Thursday, April 11, 2013

Activities for Special Needs Kids

This has been a good year for getting James more active. Although he has some issues, such as low muscle tone, uneven fine muscle control in his fingers, and vestibular disorders, James is a guy on the go. He likes people and being able to play sports is becoming more of a requirement for him to participate at recess and social occasions with others.

So we love it when we hear about programs for kids with special needs. Any helpful boost we can get for our kids is an investment that pays rich and diverse dividends. Here are some programs we've used over the past year:

Healdsburg Wonder League

A non-profit organization that runs a mini baseball league designed for children, ages 4–19, with special needs. Their first game is this weekend and it's not too late so sign up for this season! Find out more on their website ( and come on out to cheer on the Players and their Buddies. James and his sister have enjoyed two years with this great program. Our daughter learned to hit a pitch, and James has actually improved his throwing skills. Here are some posts about our experiences.

Saturday Sidekicks

We've had some fun Saturdays down at Sonoma State. The Saturday Sidekicks program has truly made both kids excited about being more active. It's nice to have some focus time too where the kids and their university sidekicks join in a circle to sing and try a group activity. The energy is high and the kids get a chance to do outside of normal play, such as ride a plastic scoot, get rolled down a ramp while inside a tubular mat, or ride on a platform swing. Being pulled on a blanket while sitting in an inflatable raft is novel, as is having a big cardboard box to hide out and giggle inside. We sure hope to participate in Saturday Sidekicks next year!

Town of Windsor Parks and Rec

We've tried two programs, with gratifying success. Half days of summer camp sessions and group swim lessons. For both, I've gone in person to the office to talk about James and his needs. At first, they were willing to give it a try, with the clear condition that the counselors were not 1-on-1 aides and that if there were too many issues for either of us we'd withdraw James. Amazingly, issues never came up.

Instead, with the summer camp, his verbal abilities soared, and he got into crafts and enjoyed play times. He loves wearing the camp t-shirts all year long. At the talent show last summer, he insisted on performing a song learned at camp on stage, solo, with a microphone. I heard he was a fun act to watch. I have strangers waving to me now at the Town Green, asking me to say hi to James. We remember the summer camp programs with great fondness.

The group swim lessons for kids were an important developmental milestone. I finally felt James was comfortable enough in water and group dynamics to get something out of a class and would not be too much of a distraction. It was a very good start and we'll be doing more this year. He even started to float on his back and jumped in at the last class, getting his head wet: victory over sensory issues!!
New to try this year,

Cycling Without Limits

James is eager to try and ride his bike without training wheels, like his big sister. His balance is rather precarious, so we haven't gotten there. Meanwhile, he is so big he is outgrowing his beloved Star Wars bike and bending the training wheels. Here's hoping both kids will be 2-wheeling it by Summer's end. We heard about the Cycling Without Limits program by participating in Saturday Sidekicks, and I am already looking forward to June.

Speaking of being physically active and programs supporting kids on the autism spectrum, James and I are walking this Saturday in the North Bay Area Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. Please join us in person at the Windsor Town Green or consider supporting us as we walk to raise awareness and funds to understand and create resources to deal with Autism.

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