Family Ties of Massachusetts
Family TIES of Massachusetts is a statewide information and parent-to-parent support project for families of children with special needs and chronic illness. They have a Resource Directory that is available as a download.
Belmont S.P.O.R.T., a division of Belmont Recreation Dept.
Athletics, social events, cooking, dancing and other programs, at moderate cost, open to children and adults with special needs who reside in Belmont and surrounding towns. No online registration. For more information, see the site or call the Belmont Rec. Dept. at 617-993-2760.
Newton Parks & Recreation Dept.’s Therapeutic Recreation Program (a/k/a Newton Special Athletes)
Recreational programs and social events for children and adults. Includes soccer, skating, swimming, holiday parties, teen parties and adult socials. Newton residents and non-residents welcome. No online registration.
Greater Waltham Association for Retarded Citizens, Inc. (GWARC)
Recreational and social programs, including swimming, soccer, cooking, music therapy and social events for ages 3 through adult (depending on the program). No online registration. From their website: "GWARC's Recreation PLUS offers a wide variety of recreation and leisure programs to children (age 3 and up), adolescents and adults with all levels of abilities. Recreation Plus, working in collaboration with other agencies in Waltham and Newton, such as the Waltham Boys and Girls Club, Waltham Recreation Department, Waltham Family YMCA and Newton Parks and Recreation Department. These agencies work together with GWARC to provide the support and services that all individuals need to fully enjoy these programs."
Minute Man Arc
According to its website: "Recreational opportunities are available for both children and adults. Groups are divided by age to facilitate socialization with peers. Typical activities include chorus, arts and crafts, movie nights, bowling and other sports, Special Olympics teams, and special community events. Additional activities are also offered depending on the season."
Lexington hosts a division of the TOPSoccer program (The Outreach Program for Soccer) on Saturdays at 12:30pm to 2pm, from September 20th to October 25th in Lexington. $30 per participant, open to children and young adults with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Open to non-residents. Register online. For more information, contact Danielle Athanasiadis by email or by phone at 781-652-8044.
Special Olympics instruction at The Arlington Boys & Girls Club
The Arlington Boys & Girls Club offers Special Olympics programs in basketball, boating, bowling and swimming (not all are offered each session). For fall 2008, swimming is offered, and is open to those age 6 to adult (but you must be at least 8 years old to compete). Cost is $45 for the session, which meets from 6:15pm to 7pm on Mondays, October 6 through December 15. Annual membership to the club is $22 for ages 6 to 17, and $280 for adults. Register online, by mail or in person.
Sunday Open Gym, sponsored by the Autism Alliance of Metrowest
"Weekly Sensory gym geared specifically to autism needs." Mid-October through May, Sundays from Noon to 5:00 p.m. Free for members of the Autism Alliance of Metrowest (and certain other organizations). You can request membership online; they will email you back a newsletter, which has the gym pass. Non-disabled siblings seem to be welcome. No instruction or supervision provided. Parent/caregiver must stay, and must sign a waiver prior to participation. The gym has large jumping mats with a platform to jump or rope-swing from, swings and a few other items familiar to OT fans.
"Special Needs" gymnastics classes on Sundays, for ages 4 and up. $161 per six week session, 50 minutes per class. Also must pay a membership fee. Well equipped gym. Siblings welcome (also pay tuition). $5 discount for online registration. Open to "all levels and abilities all along the spectrum."
Music Therapy: Special Musicians for the Arts (no website)
Music therapy for children with autism, ages 3 through 12. Eight week sessions, Saturday mornings in Lexington, $120 per session. Classes are 45 minutes each. For more information, contact Andrew Gentzow, MA, MT-BC by email. (Mr. Gentzow also teaches a preschool music class at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, which is weekly on Mondays in the late morning. It is not specifically designed as a music therapy class. Check the Club’s winter program for registration info.) GWARC also offers music therapy classes. Private music therapy is available at Powers Music School in Belmont.
Pool and Fitness Center at the Doubletree Guest Suites in Waltham
Word on the street is that the Doubletree’s pool has become popular on the weekends for families with a person on the autism spectrum. Membership is about $1,000 a year. Several packages at various rates are available, but you have to call or visit to learn about the specifics (they don’t provide the rates online). The fitness center is open 24/7, and the pool is open 5:30am to 11pm.
Spirit Bear Yoga in Natick Center
Inclusion yoga classes for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The class is being taught by Elizabeth Goranson, who is a special education teacher (in Framingham) as well as a yoga instructor. Classes are on Thursdays for kids with ASD and typically-developing kids:
3:00 to 3:50 for 5-8 year olds; and 4:00 to 5:00 for 9-12 year olds. Classes are also offered on Tuesdays (same times and age groups) for typically developing kids. Contact Elizabeth Goranson by email or by phone at 617-538-2873. There may be another Saturday afternoon class sponsored by the Autism Alliance coming in the future.
Amusement Parks that provide special assistance:
Canobie Lake Park
Six Flags New England
At each park, visit guest services for a wristband that permits the person with a disability and a caregiver to move to the front of the line (sometimes the entire family can stay together, depending on the park). Rules change periodically, so confirm before you go if it is an important factor.
Suggestions for those with "invisible" disabilities: While none of these parks require proof of disability, offering a doctor’s note or similar documentation that states the diagnosis will ease the process of obtaining wristbands. Also, when a park is crowded, prepare yourself for withering glares from others waiting in long lines. This is less of an issue at StoryLand, where persons with wristbands may enter at a special handicapped entrance at most rides. It is not a concern at Six Flags, because the wristband for persons with disabilities looks the same as the wristband for people who pay a premium to advance in lines.