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After School Activities for Kids With Special Needs

Make room in your school-year schedule to squeeze in some (therapeutic) fun. Not only does recreation provide entertainment, but activities like dance and music can improve gross motor skills, boost confidence and provide an outlet for expressing emotions and ideas. We’ve rounded up ongoing options in the arts — including martial arts — from around Dallas-Fort Worth to keep your little occupied this fall, from in-home piano lessons to special hip-hop classes.
Children with special needs can get their hands messy — or not—at THE ARTIST WITHIN, an independent studio that specializes in services for kids ages 6 and up with autism, sensory disorders, Down syndrome and other mental and physical disabilities. During weekly private lessons or group classes with typical peers, budding artists will create projects with media tailored to their strengths, whether that means messy fingers or clean, and take their masterpieces home upon completion. Classes are held year-round; call to discuss which setting would best fit your child.
COST: $35 per hour for private classes; group classes range from $85–$105 per month.
Plano, 972/596-6077
SACRED GROUND DANCE offers a hip-hop class for children with special needs ages 7–16. The weekly class, held Wednesday nights from 5:30–6:15pm, is tailored to the students’ pace, and the teacher will slow down or speed up each lesson as needed. Sacred Ground Dance also has
a buddy program where select high school students in the typical dance program are paired with children in the special needs class to give both groups an opportunity to socialize. The class began in late August, but children are welcome to sign up through February or until the class is full. Enrolled students will also get to perform in the annual recital in May.
COST: $20 per month.

Flower Mound, 972/537-5721
in Keller, children ages 9 and
up learn basic hip-hop moves
in a class just for special needs on Mondays from 6:15–7:15pm. Instructors keep the environment fun and uplifting, celebrating even small accomplishments, and kids get the chance to show off their skills at the end-of-year recital. The class started August 4 and runs through June 3; enrollment remains open until the class is full.
COST: $75 per month. A free trial class is available.

Keller, 817/745-3262
 ARTS has been teaching kids with special needs to kick and block for more than 30 years. He works to integrate children with a range of disabilities into typical classes with their peers ages 3 and up, where they learn self-defense techniques, respect and self-esteem. Classes for all levels are offered Monday–Thursday and Saturday; contact the school to determine which class would best fit your child.
COST: $79 per month for unlimited lessons, plus uniform costs and a one-time $10 registration fee. Try a week of classes for free.
Richardson, 817/404-7315
KELLER ATA MARTIAL ARTS offers a thrice-weekly special abilities class for children who have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other diagnoses. With the help of experienced instructors, kids 2 and up build self-confidence and discipline as they learn taekwondo. Students can also attend tournaments and compete in a division for special abilities competitors. Classes are held Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
COST: Registration is $149, and monthly tuition is $115 for unlimited classes. Try one class for free or four weeks (plus uniform) for $30 through Groupon.
Keller, 817/337-9493
During private lessons at MUSIC PLACE MANSFIELD, kids 4 and up can make music on the instrument of their choice, from piano and guitar to strings and drums. Music Place Mansfield will work with your family to match your student to the right teacher; several have experience working with children with a range of disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders. Voice and acting lessons are available too.
COST: Tuition is $380 for fall semester and $500 for spring semester; registration is $30.
Mansfield, 817/473-2822
PARK CITIES SCHOOL OF MUSIC and its sister studio, LAKEWOOD CONSERVATORY OF FINE ARTS, welcome kids with special needs to try out instruments and progress to proficiency through weekly group classes and private lessons. The teachers are experienced in accommodating a number of special needs and learning differences. The school will help you determine which class is best for your child — private lessons are open to all ages, or younger students can join an Instrument Explorers or Little Mozart Music class and socialize with typical peers. If there is enough interest, the school is willing to create a group class just for special needs.
COST: $45 for any trial class; $50 enrollment fee should you decide to continue. Private lessons 
run $168 per month and group classes are $150 per month.
Dallas, 214/504-2700
If your child would be more comfortable in the familiar surroundings of home, STARLIGHT MUSIC LESSONS 
can bring the music to you. Starlight offers in-home music lessons across Dallas-Fort Worth for children 3 and up, depending on teacher availability. All teachers are thoroughly screened and trained, and some have backgrounds in music therapy and experience working with children with special needs. Choose from a range of instruments, including piano, strings and percussion, or voice lessons. (You
 will need to provide your own instrument.) Weekly lessons run 30, 45 or 60 minutes, though most students with special needs opt for 30-minute classes.
COST: Prices start at $148 per month for 30-minute lessons. Try one class for $37.
Dallas-Fort Worth area, 214/477-8006
KIDS WHO CARE MUSICAL THEATRE works to accommodate all children who want to take the stage. Through musical theater and dance classes, kids in kindergarten through high school can build confidence, acting skills and stage savvy, and even participate in public productions. Kids with special needs, including Down syndrome and autism, will be incorporated into typical classes on a case-by-case basis; call Kids Who Care to discuss your child’s strengths and needs.
COST: Classes start at $225.
Fort Worth, 817/737-5437
DALLAS CHILDREN’S THEATER’S sensory-friendly class for teens 13–16 creates a fun, positive atmosphere for young performers to improve communication, focus and social skills — all while learning their way around a stage. Instructors tailor each class, including the final production, to the students’ interests and personalities. The fall session runs every Friday from October 7–November 11. DCT also has a full slate of typical classes for ages 3 and up; the theater will work to include your child depending on his needs.
COST: $85 for the six-week fall sensory class.
Dallas, 214/978-0110
Kids ages 4 and up of 
all abilities can develop balance and coordination at YOGI KIDS in Flower Mound. While Yogi Kids is able to accommodate most children in their typical classes, the studio also offers a group class just for kids with special needs and learning differences that focuses on yoga basics and improving gross motor skills. Many of the instructors at Yogi Kids were once classroom teachers and have worked with children with a range of mental and physical disabilities. Classes are held year-round.
COST: $90 for 10 classes, $160 for 20 classes or $199 for 30 classes.
Flower Mound, 214/325-2547