Children with special needs can make great gains playing sports, whether in programs just for them or on integrated teams. "You are looking at a population of athletes not with disabilities, but with different levels of ability," says Danny Bernstein, who runs the Backyard Sports program for children with disabilities in Westchester. "With this mindset, a coach can easily and successfully work with inclusive teams of both typical and special need learners."
Here, some places to keep your kids active:
266 Rockland Lake Road, Valley Cottage
Camp Venture is a summer day camp for children (ages 5-12) with and without developmental disabilities. While on the seven-acre campground, children can swim in one of two pools, ride horses or play on a playground.
Orangetown Mighty Midgets Athletic Association
30 Van Wyck Road, Blauvelt
Offers a Buddy Ball program for children with developmental disabilities. Volunteer buddies help guide the registered children through the sports activities with as much or as little assistance as is needed. Seasonal sports include soccer, basketball, and tennis.
Ride Kind Therapeutic Horseback Riding
220 Spook Rock Road, Montebello
Equine-oriented activities that help special needs students reach developmental milestones, both physical and psychological. Therapeutic riding helps increase range of motion, muscle tone, motor skills, balance, posture, and coordination.
Rockland County Challenger Little League
Various playing fields throughout Rockland are listed on website.
The District 18 Challenger Division travels to all Little Leagues in the county on weekends. Individuals with special needs, aged 4-22, are eligible to play; "buddies" are provided for those that need them.
401 Nanuet Mall South, Nanuet
Offers a limited-size gymnastics class designed for children ages 5-12 with mild-to-moderate physical disabilities and/or developmental delays. (Children must be evaluated before joining, and may be accompanied by a "shadow" caregiver during class.)
WESTCHESTER & PUTNAM
75 South Broadway, White Plains
Basketball and soccer for boys and girls ages 5-15 with special needs. Programs are held at SUNY Purchase.
7-11 Legion Drive, Valhalla
Yoga for children ages 3 and up with emotional, developmental, and physical disabilities.
Greenburgh Special Education Recreation
11 Olympic Lane, Ardsley
(914) 693-8985 ext. 128
Activities for children with disabilities include horseback riding, karate, and swim classes.
2975 Westchester Avenue, Suite 410, Purchase
Adapted tennis and dance therapy are among this organization's many offerings for children with developmental, physical, and emotional disabilities.
926 Route 6, Mahopac
(845) 621-4922; www.jumpin-jeepers.com
Offers structured play and classes for kids with learning and developmental disabilities. Social story can be created to help your child attend a playdate or party.
The Miracle League of Westchester
30 Glenn Street, Suite 307, White Plains
A modified baseball program for children of all ages with disabilities, including a field specifically designed for wheelchair use.
Moving Wheels and Heels
Steffi Nossen Central Studios at the Music Conservatory of Westchester
216 Central Avenue, White Plains
Dance classes for wheelchair-bound adults and children combine technique, improvisation, and movement to help increase strength and range of motion.
North East Westchester Special Recreation, Inc.
63 Bradhurst Avenue, Hawthorne
Offers aquatics, Special Olympics training, and other activities for children with developmental disabilities.
Pleasantville, Bedford Hills, North Salem
Therapeutic horseback riding for children with special needs
Southeast Consortium for Special Services
740 West Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck
Among the programs offered are Kids in Motion, fitness, exercise, and movement for youths and teens; Partners in Sports, which includes sports development and cooperative skill training; aquatics; bowling; and Special Olympics training and competition.
UMAC (United Martial Arts Centers)
450 North State Road, Briarcliff Manor
United Martial Arts Center offers Taekwondo for children with special needs, helping kids develop physically, mentally, and socially.
WeeZee World of "Yes, I Can!"
Chappaqua Crossing (the old Reader's Digest headquarters),
480 Bedford Road, Chappaqua
Opening in November with a grand opening celebration in early December (stay tuned on their website for details), this indoor sensory play space aims to create a world of sensory adventures that improves academic performance, develops athletic acumen, and enhances social relationships for children of all ages. Staff are trained assistants in helping children who have social, emotional, and physiological effects of central nervous system processing disorders, including those on the autism spectrum, using Sensory Integration, a facet of occupational therapy (OT).
FAIRFIELD COUNTY, CT
305 Hathaway Drive, Stratford
Sensory Bounces work on balance, auditory and tactile sensitivity, strength building, motor coordination, and cooperative play; siblings can participate.
Dynamic Martial Arts
606 Post Road East, Westport
Hosts year-round classes for children with disabilities led by black belt instructors.
Fairfield Parks & Recreation
75 Mill Plain Road, Fairfield
Offers youth leagues for children of all ages, including basketball, soccer, football, baseball and softball. The Challenger Division in various sports caters specifically to children with disabilities.
High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc.
36 Town Woods Road, Old Lyme
Accredited by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, the year-round program has served people with physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities for more than a quarter of a century.
999 Oronoque Lane, Stratford
Their mission is to provide year-round athletic training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.