5 Bay Area gems I've found for my special needs family - 510 Families
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5 Bay Area gems I’ve found for my special needs family

Thanks to our guest contributor Colleen Gallagher, a Berkeley mom of three with a background in teaching.


Having a 7-year old son with a severe language and auditory processing disorder, as well as (unrelated) metabolic disease, a double-triple whammy of varying needs to balance, means I am always on the hunt for resources to help find glimpses of equanimity for my family. I feel lucky to live in Berkeley and to have lots of resources to  be able to navigate through. Here are five Bay Area resources that have been lifelines for my son and family overall:
  1. Fiddleheads in Tilden Park. An outdoor social skills playgroup created and run by therapist Doug Lerch.  I cannot say enough about this innovative and supportive environment that blends sensory activities, brain gym exercises, hiking, story-telling, drama, learning, self-awareness, and social lessons in a very naturalistic way in a beautiful and naturalistic environment. Learn more at his website.
  1. Music Therapy. Susan Rancer, Registered Music Therapist (RMT), of Piedmont has been such a delight to get to know and work with. She’s been teaching my son piano for the past year. He loves his “Susan day”. She is just amazing. Music therapy is where my son gets to shine. He gains skills and is developing real talent with someone who has a passion and gift for teaching and advocating for children with special needs. Visit her website.
  1. Clinic4kidz Feeding Therapy.  Dr. Meeta Patel of Clinic4kidz is located in Sausalito, but comes and works with your family in your home to create a menu and plan to get your child eating on their own. My son had severe reflux and aversions to many foods and mostly drank formula for his first three years. Dr. Patel has successfully gotten many children off of gtubes and able to not just tolerate eating food, but liking it!  With my son’s combo metabolic disease in which he cannot break  down protein well and needs to adhere to a strict higher calorie diet, and yet he had lower muscle tone and aversions to eating, Dr. Patel was truly a lifesaver to our family. Every time I have a meal with my son I send her a silent hundred thank yous.
  2. Berkeley YMCA Swimming and Play Programs. The pools, the activities, the inclusive environment, and many ongoing classes for children and families dealing with special needs is truly a local gem. (Ed note: See our previous post about the Y’s programs.)
  3. Head Over Heels Gymnastics. Coaches at the Emeryville gym have received training from Behavioral Intervention Association (BIA) in order to tailor classes to better serve children on the autism spectrum. Classes are offered during times in the gym that are less crowded. Depending on the child’s need, a parent, guardian or aide may be required in order to best support each child in the class. Over the phone, Head Over Heels personnel told me that kids as old as 14 or 15 have enjoyed this class.

Thanks, Colleen, for sharing your tips and letting us all benefit from your journey!

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3 thoughts on “5 Bay Area gems I’ve found for my special needs family”

  1. Kenny (ElectraDaddy)

    Y’all know me better through your other website but I just stumbled across this page and have featured a few of the activities on the web page I manage for a non-profit over in Lafayette that provides support for families with children who have special needs. Kudos for this post.

  2. Hi,

    I have been teaching dance to all levels of special needs adults and children for the past 10 years. I would like to expand my practice and was given your website as a referral. I teach all ages world dance, with a warm up and enriching activities to share the love of movement and dance. Do you know how I can connect to someone that could give me organizations that would enjoy dance?

    Thank you!

    Cynthia Pepper

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