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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: Finding Friends | Social Skills Groups | Sensory Friendly Venues/Events | Recreational Activity Guide

Autism-Friendly Recreational Activities

Recreational activities offer a wonderful opportunity for autistic kids to have some fun, develop their interests, practice social skills, and build friendships. The following activities welcome autistic participants. If you have an update or addition to this list, please contact us at skeisler@xminds.orgInclusion in this guide does not constitute an endorsement from xMinds. 

*Denotes activities by xMinds Professional Members


ACEing Autism

Location: Fitzgerald Tennis Stadium in Rock Creek Park (5220 16th St NW, Washington, DC); Georgetown Prep Tennis Club (10900 Rockville Pike, Rockville MD 20852)

Contact: lynn@aceingautism.org
Website: https://aceingautism.org/locations/washington-dc/

ACEing Autism is a national nonprofit organization that provides affordable weekly tennis clinics to autistic children (ages 5–18). Each participant is paired with one or two volunteers based on individual needs. The program uses tennis to foster an enjoyment of fitness and improve motor skills, hand-eye coordination, communications, social skills, and self-esteem. Fall and spring sessions meet at Fitzgerald Tennis Stadium in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, and the winter session meets at the Georgetown Prep Tennis Club in Rockville, MD.


Autism Ambassadors

Contact: Whitney Ellenby, wellenby@gmail.com


Autism Ambassadors runs year-round exclusive recreational events for children, teens, and adults of all abilities on the spectrum. The venues vary and include movies, trampoline parks, dance studios, and indoor and outdoor splash parks, with the venues rented out and reserved exclusively, no general public allowed. Food is served, siblings are welcome and the reduced fee is $10/child. Parents and aides attend for free. Email Autism Ambassadors to be added to their contact and be notified about upcoming events.


CREATE Arts Center

Location: 914 Silver Spring Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910
Contact: 301-588-2787; arttherapy@createartscenter.org
Website: https://createartscenter.org

CREATE Arts Center has provided art classes, art therapy, and community outreach across the metro region since 1986. We offer classes and workshops for all ages and levels of experience. CREATE’s K–12 art education programs foster academic, social, and emotional development for students, while finding joy in artistic expression. Art therapy helps individuals of all ages create meaning and insight into healthy ways to cope with overwhelming emotions, trauma, resolve problems, enrich daily life, and achieve an increased sense of well-being.


*DC Social Hikes

Location: Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC
Contact: (202) 422-2315; dcsocialhikes@gmail.com
Website: http://dcsocialhikes.com/

DC Social Hikes believes that every kid can benefit from nature and friendship! This hiking program is geared toward neurodiverse kids, ages 8–15, and addresses areas like problem-solving, regulating emotions, conversation skills, and identifying social cues. Hikes take place Sundays at noon in Rock Creek Park. Each session includes a group hike, yoga/meditation, and games/activities.


Fitness for Health

Location: 11140 Rockville Pike, Suite 303, Rockville, MD 20852
Contact: (301) 231-7138; info@fitnessforhealth.org
Website: http://www.fitnessforhealth.org

Fitness for Health strives to build self-esteem and self-confidence, and to make a difference in the lives of the children with whom they work. Combining state-of-the-art equipment with innovative approaches to exercise, Fitness for Health helps people of all ages and abilities enjoy the benefits of physical activity while having fun.  The 4,400-square-foot facility offers state-of-the-art exergaming equipment that combines technology and movement to create challenges designed to be fun, not intimidating. Highlights include a laser maze, a 30-foot trampoline, and a glow-in-the-dark climbing wall. Therapeutic fitness, occupational therapy, and physical therapy are available. Fitness for Health frequently partners with the Center for Communication and Learning to offer social skills programming in the context of movement and exercise.


Imagination Stage Access Classes

Location: 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814
Contact: 301-280-1631; ssorrells@imaginationstage.org
Website: https://imaginationstage.org/classes/access/

Arts Access Classes and Teen Workshops are designed for students with cognitive/developmental disabilities. These classes offer the same curriculum covered in our general education classes, allowing students to have a deep exploration of art forms. Students will be provided a variety of entry points to the material with supports such as lower student-teacher ratios. Past offerings have included Improvisation, Musical Theatre, Physical Comedy, Improvisation, Hip Hop Dance, and Filmmaking. (Imagination Stage also offers inclusion supports in other classes.)

The Pegasus Ensemble is a two-year conservatory program for students with cognitive and/or developmental disabilities, providing the opportunity to further develop theater-arts techniques and life skills while working together as an ensemble. Students explore movement, text, and improvisation. In the second year of the program, students begin rehearsing for a full production that's presented at the end of their final semester.


Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) Greater DC-Baltimore

Location: Tilden Middle School, 6300 Tilden Lane, Rockville, MD 20852
Contact: 301-770-3200; programsdc@keengrdc.org
Website: www.keengrdc.org

KEEN Greater DC (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) is a volunteer-led nonprofit organization that provides one-to-one sports and recreational opportunities for children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities at no cost to their families or caregivers. Activities include sports and more.


*MOCO Movement Center

Location: 5268-A Nicholson Lane, Kensington, MD 20895
Contact: 301-770-5437; info@MOCOmc.com

Website: http://www.MOCOmc.com

MOCO Movement Center takes pediatric therapy out of the clinic and into the real world. With a synthetic ice rink, climbing wall, agility courses, and professional musical studio, our modern facility has something for everyone. MOCO is a center where children can play side-by-side with their peers, not even realizing they’re receiving cutting-edge and effective therapy. Therapists and children work together so the child can learn foundational skills at the center and take them out in the “field,” where the child can practice skills to participate with their community, peers, and family. Offerings include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, behavioral health services, and movement classes.


Montgomery Cheetahs Hockey Club

Location: Cabin John Ice Rink, 10610 Westlake Drive, Rockville, MD 20852
Contact: montgomerycheetahs@gmail.com
Website: www.montgomery-cheetahs.orgwwww.montgomery-cheetahs.orwww.montgomery-cheetahsorgw

Founded in 2006, Montgomery Cheetahs Hockey Club brings together kids with a developmental disability (ages 5 and up) to teach them the game of hockey and sportsmanship. The Cheetahs skate on Saturday mornings at Cabin John Ice Rink and are led a by dedicated group of volunteer coaches who combine hockey and social skills. Peer mentors assist Cheetah athletes by guiding and supporting each player. No hockey experience is necessary, but kids need to be able to skate on their own without support.


Montgomery County Recreation

Therapeutic Recreation and Inclusion Services

Location: Varies
Contact: 240-777-6870;  Rec.inclusion@montgomerycountymd.gov
Website: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/rec/thingstodo/therapeutic/

Therapeutic Recreation programs are specifically designed for individuals with disabilities and focus on participants' unique abilities. Offerings provide skill development, leisure education, personal development, and recreational participation. These programs encourage socialization in order to nurture relationships among all participants. Programs include monthly theme dances and seasonal family events, including pool parties. Inclusion Services provide accommodations so an individual with disability can participate in any Montgomery County Recreation program, alongside individuals without disabilities.


Montgomery Parks – Program Access

Location: Varies
Contact: 301-495-2581; ProgramAccess@MontgomeryParks.org
Website: https://montgomeryparks.org/about/parks/accessibility/

Program Access, also referred to as “Inclusion” within the Montgomery County Department of Parks, is the means by which individuals with disabilities are welcome to participate in recreational programs and activities of their choice. Reasonable modifications are provided to enable an individual’s successful participation in a program. Some minimum eligibility requirements (age, level of participation) must be met in order to participate.


SPIRIT Club

Location: In-person at sites throughout Maryland and DC; virtual options also available
Contact: 301-933-3722; fun@spirit-club.com
Website: http://spirit-club.com

The mission of SPIRIT Club is to offer a universal design for fitness that empowers people of all abilities to exercise successfully in a socially integrated setting. SPIRIT Club provides supportive and accommodating fitness programs that aim to increase the health and wellness of people of all abilities. SPIRIT is an acronym that represents the philosophy of ensuring programs are Social, Physical, Interactive, Respectful, Integrated, and include Teamwork. SPIRIT Club offers group exercise classes and personal training for both individuals and organizations.


Sports Plus

Location: Sports Plus activities are offered both virtually and in person. In-person swimming and fitness programs are located at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington, 6125 Montrose Road, Rockville, MD 20852. Teen and young adult monthly social programs are now back in person and vary in location based on the activity.

Contact: 301-452-3781; info@playsportsplus.org

Website: http://www.playsportsplus.org

Sports Plus is an award winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides innovative sports, swim, camp, and social programs to children, teens, and young adults, ages 5–25, with autism and other developmental disabilities. Sports Plus programs are specifically designed to provide sports, recreation, and social opportunities to fill a void for participants and their families who were previously unable to meaningfully participate and enjoy soccer, track and field, instructional swim, and other sports-related activities. Virtual fitness programs are offered for individuals who would prefer to be at home while getting some exercise and socializing with friends.


Washington Ice Dogs

Location: Garden Ice House, 13800 Old Gunpowder Rd., Laurel, MD 20707
Contact: washingtonicedogs@gmail.com
Website: http://washingtonicedogs.org

The Washington Ice Dogs special hockey program gives people with physical and developmental disabilities the chance to play ice hockey in an environment that is adapted to the level of ability at which the athletes are able to participate. In addition to physical hockey skills, the program emphasizes the development of self-reliance, concentration, dependability, willingness to share, and personal accountability. The Washington Ice Dogs uses hockey to help players develop characteristics that will make them more successful both inside and outside the hockey rink.


We Rock the Spectrum

Location: 7601 Airpark Drive, Suite D and E, Gaithersburg, MD 20879

Contact: (301) 355-8486; info@werockthespectrumgaithersburg.com

Website: https://www.werockthespectrumgaithersburg.com/

We Rock the Spectrum – Gaithersburg was founded to provide a place for children of all ability levels to play and grow together. This inclusive gym offers equipment specifically designed to aid children with sensory processing disorders.

Attractions include suspended equipment with swings for balance and vestibular treatment; crash mats and crash pillows for fun, motor planning, and strength; trampolines for building leg and core strength; indoor play structure for climbing and increasing playground skills; sensory-based toys; fine motor play toys and equipment; an arts-and-crafts area; and a calming room. Available for open play and birthday parties. 


ZamDance

Location: Varies; see website for details
Contact: 202-469-2533; zamdancers@gmail.com
Website: http://zamdance.com/

ZamDance is a high impact dance fitness program for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program introduces a structured environment while allowing the students to move at their own pace. The classes are designed to keep students happily engaged while learning different dance steps, such as merengue, jazz, and hip-hop.


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