Ask any parent what they want most, and the answer will likely be more sleep — and that means finding places for active kids to use up all that extra energy. The challenge comes in finding a place that is available in all kinds of weather, and for kiddos with special needs, there is the even greater challenge of finding a facility that is welcoming and ready to accommodate individual modifications. Don’t lose any more sleep over this — we’ve picked several places where extra energy and special kids are always welcome.
The Basics: Children as young as 12 months can begin their gymnastics education with ASI – and, at that age, with their parents in tow. There’s no need to worry about sessions or semesters; students can enroll at any time. Students who are new to ASI but not new to gymnastics will be subject to placement evaluations; these help determine whether they should start in a basic class or something more advanced, such as Power Tumbling. In addition to formal classes, all eight ASI locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area offer Parents’ Night Out and open-gym sessions.
Special-Needs Specifics: Gymmie Kids is a program for students ages 3-18 with special needs. These can be one-on-one private lessons, or the student can be enrolled in a typical class and get assistance from a “shadow coach.” These coaches’ training includes courses on common disabilities and disorders, as well as positive behavior intervention.
Cost: start at $68 per month, plus $30 enrollment fee.
The Basics: The indoor safari-themed sensory destination in Frisco is a no-shoes-allowed zone for kids and parents alike. Three areas of varying sensory engagement make the space ideal for classes, parties and large families. Ideal for kids ages 8 and younger.
Special-Needs Specifics: Children with all mental disabilities and most physical disabilities (children who use wheelchairs might be limited) can expand their STEAM knowledge in the low-sensory area, play pretend in imaginative playhouses and augmented reality sandbox in the medium-energy zone, or rock out in the high-sensory and energy area that is outfitted with instruments, trampolines and more.
Cost: $12 per child for 2 hours of play
The Basics: At the intersection between therapy and typical recreation, you will find It’s a Sensory World. This learning gym includes everything parents wish they could have at home for rich sensory experiences. Targeted skills in sensory regulation, fine and gross motor development, and behavioral control are addressed in a safe and nurturing environment.
Special-Needs Specifics: Parent Guided Sensory Circuits are therapist-created activities designed to address sensory issues in a way that seems like typical play. With parents as cheerleaders, and even siblings as encouraging models, kids complete a rotational series of tasks that work muscle groups and sensory-stimulating needs. While kids are playing in the sensory-rich environment, parents have the added bonus of learning along with their child. Open gym times are weekdays from 9:30am-5:30pm or Saturday mornings from 10am-2pm. Birthday parties and Parents’ Nights Out in an environment that is accepting of individual differences are also unique features that are hard to find in other locations.
Cost: $50 for six gym sessions
Farmers Branch, 972/239-8100
The Basics: Bouncing off the walls isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged at one of the four Jumpstreet facilities located across North Texas. Wall-to-wall trampolines covering 20,000 square feet extend across the urban playground and include dodgeball courts, and specialty features that vary across locations. All North Texas parks feature Earthquake Kids Zone, a restricted area of the gym for little ones younger than 7 to have a safe place to play that is just their size.
Special-Needs Specifics: Jumpstreet features a semi-private event for kids with special needs and their families on the first Saturday of each month. Doors open at 9 am for an exclusive hour just for Special Family Saturdays to allow kids to experience the park while it is less crowded and calmer. In addition to two hours of jumping, the all-access pass includes special features such as the foam pit, mechanical bull and inner tube slide. Parents are admitted free, and siblings are always welcome, allowing the whole family to enjoy an accessible way to play.
Cost: An all-access pass is available at a reduced rate of $8 for kids 4 and older and $4 for kids younger than 4.
The Basics: Pump It Up was designed as a climate-controlled venue for private and hassle-free birthday parties, but daily open-jump sessions have made the facility a popular place to meet friends and get active. Inside the acres of play space, giant inflatables go way beyond the typical bounce house and give all ages a soft place to go a little crazy. In addition to giant slides, kids will find obstacle courses and arenas where they can challenge their friends to a game, or even a section with tricycles and scooters where younger kids can peddle around.
Special-Needs Specifics: Sensory-sensitive sessions, reserved for children with special needs and their families, occur in the evenings every month (depending on location). Accommodations include no music, no use of whistles or microphones in the play area, and no need for stamps or wristbands. Advance registration is advised.
Cost: $8 entrance fee
The Basics: The developmental gymnastics program offers private lessons and group integration classes for tumblers 3 and older.
Special-Needs Specifics: In weekly 50-minute classes, children with all mental disabilities and most physical disabilities (children who use wheelchairs might be limited) will learn to use beams, ropes and trampolines. Register by phone or online.
Cost: $80 per month
Farmers Branch; 972/620-9922
This article was first published in the November 2015 issue of DFWThrive. It was updated with additional reporting in June 2017, and again in January 2019.