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life skills and cultural activities for special needs

18 Cultural Activities & Life Skills Classes for Kids with Special Needs

from performance arts and movie screenings to life skills

Summer fun is for everyone! We rounded up cultural activities and life skills classes that are tailor-made for children who have special needs—whether that’s a physical difference, developmental disability, a sensory sensitivity or something else. Check out these 18 ideas to make it a memorable season.

Performance & Fine Arts

1.Starlight Music Lessons will send a music teacher to your home to work with your kiddo with special needs. There are also virtual lessons, for instruments including piano, violin, guitar and ukulele and for voice. Multiple locations and virtual; info@starlightmusiclessons.com

2. Dallas Children’s Theater offers its Blue Pegasus Players program for kids with special needs such as autism, sensory processing disorders and Down syndrome. Monday through Friday summer class sessions—where kids will act, move, make a play and other activities—are available during select weeks in June (virtual) and July (in person) for kids ages 10–18. Go online to find a social story about the in-person classes. Dallas and virtual; 214/978-0110

3. Introduce your child to music as a therapeutic tool with Lakewood Conservatory of Fine Arts’ Music Therapy Program. The private lessons are open to kids and adults of different abilities and learning styles. Music helps restore, improve and maintain mental and physical functioning. Dallas; 214/455-1477

4. Children and adults with cognitive disabilities can get involved in drama, music, dance and visual art through North Texas Performing Arts’ Starcatchers Sign up your child—age 8 and up—for a summer production (rehearsals begin June 1 or June 7, depending on the production). You can also get a sense for Starcatchers through a creative art summer camp, also for age 8 and up. Camp sessions, each with a different theme, will be held during various weeks in June, July and August. Plano; starcatchers@ntpa.org

5. Adults with special needs (age 18 and up) can express themselves through art this summer at Art House in Southlake. A weekly adaptive drawing and painting class begins June 4 and runs through early August. The facility is accessible to wheelchairs. Southlake; 214/285-0084

6. Plano Parks & Recreation offers a virtual dance club for individuals with special needs (age 15 and up). The summer club is set for June 18. Virtual; 972/941-7250

Movie Showings

7. Alamo Drafthouse’s Alamo For All screenings are designed for movie fans with special needs as well families with young children. Lights are turned up and sound is turned down; talking, noise and moving around are all permitted. Latecomers are also allowed in the theater. Adaptive technology is welcome (but other electronics are not). Alamo Drafthouse movies that start before 2:05pm on Tuesdays follow Alamo For All rules, as do select matinees on the weekend. Multiple locations

8. Multiple AMC Theaters locations in Dallas-Fort Worth participate in the Sensory Friendly Films The lights are up, the sound is down, and guests are permitted to get up, walk, dance, sing and shout. Family screenings are on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month; mature audience sensory screenings are on Wednesday evenings. Multiple locations

9. Head to Studio Movie Grill theaters for Special Needs Screenings that are free for children with special needs and their siblings. (Same drill: lights up, low volume and freedom to talk, make noise and move.) Adult tickets are available for the before-noon price. This summer’s Special Needs Screening films include Cruella, Spirit Untamed, Peter Rabbit 2 and Space Jam: A New Legacy. Movies start at noon at all locations on selected dates. Multiple locations

Social Activities + Life Skills

10. Foster a one-on-one friendship for your loved one with special needs through Best Buddies. The organization matches up individuals with and without IDD for an ongoing connection. There are community, school-based and virtual programs. Best Buddies also provides employment assistance and leadership development. Multiple locations

11. Awesome on the Spectrum promotes independence for teens and adults with autism spectrum disorder. The Arlington organization holds social skills sessions in addition to providing employment assistance and limited respite care, among other services. Arlington; 682/227-6039

12. Get to know others through the Special Friends program at YMCA North in Arlington. Special Friends, a partnership of Arlington-Mansfield area YMCA and MHMR of Tarrant County, is open to adults with special needs. Participants build social, organizational and other daily skills while getting creative, being active and having fun. Arlington; 817/548-9622

13. The Clubhouse for Special Needs summer program provides a recreational environment for young people ages 13–22 (or thereabouts). There’s a lounge, table games, video games, computers and internet access, crafts, puzzles, books and more. The Clubhouse, in northeast Tarrant County, also works on community service projects and has field trips. Bedford; 817/285-0885

14. Center for ASD in Burleson has a variety of offerings to promote social skills and encourage fun. The Thrive program is split into two groups—one for kids 12 and younger (with science activities, crafts and socialization), and the other for age 13 and up (think game nights, food and hanging out). REACH is a day-hab and vocational group for adults with special needs, with structured activities for learning and socializing. Center for ASD also offers parent groups and respite care. New and current families are invited to the center’s summer bash on June 4. Burleson; 682/499-6655

15. Help your child develop the ability to chitchat this summer through Story Stage in Fort Worth. The organization works with kids with learning differences and high-functioning autism, as well as others without a diagnosis who are struggling socially or academically. The Art of Chit Chat, to be held in June, uses games and improv to teach children about tone of voice, body awareness, topic maintenance, turn taking and more. Story Stage will also hold a three-week summer camp at The Key School for Learning Differences. Fort Worth; 817/989-6399

16. Southlake’s Club Metro (for age 13 and up) offers a weekly social night, featuring games, art, yoga, guests from the fire department or nature center, and more. The program is open to residents outside Southlake. Go online for program schedule. Southlake; 817/748-8019

17. Get your tween or teen (ages 11–15) out and about with Plano Parks & Recreation’s in-person Friendship Camps in July. They’ll enjoy arts and crafts, swimming and exercise
Plano; 972/941-7250

18. Arrange for your loved one with special needs (age 14 and up) to take a virtual life skills class through Plano Parks & Recreation. Participants will learn about counting money, time management and household chores while building conversation and social skills. Classes are scheduled in June, July and August. Virtual; 972/941-7250

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