Resources for Families with Special Needs in the East Bay - 510 Families

Resources for Families with Special Needs in the East Bay

No two people are alike in development. For this guide, the term “special needs” encompasses developmental delays, disabilities, or neurodivergent identities in children, who may attend therapies and services that support their growth and development.

Thanks to Spirited Play Labs in Berkeley and San Ramon for sponsoring this guide to local resources for kids with special needs.

We appreciate our community of parents that helps us learn about a host of organizations that provide services to families with children who are differently-abled in all sorts of ways. Our list continues to grow thanks to 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.

Spirited Play Labs in Berkeley | Photo: Whitney Moss

Spotlight on Spirited Play Labs for Children with Special Needs

Spirited Play Labs is an inclusive community play space for children with delays or disabilities, ages 18 months to 8 years. Your child can play their way using carefully curated, rotating, open-ended, sensory-based equipment. They offer a range of services including hosted birthday parties and seasonal camps, but the focus is on memberships for children who need a welcoming play space and will come on a regular basis.

Looking for more direct support? Spirited Play Labs offers a premium therapeutic membership using DIRFloortime to support your child’s emotional regulation, social engagement, and problem-solving. Staff meet with you regularly to provide 1:1 play coaching while your child plays in the play space.

Hours: Spirited Play Labs is open weekdays from 8 am-6:30 pm, and Saturdays 8 am-5 pm. Pre-registration is required for open play visits.
Location: Spirited Play Labs, 2930 Shattuck Ave #206 in Berkeley and 2220 Camino Ramon in San Ramon

To learn more about this inclusive play space, sign up for a 90-minute visit >

children playing at a light and shape table
Young ones explore a light table during open play time | Photo: Lindsay Teitelbaum for Spirited Play Labs

East Bay Resources for Children with Special Needs

Support for parents of babies & toddlers 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 Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area is an invaluable resource to families with a loved one who happens to have Down syndrome or have received a prenatal diagnosis. Suzanne tells us, “Programing we’ve enjoyed includes play groups, music class, dance class, annual picnics/walks, and invaluable support and friendship for self-advocates, siblings, parents, and grandparents.” Visit website >

The Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) Program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland provides specialized mental health services for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families. Pro tip: You must 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 >

We GET It Foundation! (multiple locations) is a growing community of parents of children on the Autism Spectrum that connects families through play and support groups with an emphasis on inclusion, acceptance, and total family support. Visit website >

Support for Families of Children with Disabilities (San Francisco) offers information, education, and parent-to-parent support free of charge to families of children with any kind of disability or special healthcare need and to the professionals who work with them. Visit Website >

Parents Helping Parents (San Jose and beyond) wants to empower you at every stage of your child’s life, from birth through adulthood. To start, drop in to a Parent Cafe (judgment-free zone for parents of kids 0 to 5) to share the joys and challenges of parenting those with delays and disabilities. Visit website >

Care Parent Network (Concord) Care Parent Network offers continuous support to families of children ages 0-22 (and beyond) in Contra Costa County. Get to know them.

Little Butterflies @ Swings and Wings (Alameda) is a sensory-based preschool in Alameda for children ages 2.5 to 5 years old, designed by an occupational therapist. Visit website >

Navigating the school years for kids with special needs

Ala Costa runs after-school care and summer camp programs for children with developmental disabilities. Sites are in Alameda, Berkeley, and Oakland. Visit website >

Free Special Education Trainings (Berkeley) 90-minute information sessions are presented most months 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, which presents these trainings, serves all of Alameda County. Sign up online.

Brett Allen, a Special Education lawyer recommended by a local mom advocating for her children, “He handles all my school district issues and has won three times for us.” Visit website >

Big Minds Unschool is a day school in Pleasanton and Pinole for kids in K-8th grade. An attachment-based, community school specifically designed for twice-exceptional (2e) learners. Visit website >

UP Academy is a progressive elementary lab school in San Mateo for children with physical disabilities and learning differences. They focus on students’ academic, emotional, and physical growth through a differentiated learning and project-based curriculum. Visit website >

Sensory activities for 3 young children play time
Sensory studio time | Photo: J. Perez for Spirited Play Labs

Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Social-Emotional Support

Embracing Autism Collaborative (Oakland) is an Oakland-based nonprofit providing social groups, affirming care, speech services, and mental health services using DIR/Floortime, for all ages. Visit website >

Joyscape Therapy (San Jose & telehealth) offers behavioral therapy to children and adolescents including ASD and ADHD. Visit website >

Kyo Care Behavior Therapists (Hayward and Concord) 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 >

Pediatric Language Therapy Associates Play Pals (San Leandro) PLTA offers play-based groups for preschoolers and many other speech therapy programs. 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 >

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, Hayward, Pleasant Hill, and Walnut Creek offers speech, language, and social learning therapy for all ages beginning with toddlers. Visit website >

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 >

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, storytime, and more. Website >

Recreation and Enrichment classes for kids with special needs

adaptive cycling, two children and an adult, green grass
BORP offers adaptive sports, recreation, and fitness programming including cycling | Photo: Scot Goodman

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. View website >

Exceptional 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 (stands for Exceptional Sports). Find contact info and programs for the following types of inclusive activities: dance, soccer, basketball, karate, and fitness on the website >

Be Exceptional Programs (Antioch, Brentwood) offers Recreational classes and social events for all ages and abilities. Classes in acting, cheerleading, dance, fitness, gymnastics, skateboarding, and more. 1:1 buddies can be provided if needed. View website >

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 >

Patti’s Swim School (Castro Valley). This outdoor swim school offers lessons for people of all ages and abilities. Visit website >

Square Peg Foundation (Half Moon Bay) Horseback riding lessons at the Square Peg Foundation are highly recommended by parents of a child with pathological demand avoidance, ADHD, and sensory processing. Square Peg offers dignity, kindness, and a fun-loving atmosphere. View website >

Spirited Play Labs (San Ramon) offers developmental play through two membership plans. Members gain access to seasonal camps and monthly special events. View website to see the full list of labs and enrichment classes >

All-abilities Playgrounds and Playspaces you should know about

magical bridge feature
The musical laser harp was our favorite feature at Magical Bridge | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Favorite all-abilities playgrounds near Oakland >>

  • Always Dream Play Park (Fremont)
  • Imagine Playground (Dublin)
  • Littlejohn Park (Alameda)
  • Magical Bridge Playground (Palo Alto)
  • Matteo’s Dream Playground for Children of All Abilities (Concord)
  • Mia’s Dream Come True Playground (Hayward)

Spirited Play Labs (Berkeley and San Ramon): Membership-based indoor play space for children ages 0-8 curated by developmental specialists for your child’s growth and enjoyment. View website >

Swings and Wings (Alameda): Sensory-rich inclusive play space for children including developmentally enriching equipment. Visit website >

Gifts and Activities for kids with special needs

Messy Play Kits. Made by a preschool teacher in the Santa Cruz Mountains, these sensory play kits include hands-on STEAM projects for children ages 3-8. View website >

Lakeshore Learning. (San Leandro, Walnut Creek) sells teaching resources including hands-on learning products, sensory-friendly items, language learning toys, and other specialty items like flexible seating (pictured below at Spirited Play Labs). Discounts are always available.

Sensor E Play. Sensory integration therapy support through boxes and bags of curated items. Made by a local mom of an autistic child. Visit on Instagram >

More about our sponsor, Spirited Play Labs

Spirited Play Labs was founded by a local speech therapist who saw the community’s need for a welcoming space to serve neurodivergent and disabled children. They offer memberships through private pay or the Regional Center of the East Bay for children over age three.

Spirited Play Labs offers a range of enrollment-based services including:

  • Open Play Membership: Includes unlimited access to the play space, use of the lending library, monthly events from local specialists, weekly enrichment activities, and access to break camps (additional fee).
  • Open Play Plus Membership: For families who need individualized support as they navigate early intervention, special education, or parenting in general. Includes all the perks of Open Play, plus 2x/month 1:1 Floortime play coaching and 1x/month Q&A small group meeting.
  • Inclusive, Transitional Co-op: In San Ramon only, this program is for children who need a smaller, therapeutic setting for school readiness success with parent education and coaching built in. Currently available for children ages 2-3.5 years old or 3.5-5.5 years old, twice weekly.
  • Birthday Parties: Celebrate your child’s special occasion with full access to this super fun space!
  • Retail: Browse a curated assortment of therapeutic & sensory-based products from local makers and large-scale companies to provide much-needed items for your child’s regulation.

Location: 2930 Shattuck Ave #206 in Berkeley and 2220 Camino Ramon in San Ramon

Parents, if you’ve discovered a great local resource for your child with special needs, please share it here to let others know about it.

Big thanks again to Spirited Play Labs for sponsoring this guide to local resources for kids with special needs. The term “special needs” encompasses children with developmental delays, disabilities, or neurodivergent identities.

spirited play labs logo

xxx

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3 thoughts on “Resources for Families with Special Needs in the East Bay”

  1. Heather,
    It wasn’t easy reaching the Special Vision Clinic and there was a 8 week wait but it was worth it. I’ve found most of the good specialists for my kids are often the hardest to reach. Uphill battle in every way.
    Liz

  2. AEFCT provides high quality ABA services in the East Bay Area that are structured, comprehensive, and individualized. Our mission is to provide intervention to children with autism, putting the needs of each child first so that they are met fairly and appropriately. We use developmentally sound strategies supported by empirical evidence, combined with a team approach that involves family participation. Autism affects the entire family unit, and we recognize that parent education and participation are essential to achieve success.

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