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.
At a special needs resource fair in Oakland, hosted by the Burbank Preschool Center, an OUSD facility for Pre-K students with special education needs, we became aware of a host of organizations who provide services to families with children who differently-abled in all sorts of ways. Since that event, our list has grown, 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
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. Visit website >
Regional Center of the East Bay (San Leandro) assesses and recommends information and services for children with developmental disabilities. Visit website >
Dr. Liz Salzburg at Kiwi Pediatrics (Berkeley) comes recommended by a special needs mom. 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). 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. Call 510.644.2555 x5227 for more info or to sign up.
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 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 day camp during Spring Break, Summer, Thanksgiving, and Winter Break — and it is inclusive. The program is for ages 3 to 11, with a 1 to 6 ratio, 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 >
Ala Costa runs after-school care and summer camp programs for children with developmental disabilities. Sites are in Alameda, Berkeley, and Oakland.
Visit website >
Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Social-Emotional Support
Gateway Learning Group (Hayward) Behavior Therapist for kids with ASD, ADD, ADHD & ODD
Speech Pathology Group (Berkeley, Walnut Creek) operates five Bay Area clinics that offer assessment, consultation, and individual and group speech therapy. Visit website >
Learning Fountain Occupational Therapy (San Ramon) offers a variety of therapies for children, including those with feeding needs. Visit website >
Recreation and Enrichment classes for kids with special needs
E-sports inclusive sports: All around the Bay Area, athletic opportunities for kids with special needs to play alongside typically developing kids have been organized by E-sports. Find contact info and programs for the following types of inclusive activities: Dance | Soccer | Basketball | Karate | Fitness
Little League Challenger Division: Kids of all abilities are included in this Little League program for adaptive baseball skills and the fun of team sports. Learn more >
Swim and Gym Inclusion Program At the Downtown Berkeley YMCA, families with children with special needs are welcomed to participate in regular programming, but also catered to with tumbling and swimming classes for ages 2-6 and creative movement, games, and friendship building workshops for ages 4-12. Contact Rachel or Eden with questions about accommodations or these programs: 510.665.3280.
Saturday Morning Ping-Pong: The Alameda Table Tennis Center invites grade-school age children with special needs to learn and practice ping pong.
Visit website >
Habitot Children's Museum hosts regular playdates that are free for children with special needs. Look for upcoming dates >
Additional resources for East Bay kids with special needs
Center for Early Intervention on Deafness: Hosting parent/child playgroups, including a Deaf Blind playgroup, CEID is also a resource and preschool option for children with hearing impairments, hearing loss, or deafness. Visit website >
Twinkies Krafts: A non-profit in Alameda that organizes fun, community events for children with autism and special needs. Visit website >
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:
- Safari West in Santa Rosa
- Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose
- Children's Museum of Sonoma County
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Six Flags
- San Francisco Zoo
- California Academy of Sciences
Road trip planned? Here are some playgrounds designed for inclusivity:
- Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto
- Littlejohn Park in Alameda
- Tatum's Playground in Salinas
- Always Dream Playground in Fremont
Kids Gym Berkeley is an indoor playspace with over 10,000 square feet of inclusive fun. Drop-in to play or plan ahead to have a birthday party in this amazing space 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.