Children with special needs can have fun and make friends with kids of all abilities with special programming, workshops, and kid-friendly events and activities on Long Island, including in Plainview, Great Neck, and East Meadow.
Kids who have special needs, disabilities, or sensory issues can face various challenges when it comes to connecting with peers and making friends, especially when many are uncomfortable or unable to participate in certain kid-friendly activities. Here, a list of kid-friendly venues on Long Island, including a bounce house a fully accessible playground, that dedicate time and space for children with special needs and all abilities to become friends, have fun, and learn.
A Playground for All Abilities
Let All the Children Play at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow is a 2-acre accessible park and playground that’s specially designed so that children with disabilities and special needs can play alongside their able-bodied siblings and friends.
Shane Stepinski of West Hempstead hangs out on the jungle gym.
The equipment exceeds the guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act and is designed to help children develop gross and fine motor skills and cultivate balance and spatial perception. There are three play areas: one for toddlers, a 2- to 5-year-old section, and another for children ages 5-12.
Swings have harnesses, slides have gradual slopes, and the seesaw has a backrest on one side to provide more stability. The paths are wide enough for a wheelchair, and the surface is springy throughout. Sand and water play areas can be accessed with a wheelchair. The parking and amenities are nearby, and there are benches all around for comfortable supervision.
Let All the Children Play is located at Field 4 in Eisenhower Park on Long Island. For more information, call 516-569-0648 or visit latcp.org.
Bounce Time for Kids with Special Needs
Pump It Up, a play space filled with giant inflatables, offers monthly Sensory Playtime sessions for kids on the autism spectrum. On select Wednesday nights, bring your child to bounce, jump, slide, and play sensory-friendly games in private arenas.
Pump It Up can also accommodate support groups, play therapy sessions, and social events for individuals on the autism spectrum or those with other special needs, their family members and friends, and the professionals who work with them. Registration is required for these sessions. Cost is $14.95 per child.
Visit one of two Pump It Up locations on Long Island for Sensory Playtime sessions:
Pump It Up Great Neck
225 Community Drive, Suite 250, 516-466-7867
Pump It Up Plainview
135 Dupont St, 516-575-2300
The Theresa Academy of Performing Arts offers Saturday Respite every week, 9am-12pm. This drop-off event allows kids to get hands-on with art and enjoy dance, yoga, drumming, music, and more, as they socialize with peers. RSVP is required. Visit tapany.org for more information.
Sensory-Friendly Films on Long Island
The Autism Society has partnered with select AMC Theatres throughout the U.S. to present Sensory-Friendly Films.
These special screenings feature new family movies (rated G or PG) in a toned-down version of the movie theater experience—the lights stay up, the sound is turned down, and audience members are encouraged to get up, walk around, and make as much noise as they please. All shows start at 10am and tickets are available at the matinee price (usually $6).
Find a Long Island theater that hosts these special screenings at nyspecialparent.com/movies.
All of the galleries at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City are wheelchair-accessible. Galleries include an area devoted to bubbles, a live animal exhibit, the "Sound Showers" exhibit that allows kids to get creative with music and sounds, and more.
If you want to avoid large crowds, the museum suggests visiting during the following times: weekday afternoons during the school year, sunny weekends during the summer, nice weather weekends during the fall and spring. The museum is most crowded during school breaks and inclement weather days.
Wheelchair-Accessible Nature Trails
Take a stroll through the nature trails on Long Island, including in Massapequa, Wantagh, and Smithtown, that have been approved as wheelchair accessible by the nonprofit Rails-To-Trails Conservancy.
Our full guide to fun for families with children with special needs in the NYC area