Have I told y’all how much I LOVE my part-time job? I have mentioned it in previous posts, but I seriously love it with all my heart. I am an ABA therapist. I work with children with autism and other special needs. I work for the most amazing company, you may have heard of them, The Center for Autism and Related Disorders [CARD]. I have had nothing but wonderful experiences with them and the staff is phenomenal. I have learned so much working for this company, and have nothing but good things to say about them [as you can probably tell].
I get to work with the most awesome and smart kiddos. Some of you may be thinking it’s a little odd that I have such passion for these little guys when I don’t really have a personal connection with special needs myself. My children are not special needs, and I did not grow up with anyone in my family on the spectrum or with any other disabilities or disorders. I’ve just always had a passion for working with children. I didn’t know I wanted to work with kids with special needs until I got involved with a preschool for kids with Down Syndrome my senior year of college. I just fell in love and knew that I wanted to stay in that field of work with children. Fast-forward about 4.5 years and here I am! Finally doing what I love!
This past weekend I went on an outing with one of my awesome clients and it got me thinking about what all there is to do with a child of special needs. After doing some research, all kinds of companies around the U.S. host special events and have specific allotted times for our sensory sensitive friends. I found some great resources for families of children with special needs!
Chuck E. Cheese’s
They host what is called “Sensory Sensitive Sundays“. The first Sunday of every month, they open the majority of their locations early. They dim the lights down a bit, lower the sounds of the games and music. It so much more sensory friendly for them! And what’s so cool about this is that my company [CARD] is the one who has partnered with them on this ongoing event! Such a great way to get your kiddos out, get some of that sensory input without being overloaded!
Top left: Property of Disneyland.com; Bottom left: Property of SeaWorld; Right: Sixflags.com
These are the main three that I researched, but almost any theme park you wish to attend has some type of disabled access pass you can acquire before going to the park. The passes typically allow you to skip the lines to avoid any problem behaviors while waiting and making the experience more enjoyable for you and your kiddo! Disneyland has a great resource page to fill you in on great tips to navigate your day if you are with a child with special needs. Worth the read if it’s your first go-’round! Some parks even offer a discounted ticket for children and families with special needs! Good to do your research before you attend any of these fun attractions!
Night to Shine
This is apart of the Tim Tebow foundation. Basically it’s a prom night your child can attend if they have special needs! It is so wonderful and the mission of this foundation is truly genuine. He does so many things for other types of families too. From children who are suffering with a sickness, orphans & adoption. I just love it all so much! Anyways, they have Night to Shine in churches all around the U.S. You can even refer your church on their website! It gives your special kiddo a night dedicated just to them. What a blessing!
The Y has so many options and opportunities for children with special needs! Almost every client I’ve had is involved with them in some capacity. They provide special needs care & respite care for families who need extra support. They even have a specific page where you can search for special needs camps & classes at any location. They also provide extra support to families in the military who have kids with special needs. They were a huge help to my family when our son was in the NICU. It’s just a great resource all around! Check it out!
This was one I hadn’t heard about before and was pleasantly surprised to stumble across it! I did gymnastics when I was younger and have a true love for it! USA Gymnastics provides a ton of resources & education on how gymnastics is super beneficial for children with special needs. They even have a place for you to search gyms around your area that follow their guidelines to provide classes and such for your child with special needs. Gymnastics is a great way to get your kiddos active. It also helps them work on those motor skills & social skills if they are in a small group. And who knows, they may go on to participate in the special olympics!
This was also another one I didn’t know about! With my experience working with children with special needs, most of them are pretty obsessed and drawn to electronics. Mostly ipads and YouTube videos. So this would be a great way to get some of that same stimulation in a more public/socially interactive setting. They only show movies that are age appropriate and fun! They turn the lights up, the sound down and let everyone run around! Your kiddo doesn’t have to sit still for a 2 hour film. That’s hard enough with a 2 year old typically developing child! I really love this too because they do two separate movies for different age groups and audiences. The second and fourth Saturdays of the month they show “family friendly” films. Then Tuesday evenings are for more mature audiences with special needs. Not all special needs apply to kids! Adults have special needs too. My clients range from 3 years of age all the way up to 21!
What a fun place to take your kiddos to get all those wiggles out! They offer special sensory hours for those with special needs. They tone down the lights for a more sensory friendly environment! It’s all about that sensory input! Those with autism can be extremely sensitive to it and might not want to go out in public because of it. This would be perfect for those who have that sensitivity! They have foam pits, tumble tracks, and of course, trampolines galore! Fun for all ages! They also have locations all around the U.S. and you can search the closest location to you on their website!
Now these next two resources I have are more directed toward events that are going on close to your home! And they have a plethora of resources that are extremely helpful to parents of children with special needs.
Outstanding organization that provides help and resources to families all over the U.S. On their website they have a spot you can put in your zip code or city and they will give you a list of autism friendly events in your area. They also sponsor the Autism Speaks Walk that they hold all over the U.S. as well. You can sign up here! It’s a great way to connect with other families who know what it’s like to have a children with autism! Building a community!
CARD (Center for Autism & Related Disorders)
CARD has events and resources posted on their website that are so helpful for those special families. Since I’ve worked there, we always host special events throughout the year that are totally open to the public. So if you don’t get services there, wish to begin services there, or already get services- YOU ARE WELCOME! We usually do lots of arts and crafts activities, sensory activities, and motor activities. They are so much fun! So contact your local office and see what they’ve got going on in the near future!
Although I don’t know it firsthand, I have worked with these kiddos and adults and know just a fraction of what it’s like to juggle a child with special needs. They are so fun and beautiful, every one of them, but I’m sure it’s incredibly hard sometimes to get them out of the house. I truly hope these resources will be of use to those families! Please comment below if any of you know other fun activities or organizations that make it a point to cater to families of kids with special needs!