit/waiting and 10 minutes with an actual doctor yesterday.
I’m almost hesitant in posting this week’s Top Ten because I don’t want people crowding up all of my favorite activities, but my altruistic nature has won so you are about to benefit from my experience, trials and errors, hours spent googling “special needs activities NYC” and not least of all my frugality (a fancy word we like to use for cheapness). In fact, many of the activities listed below are among my favorites because they are quality programs at low or no cost, though the ones that do cost a few more dollars are certainly worth it if they’re on the list!
There are obviously a bunch of other amazing activities and experiences in the city that didn’t make my Top Ten, but IMO it’s a pretty good problem to have such a large pool of choices! To clarify, the programs on this list are all extracurricular activities that include social interaction and meet regularly (so one-time events, general public venues and private lessons were not considered).
1. Daniel’s Music Foundation: Take it from a music teacher, this one is far and away the best introduction to music you can make for your special needs child (or adult). Not surprisingly, there is a waiting list and altruistic though I may be, I’m not giving up my spot! This amazing program runs from September through May, offering music classes for all ages and abilities. If you haven’t already, read one of my many admiring posts about the Trush family (founders) and their fantastic foundation. Cost, free.
2. West Side Baseball (Registration ends on Tuesday, January 31st!) The Challengers division is open to children with any disability, ages 5-18. This program runs April through June and meets in Riverside Park – we’ve enjoyed 3 seasons and are looking forward to our fourth! Cost, $150 (scholarships available).
3. Safe Haven Hoops: for children 5-18. This program runs December through March. **Though the season is underway, special needs players can register anytime during the season for the Champions division. Cost $120, scholarships available. Thanks to this wonderful program, James has shown remarkable improvement in shooting baskets and not crying when others shoot baskets.
4. WSSL: Special needs soccer for ages 5-18. The VIP division meets September through November at the North Meadows in Central Park. Cost, $150, scholarships available.
5. Fitness For Focus: Special needs martial arts classes for kids ages 4 and up. Sessions available year round at 2 locations. There are free trial classes being offered January 29th and 30th! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or to register for a free trial. Cost, varies (early bird registration discounts offered).
6. Adaptive Swim Lessons provided by NYC Parks – though we have only participated during the summer, there are opportunities year round throughout the city. In fact, free adaptive swim lessons and aquatic exercise therapy (for up to 12 people at a time) are being offered this Winter/Spring for anyone interested, including special needs school or adult groups, at locations in all five boroughs. For more information please call 718-760-6969 or email Victor.Calise@parks.nyc.gov.
7. Achilles Kids – offers a school program and an extracurricular year round program that meets every other Saturday. Saturday sessions include training activities that integrate free-play, games, and nutritious snacks to make the experience fun and provide racing opportunities. Even better, the entire family can participate.
8. Adaptive Track and Field program provided by NYC Parks – for kids ages 5-16 with (and without) physical and developmental disabilities, offered in multiple locations citywide. What’s really neat is the big integrated track meet at the end of the summer at Icahn Stadium (with many adaptive events), which was a really great experience for James to participate in (except for the starting gun). Even more appealing, the schedule is very flexible – we did once a week but could have done more. All of the equipment and t-shirts are provided. And, it’s free! Go to http://www.cityparksfoundation.org/pdfs/cityparks_Trackbrochure.pdf for last year’s information – I’ll post 2012 info when I get it!
9. Special Needs Aquatic, Cultural and Athletic Programs at Riverbank State Park. To me, this one is such a hidden gem, not just for the special needs population but for anyone with young children who doesn’t want to pay Manhattan prices for Manhattan classes. As noted in their program guide, “the physically challenged can participate in most of the free programs, activities, and classes. They may receive daily discounts or free admission.” However, there is a plethora of activities and classes for “special populations,” no matter what the disability (or age). Costs are low or free. Click the link to browse the Riverbank State Park Fall/Winter Program Guide 2011-2012.
10. KEEN – a national, nonprofit volunteer-led organization that provides one-to-one recreational opportunities for children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities at no cost to their families and caregivers. Neither income nor the severity of a child’s disability is a barrier to joining a KEEN program. This program meets on select Saturdays around the city and is open to athletes 4 to 21 years of age. For more info call 212.768.6785 or email info@KEENnewyork.org.
Okay, now don’t all go register for everything at once!
Did I miss your favorite? Did I get someone’s contact info wrong? Please leave it in the comments section.