Special Needs Summer Fun
May 22, 2017

The countdown to summer most likely began a couple of months ago and special needs parents are on the lookout for fun activities for their kids.

Special Needs Kids Summer Fun in SacramentoOnce spring break comes and goes, the end of another school year looms in the distance like a rogue wave on the ocean. It’s headed directly for our homes, and it has the power to pack a punch. It’s either going to soak us in summer fun, or it’s going to submerge us in hefty challenges. Special needs parents often experience a sharp increase in stress just as summer hiatus approaches.

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Schedules change, the extended school year (ESY) means shorter days and different teachers, and more daylight hours leave us with time to fill. In addition, sometimes the special needs we have to make typical activities (camp, sports leagues, Vacation Bible School) hard or impossible to access. So what’s there to do?

Fortunately, living in or around Sacramento means there are welcoming doors open to families with special needs. There are dozens of special needs summer fun in Sacramento available, and checking them out could be the life preserver you need when that school bus pulls away for the last time until August. Don’t let the rogue wave that is summer break drench you in boredom or isolation!

Here are some options to investigate.

1. SKATE MD: Healing Hearts through Skateboarding

Skateboarding - Kids with special needs summer fun in Sacramento

This non-profit organization brings kindness and skateboarding to eligible children ages 5-17. A clinic is scheduled for July 16 at Granite Skate Park, Sacramento. Registration details will be announced 3 weeks prior on their website.

2. BAYHO: Baby, Art Your Heart Out

This is a once-a-month art exploration and sensory integration play day where kiddos on the autism spectrum and their siblings can create art in a safe and comfortable environment. No art experience necessary – it’s not about masterpieces, but the joy of creating. The May session is Saturday the 27th, 2-4 PM at Sylvan Oaks Library, 6700 Auburn Blvd, Citrus Heights. It is FREE. Contact: for other summer sessions.

3. SKY HIGH SPORTS – 11327 Folsom Blvd., Rancho Cordova

How about a Special Needs Tuesday special that runs weekly 3-6 PM? They turn off the music and allow a parent or therapist to assist kids free of charge! Also, friends and family get to jump for $5 each.

For more information, please visit their website.

4. Via West

Overnight camp? Yes! Via West provides traditional overnight programs with a focus on independent living skills and executive functioning, all while having fun. Activities include cooking, hiking, swimming, music, sports, dramatic arts, creative arts, and more. Sessions are 3, 5, or 7 days. Via West provides residential respite care with weekend and week-long special needs camping programs throughout the year. People ages 5-22 are welcome; the staffing ratio can be 1:1, 2:1, or 3:1. (408.243.7861)

5. SACRAMENTO PUBLIC LIBRARY: Sensory Storytime & Autism-Friendly Movie Night

Kids with special needs summer fun in Sacramento Sacramento Public Library

Special monthly storytimes for kids with autism and/or sensory disorders featuring books, music, fidget toys, crafts, and more. There’s time for parents to network with others, and siblings are welcome. Noise and/or behaviors are never a problem at the Library!

1st Thursday at 10:30 a.m. Sylvan Oaks Library, 6700 Auburn Blvd., Citrus Heights.

1st Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Southgate Library, 6132 66th Ave., Sacramento.

3rd Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Sylvan Oaks Library, 6700 Auburn Blvd., Citrus Heights.

4th Saturday at 10:30 a.m. North Natomas Library, 4660 Via Ingoglia, Sacramento.

There are monthly movie events for kids with autism and/or sensory disorders. Lights will be slightly up, the sound will be slightly down, and kids don’t need to remain seated.

4th Friday at 10 a.m. Central Library, 828 I St., Sacramento.

4th Saturday at 10 a.m. Arden-Dimick Library, 891 Watt Ave., Sacramento.

For more information, please visit their website.

6. Special Olympics

Olympics - special needs parents Special Olympics

They have four community sports programs for the spring season in Sacramento (swimming, bocce, tennis, and track & field) that run leading up to the Special Olympics Northern California Summer Games at UC Davis from June 23-25. Softball will begin in June, golf in July, and soccer in August.

Practices are usually held once per week for 6-8 weeks leading up to a regional tournament. Also, Special Olympics is completely free of charge for special needs summer fun beginning at age 7.

7. Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake

August 9th-16th, 2017. They are currently accepting registration for returning and new campers! Accredited by the American Camp Association, Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake is a fully accessible, residential summer camp for children with a variety of special needs.

In partnership with the Lassen National Forest, each camp provides a week of traditional activities including arts & crafts, hiking, fishing, canoeing, sports, swimming, talent shows, and campfires. Most noteworthy, here all barriers, physical and mental, are removed.

8. Therapeutic Horseback Riding

kids with special needs parents

Special needs parents should know that sometimes equestrian therapy works wonders. Here are several places to check out.

Hope4Horses Adaptive Horsemanship Program (Galt) 

The Grace Foundation (El Dorado Hills)

Horses for Healing(Auburn)

Kids & Horses (Minden)

Lakeside Therapeutic Riding Center (Granite Bay)

Project R.I.D.E., Inc (Elk Grove)

Ride and Shine (Shingle Springs)

Ride to Walk (Lincoln)

Saddle Pals (Grass Valley)

9. Accessible Playgrounds

Mahany Park 1545 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville

McKinley Park 601 Alhambra Blvd. Sacramento

Kloss Park 6501 Laguna Park Dr., Elk Grove

Southside Park 2115 6thSt., Sacramento

10.Recreation Departments with Adaptive Programs

special needs parents Special Olympics

Some recreation departments have adaptive programs for special needs summer fun in Sacramento, but many of the “regular” activities may be appropriate for children with special needs. Talk with the recreation leaders to find out if a program is appropriate for your child and what accommodations he or she may need.

Finally, WarmLine Family Resource Center has wonderful events listing.  We also have a lot of resources for special needs that you can find in our directory.

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Keri Horon

Keri is a special needs parent and a veteran high school English and journalism teacher turned writer. She enjoys reading, hiking, gardening, cooking, traveling, wine tasting, and practicing yoga. Both she and her son love to create art. She has a passion for educating people on all things autism. Visit her blog at

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