Thanks to Kids Gym Berkeley, an inclusive place to play, for sponsoring this guide to local resources for kids with special needs, from sensory processing disorders to mobility challenges. All children are welcome at Kids Gym Berkeley, and they never have to apologize for being who they are.
We appreciate our community of parents that helps us learn about a host of organizations who provide services to families with children who are differently-abled in all sorts of ways. Our list continues to grow, but as we are not experts, we rely on word-of-mouth from parents and helpful organizations to help us grow the list and categorize the resources.
If you have a tip to share, please comment below.
East Bay Resources for Children with Special Needs
For new parents of babies with special needs
Early intervention for babies and toddlers who have a cognitive, communication, or physical delay in development can be supported by these resources:
Family Resource Navigators (San Leandro) helps parents with children 0-5 identify and connect with resources to support kids with medical, developmental or social-emotional concerns. Always free of charge in Alameda County. Visit website >
Regional Center of the East Bay (San Leandro) assesses and recommends information and services for children or adults with developmental disabilities. Visit website >
The Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) Program at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland provides a range of specialized mental health services for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families. Pro tip: You will need to navigate the bureaucracy and advocate for yourself. Visit website >
Special Visual Assessment Clinic at UC Berkeley Optometry, (Berkeley) SVAC offers the best eye exams for kids of all ages and needs starting with infants — good luck getting in, though. Visit website >
Dr. Liz Salzburg and Dr. Nanci Tucker at Kiwi Pediatrics (Berkeley) come recommended by a special needs mom we trust. Visit website >
Navigating the school years for kids with special needs
Free Special Education Trainings (Berkeley) 90-minute information sessions are presented every month (except for August) at the Ed Roberts Campus (near Ashby BART) or by Zoom. The focus is “Understanding the Special Education Process: IEP Basics & Beyond”. Education advocates will go over laws that protect students with disabilities and walk through the special education process. The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, who presents these trainings, serves all of Alameda County. Sign up online.
Raskob Institute is a day school in Oakland, affiliated with Holy Names University, designed to support students in grades 3-8 with individualized learning to accommodate mild to moderate learning differences, ADHD, and processing disorders. Visit website >
Brett Allen, Special Education lawyer recommended by a special education mom, “He handles all my school district issues and has won three times for us.” Visit website >
After-school Care and Camps for special needs families
Kids Gym Berkeley offers remote learning supervision as well as day camps during Spring Break, Summer, Thanksgiving, and Winter Break — and it is inclusive. The program is for ages 3 to 11, with small groups, for fun, structured, healthy, educational learning activities throughout the day. If your child has an aide in school, he/she will need one during camp and can be accompanied by your ABA or regular aide. If your regular aide is not available, Kids Gym Berkeley can provide one a dedicated aide, for an additional charge.
Visit website >
Many of our other favorite after-school providers are not operating due to Covid-19. If you have a program you love, please drop it in the comments.
Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Social-Emotional Support
Gateway Learning Group (Hayward and Concord) Behavior Therapists for kids with ASD, ADD, ADHD & ODD with many great programs including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Now offering back-to-school learning support. Visit website >
The Learning Fountain (San Ramon) is an occupational therapy and speech therapy resource specializing in early intervention. View website >
Playspace Therapy (Walnut Creek) is a pediatric occupational therapy clinic serving families and children with special needs ages newborn through adolescence. Visit website >
PLTA Play Pals (San Leandro) Pediatric Language Therapy Associates offers play-based groups for preschoolers and many other speech therapy programs. View website >
Speech Pathology Group (Berkeley, Walnut Creek) operates five Bay Area clinics that offer assessment, consultation, and individual and group speech therapy. Get started with a video conference. Visit website >
Seven Bridges Therapy in Oakland, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek offers speech, language, and social learning therapy for of all ages beginning with toddlers. Now offering in-home and telehealth visits to families. Visit website >
Additional resources for hard of hearing kids in the East Bay
Center for Early Intervention on Deafness (Berkeley) Hosting parent/child playgroups, including a Deaf Blind playgroup, CEID is also a resource and preschool option for children who are hard of hearing, or experience hearing loss, or deafness. Visit website >
California School for the Deaf (CSD) Located in Fremont, CSD serves deaf/hard of hearing individuals between the ages of three and 22 years. Recognized for its academic rigor and direct bilingual instruction in American Sign Language and English, students come from around the state. It also hosts parent/child playgroups, preschool, family programming, family camp, and more. View website >
DCARA (Deaf Counseling Advocacy & Referral Agency, DCARA) Located in San Leandro, DCARA offers family playgroups and programming, Deaf mentors for children and families, ASL classes for families, family camp, story time, and more. Website >
Recreation and Enrichment classes for kids with special needs
Not surprisingly, many of the really cool recreation programs for children with special needs have ceased operating because of the shelter in place directives around Covid-19. It is a huge bummer.
BORP Adaptive Sports and Recreation (Berkeley) Not specifically for children, BORP advances the lives of people with physical disabilities through many adaptive sports and recreational activities. Currently running many seated Zoom workouts. View website >
Square Peg Foundation (Half Moon Bay) Horseback riding lessons at the Square Peg Foundation are highly recommended by a parents of a child with pathological demand avoidance, ADHD, and sensory processing . Square Peg offers dignity, kindness, and a fun-loving atmosphere. View website >
Many of our other favorite recreation and sports leagues are not operating due to Covid-19. If you have a program you love, please drop it in the comments.
Bay Area outings with inclusive accommodations
Thanks to Barbara, mother to Grant and owner of Kids Gym Berkeley, for recommending places where she and Grant can go to have a good time and know that he will feel welcome. Grant has ADHD, Hypotonia and is on the Autism Spectrum.
Grant's favorite special day trips:
Please note that not all of these places are open because of Covid-19 restrictions.
- Safari West in Santa Rosa (now open by reservations)
- San Francisco Zoo (now open by appointment)
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (limited hours on weekends for the outdoor animal exhibits)
- Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose (temporarily closed)
- Children's Museum of Sonoma County (temporarily closed)
- Monterey Bay Aquarium (temporarily closed)
- California Academy of Sciences (temporarily closed)
Kids Gym Berkeley is an indoor playspace with over 10,000 square feet of inclusive fun. While Kids Gym Berkeley typically operates as a drop-in playspace hosting some of the best ever birthday parties, they have reorganized in autumn 2020 to offer remote learning supervision and homeschool support. This amazing space is filled with sensory toys, zip-lines, swings, and a quiet room for those who need to take breaks. Visit website >
Parents, if you've discovered a great local resource for your child with special needs, please share here to let others know about it.