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How To Find or Organize Autism Activities In Your Neighborhood

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(originally written & published on January 26, 2012)

If you’ve been reading my blog or Facebook Page for awhile you”ll know that we take advantage of alot of “special needs” activities in our area. 

We take Kyle on the weekend to music therapy, special needs gymnastics, and a special needs swim lesson.  And during the week he goes to an aquatic occupational therapist and a special needs movement class.

And many of you have asked how we find out about these things. 

Thankfully we live in the suburbs outside of NYC and there’s alot of “special needs” opportunities out there… you just gotta know where to look. 

Without giving away my precious anonymity 🙂 and getting into exactly where I live, let me just say that I believe each state in the US has an Office of Disabilities. 

I don’t have the time right now to find the links & how it works in all 50 states the way I did for my Handicap Placard for Autism Post.  So for now I’ll tell you how things work for us in NY

In NY there is the NY State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and then each county in NY has it’s own Develeopmental Disability Service Office (DDSO)

It is these local DDSO offices that are often funding or partially funding alot of the special needs activities in our area.  They gave out partial grants to the music therapy program and the swim program in our area which kept out of pocket costs for parents reasonable.

And even if they don’t partially fund the special needs programs they will probably know about all of them in your area.

For us they’ve been an ENORMOUS asset for weekend / after school activities and even some respite services.

Now I know what many of you are thinking.


“You live in a big metro area but I live in a small city and I know that there’s no special needs programs in my area.”

To you I say… You know what? The programs in my area were started/ invented by someone years ago.  So, why don’t you start one in your community?

The wife has successfully done this twice and is trying to do it again.  Years back she convinced a local Gymboree to add a special needs class to their roster.  Last year she got after school music therapy instituted at Kyle’s school.  And this year she is trying to get a special needs gymnastics class set up at the Y (since Kyle has kinda outgrown the one he’s currently in).

For Gymboree & the Y these were existing places that obviously were already set up with a weekly schedule of activities for typical kids. 

My wife had some conversations with other autism moms in her circle to gauge their interest and when she felt like she had enough to fill a class she met with the owners/ managers and talked to them about it.  And asked them to consider adding an extra class, a non-prime time time slot for special needs kids.

Sundays at 9am?  Sure!  Why not?  Our kids are up at 5am anyway!  LOL…

Basically she needed to convince them that (a) it would be profitable and (b) it didn’t require additional staff because their would be more parent involvement then the typical kid classes and (c) that our kids wouldn’t wreck the joint.  Once they were convinced of all that, why wouldn’t they do it?  It’s money in their pocket and they look good too!

Now these are things that we paid full price for.  That was important to make them happen.  But what we’ve learned about our local DDSO office is that they get grants all the time.  And sometimes if you submit a proposal for funding or scholarships it’s all about timing.  You could just submit yours just as they received a grant and you’ll get lucky and get your special needs class partially funded.

So I would say to get some special needs parents together and get cracking!  Find the activities that the typical kids are doing on the weekends in your area and then think about how to structure it for our special needs kids.  And don’t think that it has to be an all autism class.  Some of Kyle’s favorite activities are ones that have a mix of all different disabilities.  And there’s alot more socialization when you mix disabilities!

One more things I want to say before I end this.

Please don’t think that there’s alot of learning going on in any of these activities or “therapies” or that Kyle gets a ton out of these sessions.  Well the swimming he does.  He’s making some great progress there.  But for the rest of them they are nice, fun activities that Kyle enjoys.  And nice fun activities where mom & dad get to let our guard down and be around other special needs parents.

That’s all I got right now.  So round up all the special needs families in your area and find out what the equivalent of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is in your state and get cracking!

And if you wanna send me the links to the OPWDD sites in your states I will add them to this blog post…  or even special needs programs in your communities that you want people to know about.  Mention them in your comments below and I will add them to this post.




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If you’re gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to  This way I can make a little money to help pay for my son’s after school & weekend therapies.  This blogging thing has been awesome & life changing for me… but I must admit that it’s taking up a lot more time than I ever thought… so if I can make a few bucks it’ll make it easier for me to justify….Love you all! Thanks!!

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Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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11 People Replies to “How To Find or Organize Autism Activities In Your Neighborhood”

  1. Anonymous

    Florida has an Agency for Persons with Disabilities and they have a link to a calendar with various recreational activities all over the state. Maybe a good place to start!

  2. Anonymous

    Long island

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you all for all your coments. I have learn alot from you all specially kile s daddy. Thanks.

    Also a daddy

  4. Anonymous

    When you can find parents like your wife to put the work in and want to take part it's great but some parents (not all) just want a place where they can drop their child off on staff or other parents and leave keep crying about how people should get train to handle meltdowns and behaviors and being attack the question is why when many parent (s) have said we (I) don't know what to do with him/her but expect others to deal with their child issues. Some act as if society owe them something for the problems they must deal with or that having a child with special needs give them the right to insult people for not making this a top concern to them but yet you don't want you child insulted @ all. Yes you love your child as you should,but why do you think everyone else should. Not many people want to be hit,kick,spit on or change a school age child diaper this will never be the norm in society. Yes when a child have a total meltdown people are going to look are you kidding your-self to think that people want look or want have a problem with any child yelling during their dinner out. Some if not most need real honest talk. Some get mad when people ask you questions about asd but yet you're hurt when you and your child are over look,so what is it talk to you or not in most cases you damn if you do or damn if you don't. One thing some need to learn is that this is your fight not society's as one person told me they would never vote for another school millage to pass if a child need 1 on 1 let the parent pay for it they want their tax $ to go for police,fire an ems personal not a 1 on 1 or paying for a school age child to come to school to be potty train that's a parent job.

  5. I really wanted Sensory movies and the nearest one was 4 hours away. So I worked with the local theater to get one started, and have done them now for over a year. I also have been asking for my son to be included in local programs. Since we are in a small town it seems to be working out well. His swim instructor at the YMCA is also a swimming coach for special Olympics and his Y camp councilor had a ton of experience with children on the spectrum. He had PECS cards and schedules all ready on the first day of camp. I learned that inclusion is so much easier in the community than at school and there are many great qualified people hidden within our community. I wish you all good luck, and autism daddy this was a great post.

  6. I found the link for Events for Special Needs children in MA it's 🙂

  7. Trish Butler

    Same as your wife I have worked with places to put together special needs classes or just taken my daughter to typical classes and got them to accommodate her.

    I work for a non profit here in CT called CT Family
    Support Network and on Facebook. We are all parents of children with special needs of all different ages and disabilities. Parents can call us for information and we set up parent groups and workshops of all kinds. We also have United Way 211 on CT. People can dial 211 or Google them and check out resources on their website.

  8. pjsmommy

    USA Figure Skating offers a Therapeutic Skating program for special needs kids. Here in the Pikes Peak Colorado area it is offered by C3 Skating. It is a wonderful program and has helped my girl meet her PT goals faster and she has become much more confident.

  9. We unfortunately have nothing here. We get a week in the summer of a summer scheme. I live on a small island so really do have to beg for support from anyone. Ive found it hard even to find another kid like my two boys. I'm constantly having to explain to people what Autism and Aspergers is about and what by boys have to deal with.

  10. Anonymous

    I LOVE this post! About a year ago, a girlfriend and fellow SN mommy and I began talking about how our community doesn't really offer anything for our kids. She has two boys with autism, I a little guy with catastrophic epilepsy and BI. So we reached out to our State's Special Olympics. For those who might not know, SO has developed a program for kids ages 2.5-7 called Young Athletes. They convinced us to launch our own YA program in our area! Last year we agreed we were NUTSO! And now, here we are just into our second season and it's been amazing!

    My hubby said last week…it was SO nice NOT being "the special needs" parent in the room. Because we are ALL special needs parents! Plus, we've been humbled and overwhelmed by the community support. Lots of local high schoolers and some older SN siblings are volunteering each week to be 1:1 aides for the athletes. We also have 9 adult coaches – all volunteer. It's really been a beautiful thing.

    As a direct result of our program for the little guys, our local high school is also launching a Unified Basketball Team.

    I feel so braggy…and that's not my intent. I just want to encourage other moms and dads out there that you CAN be the catalyst. And the families who benefit will be SO thankful and hopefully in turn, inspired to create more opportunities for our kids to just be kids!