As parents of any child, we know it's tough to find the right outlets for playing and learning. And with special needs families, it can be an even more consuming task to locate those specific avenues.  We've done some research to help, and have compiled a list of 26 different ideas to get you started this summer. We hope that these can lead to a fulfilling and enjoyable experience. Please be sure to ask for those special dates. Here we go! 

  1. Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Ocean Township, NJ introduces Sky Zone Cares on the second Monday of each month from 3:00pm-6:00pm for families with special needs. This specific time allows you to introduce the park to your children when it is just designated for them. They turn down the music, increase staffing and use social stories to explain the rules. The staff has been educated by Missing Piece Association specifically for Sky Zone Cares. This is a perfect opportunity to learn how to have Awesome Healthy Fun in a safe special environment.
  2. Head out to a Lakewood BlueClaws Baseball Game on June 7th for Food Allergy Awareness Day.   No Peanuts or products that contain nuts will be sold or offered in the ballpark. Tickets on sale now use the promo code: FARE
  3. The 18th annual Miles for Matheny, Matheny’s annual fundraiser and community event, will be held on Sunday, May 31, at Liberty Park in downtown Peapack. This year the event will include a new Fitness Walk in addition to the Lu Huggins Wheelchair Walk, five Cycling rides and a Kids Fun Run. Funds raised at Miles for Matheny will benefit programs and services that enhance the lives of the children and adults at Matheny and serve people with disabilities in the community. For more information, call (908) 234-0011, ext. 260, or email
  4. Gainville is thrilled to announce the start of a new program, Gain Life Skills.  This program will focus on youth and young adults ages 14-26, who need guidance in specific areas of their life.  They are offering group workshops in the following areas: Self-Esteem for Girls (The Girl in the Mirror), Anger Management (Controlling ‘The Hulk’ within you), Coping mechanisms (Coping with Change), and Dealing with stress (Less Stress, More Progress).   Their hope is that these groups will help young adults cope with difficulties in their lives and change their lives for the better.
  5. Many special needs children feel a sense of relaxation in the water – and Sahara Sam’s is offering a special night for special needs families.  Next upcoming event is September 25.  Please call to confirm.  Enjoy the pools and water rides. There will be a Quiet room available, and there will be modified Lighting and Sound throughout the Park.  Bring your own snacks for those special dietary needs or dine from our full-service café. Tee shirts and shorts are OK!
  6. Tiny Tots Therapy offers a unique program Yoga for the Special Child®, LLC.  It is multi-level comprehensive Program of Yoga techniques designed to enhance the natural development of children with special needs. Their style of Yoga is gentle and therapeutic - safe for babies and children with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Microcephaly, Autism and other developmental disabilities. These methods also provide an effective treatment for children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, ADHD and Learning Disabilities.
  7. The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to present the 2015 Sensory Friendly Theatre series at Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway. Sensory Friendly music, theater and dance performances are specially adapted for children and adults with autism and other sensory sensitivities.  Check their website for a complete list of shows:
  8. Dancers Pointe provides a wide variety of dance classes for any dancer age 2 through adult. With our wide range of classes and varied schedule, you are sure to find a class that suits the needs of either you or your child including those with special needs. Please visit  for more information.
  9. Get them moving with Sensory Taekwon Doe in Bergenfield - Dr. Kerry Escamilla, D.C. is the Director and Innovator of Sensory Taekwon-Do. He has advanced training in neurology and functional medicine with emphasis on early childhood spectrum disorders. As a 2nd degree black belt, Dr. Kerry knows the benefits martial arts have for children on the spectrum. It has shown to improve concentration and focus by providing a consistent and highly structured environment. The program has now evolved to include sensory integration, brain balancing activities, and nutritional interventions thus making it a true whole body-whole brain approach to treatment. He offers the following services: Martial Arts Classes for Children on the Autism Spectrum, Special Physical Training Classes for Children with Sensory Disorders, Attention for Unique Case Children on the Autism Spectrum, and more.  
  10. Achieve Beyond was founded in 1995 to meet the needs of developmentally delayed and disabled children and their families, particularly children with bilingual needs. Achieve Beyond provides ABA therapy to help each child reach their full potential through education, therapy, and family support services. Services are provided throughout the state. They offer initial screenings, parent or school consultations, and comprehensive evaluations services to infants and children on the autism spectrum. Services are provided in the home, or community settings.
  11. JCC on the Palisades has several special needs programs.  The Therapeutic Nursery is a program for preschool children with a variety of developmental challenges, including communication and learning disorders, ADD/HD, emotional and behavior problems (including selective mutism), high functioning Autism, PDD and Asperger's Syndrome. The children in the program have at least average intelligence, and many are extremely bright, despite their developmental delays or difficult behaviors. We provide a warm, enriching environment that helps develop both socialization and interpersonal communication skills.  Or try Camp Haverim which is a two week camp designed for children and teens with autism and other cognitive and developmental delays, with sufficient communication and self-help skills, and attend 11 months of special schooling. Campers participate in social skills activities, swimming and water park activities, sports, yoga and adaptive physical education, academic enrichment, music and movement, art and therapy dogs.
  12. Paper Mill Playhouse has Autism-Friendly Children's Theater Performances.   They are designed and intended for families with children having autism or other developmental disabilities. At these performances the theater environment will be altered, providing a comfortable and judgment-free space that is welcoming for these families. Some of the features include house lights on, but dimmed, inside the theater, consistent sound level and lower volume, kids are free to talk and to leave their seat under parental supervision, and BYO snacks & drinks.  Next performance is Junie B Jones June 7th
  13. Bounce over to Bounce U in Paramus for their Sensory Bounce schedule - weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays with different age groups ranging from 2 -10. Mention NJ Kids. Otherwise ask for similar classes at other Jump places. 
  14. Environmental Centers brings you close to nature with their parks, nature walks and nature crafts. Walk the trails and go on a scavenger hunt, or a bird walk, and identify plants and trees and living creatures. Photograph what you see.  Many have hands on learning activities at your leisure.
  15. Animals are a joy for all ages.  Visit Brookhollow Barnyard in Montville.  Visit this farm and be transported back to simpler times. Come see their world class Alpacas. They are so cute!  Walk around the farm and feed the animals.
  16. Visit a barrier free playground, such as Challenger Place in Dorbrook Recreation Area in Colts Neck or the Morris-Union Jointure Playground in New Providence
  17. Garden State Discovery Museum offers: Open Arms:  Family Night August 16 from 6 – 8 pm – a night when the museum is open to families with special needs only!  Meet other families with children on the autism spectrum and have the opportunity to socialize in a safe and interactive environment. 
  18. Take a walk around the Grounds for Sculpture - a chance to learn and see outside without barriers and quiet voices!
  19. Spend an hour, the morning or the day at the museum.  Pick one room or gallery, or find a museum that highlights your child’s special interests, such as the Aviation Hall of Fame Museum at Teteboro Airport (get up close and personal to airplanes), the Battleship New Jersey, or the Transit Museum in Brooklyn, NY.
  20. Need to climb, jump and move about?  Hands - on museums are perfect combination of learning and fun!  Head to Imagine That! in Florham Park for an open floor plan chock full of touching, feeling and discovery.
  21. Gardens are a great place to roam and get out into the fresh air – and The Fragrance and Sensory Garden in Somerset is perfect for the visually or physically impaired.  It illustrates how plants can appeal to all of the senses and visitors are invited to touch and smell the plants.
  22. Therapeutic horseback riding is beneficial both physically and emotionally. Special needs children who work with horses develop self-esteem, concentration, patience and confidence – and it also relaxes and stimulates unused muscles and joints, builds muscle tone, and improves strength and coordination.  Many stables offer special lessons and classes for special needs children.  The Sunnyside Recreation Area in Lincroft provides fundamental equestrian experiences for people of all abilities, with an emphasis on offering the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding to individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities, helping them to develop to their full potential.
  23. Open up the Night Sky – many planetariums offer special shows for kids with special needs.  The Raritan Valley College Planetarium offers a one-hour sensory-friendly program on May 17. The doors will remain open so that children will be able to come and go. Lights will be left dim and audio will be lowered and at a consistent level.
  24. Many enrichment and schools offer classes specifically designed for special needs children – for example, Kid•Netic in Montville, and The Little Gym have classes that include music, movement and more and is tailored for kids of different abilities. Also try your local gymnastics centers and search for special yoga classes!
  25. What about cooking?  Classic Thyme in Westfield has a great cooking program which can be tailored. Bring your group for a special mixture of fun and food. 
  26. AMC Movie Theater brings sensory friendly films to families affected by autism on a monthly basis to select communities.