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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: Finding Friends | Social Skills Groups | Sensory Friendly Venues/Events | Recreational Activity Guide
Autism-Friendly Recreational Activities
Recreational activities offer a wonderful opportunity for autistic kids to have some fun, develop their interests, practice social skills, and build friendships. The following activities welcome autistic participants. If you have an update or addition to this list, please contact us at email@example.com. Inclusion in this guide does not constitute an endorsement from xMinds.
*Denotes activities by xMinds Professional Members
Location: Fitzgerald Tennis Stadium in Rock Creek Park (5220 16th St NW, Washington, DC); Georgetown Prep Tennis Club (10900 Rockville Pike, Rockville MD 20852)
ACEing Autism is a national nonprofit organization that provides affordable weekly tennis clinics to autistic children (ages 5–18). Each participant is paired with one or two volunteers based on individual needs. The program uses tennis to foster an enjoyment of fitness and improve motor skills, hand-eye coordination, communications, social skills, and self-esteem. Fall and spring sessions meet at Fitzgerald Tennis Stadium in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, and the winter session meets at the Georgetown Prep Tennis Club in Rockville, MD.
Contact: Whitney Ellenby, firstname.lastname@example.org
Autism Ambassadors runs year-round exclusive recreational events for children, teens, and adults of all abilities on the spectrum. The venues vary and include movies, trampoline parks, dance studios, and indoor and outdoor splash parks, with the venues rented out and reserved exclusively, no general public allowed. Food is served, siblings are welcome and the reduced fee is $10/child. Parents and aides attend for free. Email Autism Ambassadors to be added to their contact list and be notified about upcoming events.
CREATE Arts Center
Location: 914 Silver Spring Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910
*DC Social Hikes
Location: Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC
DC Social Hikes believes that every kid can benefit from nature and friendship! This hiking program is geared toward neurodiverse kids, ages 8–15, and addresses areas like problem-solving, regulating emotions, conversation skills, and identifying social cues. Hikes take place Sundays at noon in Rock Creek Park. Each session includes a group hike, yoga/meditation, and games/activities.
Fitness for Health
Location: 11140 Rockville Pike, Suite 303, Rockville, MD 20852
Fitness for Health strives to build self-esteem and self-confidence, and to make a difference in the lives of the children with whom they work. Combining state-of-the-art equipment with innovative approaches to exercise, Fitness for Health helps people of all ages and abilities enjoy the benefits of physical activity while having fun. The 4,400-square-foot facility offers state-of-the-art exergaming equipment that combines technology and movement to create challenges designed to be fun, not intimidating. Highlights include a laser maze, a 30-foot trampoline, and a glow-in-the-dark climbing wall. Therapeutic fitness, occupational therapy, and physical therapy are available. Fitness for Health frequently partners with the Center for Communication and Learning to offer social skills programming in the context of movement and exercise.
Imagination Stage Access Classes
Location: 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814
Arts Access Classes and Teen Workshops are designed for students with cognitive/developmental disabilities. These classes offer the same curriculum covered in our general education classes, allowing students to have a deep exploration of art forms. Students will be provided a variety of entry points to the material with supports such as lower student-teacher ratios. Past offerings have included Improvisation, Musical Theatre, Physical Comedy, Improvisation, Hip Hop Dance, and Filmmaking. (Imagination Stage also offers inclusion supports in other classes.)
The Pegasus Ensemble is a two-year conservatory program for students with cognitive and/or developmental disabilities, providing the opportunity to further develop theater-arts techniques and life skills while working together as an ensemble. Students explore movement, text, and improvisation. In the second year of the program, students begin rehearsing for a full production that's presented at the end of their final semester.
Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) Greater DC-Baltimore
Location: Tilden Middle School, 6300 Tilden Lane, Rockville, MD 20852
KEEN Greater DC (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) is a volunteer-led nonprofit organization that provides one-to-one sports and recreational opportunities for children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities at no cost to their families or caregivers. Activities include sports and more.
*MOCO Movement Center
Location: 5268-A Nicholson Lane, Kensington, MD 20895
MOCO Movement Center takes pediatric therapy out of the clinic and into the real world. With a synthetic ice rink, climbing wall, agility courses, and professional musical studio, our modern facility has something for everyone. MOCO is a center where children can play side-by-side with their peers, not even realizing they’re receiving cutting-edge and effective therapy. Therapists and children work together so the child can learn foundational skills at the center and take them out in the “field,” where the child can practice skills to participate with their community, peers, and family. Offerings include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, behavioral health services, and movement classes.
Montgomery Cheetahs Hockey Club
Location: Cabin John Ice Rink, 10610 Westlake Drive, Rockville, MD 20852
Founded in 2006, Montgomery Cheetahs Hockey Club brings together kids with a developmental disability (ages 5 and up) to teach them the game of hockey and sportsmanship. The Cheetahs skate on Saturday mornings at Cabin John Ice Rink and are led a by dedicated group of volunteer coaches who combine hockey and social skills. Peer mentors assist Cheetah athletes by guiding and supporting each player. No hockey experience is necessary, but kids need to be able to skate on their own without support.
Montgomery County Recreation
Therapeutic Recreation and Inclusion Services
Therapeutic Recreation programs are specifically designed for individuals with disabilities and focus on participants' unique abilities. Offerings provide skill development, leisure education, personal development, and recreational participation. These programs encourage socialization in order to nurture relationships among all participants. Programs include monthly theme dances and seasonal family events, including pool parties. Inclusion Services provide accommodations so an individual with disability can participate in any Montgomery County Recreation program, alongside individuals without disabilities.
Montgomery Parks – Program Access
Program Access, also referred to as “Inclusion” within the Montgomery County Department of Parks, is the means by which individuals with disabilities are welcome to participate in recreational programs and activities of their choice. Reasonable modifications are provided to enable an individual’s successful participation in a program. Some minimum eligibility requirements (age, level of participation) must be met in order to participate.
Location: Three locations in Rockville, MD, one in Gaithersburg, MD; Primary site is The Agility Center, 4990 Boiling Brook Parkway, Rockville, MD 20852
Contact: (301)332-6622; email@example.com
Motion Education (ME) uses gymnastics, Ninja warrior training, and parkour to help children with autism and other special needs develop confidence, focus, social skills, and emotional regulation. Students are taught one-on-one, or in groups of two, at one of four partner gyms—three in Rockville and one in Gaithersburg. Most ME students start at The Agility Center, which features obstacle courses and trampolines. Families can schedule a free 30-minute consultation in which the ME staff will assess the child’s needs and start to develop an individualized plan.
Open Door Sports
Location: Programs offered at various sites in Montgomery County, MD
Contact: 202-430-6140; firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Door Sports (ODS) is dedicated to providing FREE high quality, high energy inclusive sports programs to kids with special needs. The ODS staff comes to kids in their communities and at their schools to provide adapted sports instruction in soccer, basketball, and bocce, with the support of volunteer peer buddies. The programs operate in down-county Montgomery County, MD, six days per week. Each program is coached by a trained adult coach with help from two high school assistant coaches. Programs run for seven weeks and are offered in the fall, winter, and spring. ODS works to develop skills, teamwork, and friendship on the field as well as off. ODS is here so ALL can play!
Special Olympics Montgomery County
Location: Programs offered at sites throughout Montgomery County, MD
Special Olympics Montgomery County provides a year-round training and competitive sports program for adults and children (ages 8 and up) with intellectual disabilities and/or closely related developmental disabilities. Children ages 3–7 may participate in the Young Athletes Programs, which is designed to meet the needs of preschool age and early elementary age children with intellectual disabilities and focuses on an introduction to sports rather than on training and competition in specific sports.
Location: In-person at sites throughout Maryland and DC; virtual options also available
The mission of SPIRIT Club is to offer a universal design for fitness that empowers people of all abilities to exercise successfully in a socially integrated setting. SPIRIT Club provides supportive and accommodating fitness programs that aim to increase the health and wellness of people of all abilities. SPIRIT is an acronym that represents the philosophy of ensuring programs are Social, Physical, Interactive, Respectful, Integrated, and include Teamwork. SPIRIT Club offers group exercise classes and personal training for both individuals and organizations.
Location: Sports Plus activities are offered both virtually and in person. In-person swimming and fitness programs are located at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington, 6125 Montrose Road, Rockville, MD 20852. Teen and young adult monthly social programs are now back in person and vary in location based on the activity.
Contact: 301-452-3781; email@example.com
Sports Plus is an award winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides innovative sports, swim, camp, and social programs to children, teens, and young adults, ages 5–25, with autism and other developmental disabilities. Sports Plus programs are specifically designed to provide sports, recreation, and social opportunities to fill a void for participants and their families who were previously unable to meaningfully participate and enjoy soccer, track and field, instructional swim, and other sports-related activities. Virtual fitness programs are offered for individuals who would prefer to be at home while getting some exercise and socializing with friends.
Supernovas Cheerleading Team
Location: Cheer Extreme DMV, 20 Southlawn Ct., Rockville, MD 20850
Contact: Head Coach Roni Septoff, firstname.lastname@example.org; Coach/Team Manager Marci Ruderman, email@example.com.
The Supernovas is a competitive cheerleading team in Montgomery County that competes within the CheerAbilities division, and welcomes athletes with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. The team practices twice a week, September through April, with competitions starting in December. Current team members are ages 12–30. No experience required, but tumbling skills are a plus. Tryouts are held each May. (A special time for an individual tryout could be scheduled but would have to occur over the summer or beginning of September.)
Washington Ice Dogs
Location: Garden Ice House, 13800 Old Gunpowder Rd., Laurel, MD 20707
The Washington Ice Dogs special hockey program gives people with physical and developmental disabilities the chance to play ice hockey in an environment that is adapted to the level of ability at which the athletes are able to participate. In addition to physical hockey skills, the program emphasizes the development of self-reliance, concentration, dependability, willingness to share, and personal accountability. The Washington Ice Dogs uses hockey to help players develop characteristics that will make them more successful both inside and outside the hockey rink.
We Rock the Spectrum
Location: 7601 Airpark Drive, Suite D and E, Gaithersburg, MD 20879
Contact: 301-355-8486; firstname.lastname@example.org
We Rock the Spectrum – Gaithersburg was founded to provide a place for children of all ability levels to play and grow together. This inclusive gym offers equipment specifically designed to aid children with sensory processing disorders.
Attractions include suspended equipment with swings for balance and vestibular treatment; crash mats and crash pillows for fun, motor planning, and strength; trampolines for building leg and core strength; indoor play structure for climbing and increasing playground skills; sensory-based toys; fine motor play toys and equipment; an arts-and-crafts area; and a calming room. Available for open play and birthday parties.
Location: Varies; see website for details
ZamDance is a high impact dance fitness program for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program introduces a structured environment while allowing the students to move at their own pace. The classes are designed to keep students happily engaged while learning different dance steps, such as merengue, jazz, and hip-hop.
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