Special Resources, For Special Kids

For many Westport parents, kids’ activities — sports, arts, organizations, lessons, you name it — are easy to access. And there are gazillions of them.

For parents with special needs children, it’s not as easy. There are many excellent programs, but they can be hard to find.

And even though the PTAs’ SpED (Special Education) committee spreads the word through an info-filled weekly email — including options outside of school, and resources for parents too — plenty of Westporters don’t even know they can join that list.

Some of the programs — here and in nearby towns — are inclusive. Others are adapted, making them attainable to those who did not think they could participate.

So how can parents learn what’s out there?

Westporter Johanna Kiev has compiled a massive database of material. She’s shared it with “06880” — which is honored to offer it to our readers.

(Johanna has also developed a Facebook resource page — click here to see it).

Thanks, Johanna. And everyone: Feel free to forward this far and wide!

About the Westport SpED Committee

Westport SpED PTA committee representatives work closely with each school’s administration, and the district’s assistant superintendent of pupil services. They meet monthly. Co-chairs are Julie McMahon and Kate Grijns.

Members are parents of children who receive special education services. The committee hosts social events and shares information, such as:

  • Sip ’N Chat – informal parent coffees held monthly at Panera Bread
  • Community Fun Day each November
  • Teen Nights at the Westport Weston Family Y
  • Parent education seminars on topics like “Navigating Your IEP” and “Assistive Technology”
  • Weekly emails with information about local events and activities, plus summer opportunities and post-high school transition options

The committee also works with local agencies like the Parks & Recreation Department and Westport Library, for advocacy and programming.

To be added to the PTA SpED mailing list — or if you would like to add information about a program not listed below, or are a business that can help — email westportspedpta@gmail.com.

Programming Options for Children with Special Needs:

The Westport Weston Family Y sponsors:

Swim Team: The program includes participation in Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $100 (September-June)

Basketball: Junior Team (8 -12 years): Saturdays 8:45 to 9:30 p.m.
Senior Team (13+ years): Saturdays 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
This program includes participation in the CT Unified Sports tournament. Fee: $65 (September-February)

Track & Field: This program includes participation in the Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $45 (March-June)

Floor Hockey: This began for the first time last month. Fee: $45 (December-March)

Smiles all around on the Y’s Special Olympics swim team.

Special Needs Swim Lessons: The Y offers private and semi-private swim lessons at a greatly reduced rate for children with special needs. Lessons can be booked at any time, but because the pool can get noisy and distracting, instructors are also available during quieter hours (evenings, Fridays, early Saturday and Sunday morning). Rates: Private 30-minute lesson, $25; 2-person 30-minute lesson, $15 each.

Long Distance Running: This program is for children who are interested in completing a 5k (combination of walking and running). Practice times: Tuesdays, 4-4:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.

SPED Teen Fun Nights: Offered on various dates.

For more information or to register for any Westport Weston YMCA special needs activity, click here or call 203-226-8981

Earthplace

Earthplace provides necessary resources to allow children to access and enjoy all programming. For more information or to register, click here or call 203-557-4400.

MusicWorks! Individual Music Therapy Sessions for Children with Special Needs

MusicWorks! (Westport School of Music, 18 Woods Grove Road) sessions employ structured and improvised musical activities including singing, instrument playing, rhythm and movement, songwriting, listening, imaging and relaxation to meet individual needs. Activities are specifically designed for cognitive, emotional, psychological, physical and social concerns. They are facilitated by board-certified music therapist Patricia Ashford, who encourages children and adults to express themselves without judgment and to grow in creativity and self-confidence.

For more information or to register, call director Sarah Miller: 203-227-4931.

Music Works! is specially designed for children with special needs.

“Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen”: 

Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen” builds the communication skills of people with special needs through the motivating element of food. Each participant in the cooking class prepares a new recipe each week. The fall/winter program includes pumpkin muffins, apple berry salsa with cinnamon chips, garlic and lemon butternut squash noodles, and apple stir fry with whipped cream. Dietary needs can be accommodated.

Classes are taught by licensed speech and language pathologist Shari Goldstein, and Penney Parkes, a food technologist and mom of a special needs young adult.

Classes are held in Fairfield on Tuesdays and Saturdays. They can be held at home kitchens if parents form a group of youngsters to cook together. There are classes for elementary, middle and high school students. A preschool class could be organized too.

For more information or to sign up, email Shari@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com or Penney@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com

The Drew Friedman Foundation: New Arts Program for Kids

The Foundation introduces a pilot youth arts program for children with special needs this month in Westport. The hands-on program, conducted by local artists, includes 10 to 15 children around ages 8 to 16 to work on a mosaic-type project.

For more information, email michellevitulich@gmail.com or call 203-349-0455.

Inclusive Ice Skating : Ages 5 – 13

Saturdays, 11am to 11:45am (through February 9) at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore.

Individual and group instruction in basic skills is offered at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore. Parents are encouraged to skate with their children. The program runs Saturdays through February 9 (11 to 11:45 a.m.). To register, click here.

Little League Baseball – Challenger Program

This program pairs young volunteers with children with special needs. Details on the spring season will be available soon; click here.

Hillary Lipper shares a laugh with Coach Scott, during the 2013 Challenger season.

Circle of Friends

Norwalk-based Circle of Friends includes many Westporters. The organization matches special needs children with teenage volunteers for play dates. The group also organizes monthly gatherings for youngsters with special needs. For more information, click here.

The Jewish Community Center of Stamford

The JCC  offers winter programs designed to improve children’s social skills and build positive peer interactions:

  • Music, Movement & Yoga – fun and interactive for all ability levels.
  • Music Mania – provides opportunities for children to explore their creativity, using music to improve skills.
  • Zumba Kids Jr – kid-friendly routines based on original Zumba choreography.
  • Ready, Set, Move – enables children to engage their muscles by moving through an obstacle course and yoga positions.

(Have we missed any programs? Click “Comments” below!)

10 responses to “Special Resources, For Special Kids

  1. These programs sound terrific ! I love
    teaching private piano or voice
    for children 5 and up with
    special needs . For more info
    http://www.leslieorofino.com/educator

  2. If anyone is interested in the most fun baseball/softball program, please contact Challenger Commissioner, Beth Cody, for more information at westportball@aol.com.
    We have an AMAZING coach, Mike Connors, who has been with us since we started six years ago and gives his heart and soul to the kids. Teams consist of boys and girls age 5-18. Games, buddies, activities, parties—come join the fun!

  3. Shari Goldstein

    Thank you for listing these very important resources!

  4. Thanks to Johanna for compiling and sharing this exhaustive list of resources. The Kiev family is extremely generous and active in supporting special needs children. We are fortunate to have such wonderful and caring members of our community!

  5. Thanks for compiling this list. Wilton offers a TOPS Soccer program in the fall and spring..players are paired with a high school volunteer and meet up for an hour over the weekend. It is also open to surrounding communities. I believe it is ages 4 and up. Angelfish is another great program that the Wilton YMCA has and many other towns in CT. It is swimming lessons/PT for special needs kids.

    There is also a summer theater program in New Canaan for special needs kids (STONC) as well as Super Troopers (Horse therapy camp in New Canaan).

    Ridgefield has an amazing theater (Prospector Theater) staffed by special needs adults and often has sensory movie screenings.

    Stepping Stones and the Maritime Aquarium (both in Norwalk) offer sensory friendly/Accessability days once a month on the weekends.

  6. Westport library just started a sensory story time for 2-3 year olds.

  7. Dance 4 All Abilities 2019

    Dance 4 All Abilities is an adaptive dance program for children facing various challenges. The program provides a fun, small group dance class using creative movement principles with modified ballet technique. Allowing dancers with Autism Spectral Disorder, Down syndrome and physical disabilities to engage, explore and express themselves in dance.
    Inclusive classes for dancers of all abilities and needs.

    Registration
    Call or email us to register! An intake interview will be given for new dancers before the start of the session. Information from the interview will be used for class placement.

    Please register early. Class size is limited.

    Contact us
    Any questions or need additional information? Call or email us.
    Main Office:
    info@ctdanceschool.org
    (203) 384-2492
    Lead Instructors:
    msdebra@ctdanceschool.org
    mspatrice@ctdancescool.org

    10-week session (Have begun but contact us to see if the class is full)

    Wednesday 3:30-4:15 (3-5 yrs old)
    Saturday 1:00-1:45 (5-7 yrs old)
    Saturday 1:45-2:45 (8-12 yrs old)
    Saturday 1:30-2:30 ( teens/young adult)

    Come join the fun

  8. Michele Purcell

    Wonderful program! This year the Connecticut Dance School had a sensory friendly Nutcracker and included the students from the Dance 4 All program!

  9. Thanks to Johanna – this in an amazing tool for any parent of children with special needs!
    Is anyone aware of a similar resource listing northern Fairfield county towns?

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