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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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 email@example.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!)