Category: Special Needs

Activities for Autism/Special Needs Families

For those in the Phoenix area, here is a brief list of some fun activities that are autism and/or special needs friendly.

Annual Events

Special Day for Special Kids (March 18th, 2017)
The event is designed to honor and provide a fun day for special needs children and their families. It is totally free for the kids and their families, the admission, the rides, the fair and the food are offered by Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club. The event provides free train and carousel rides, games with prizes, hot dogs, chips, ice cream, and beverages for all. Click here for more info.

Surfing with Nixon (August 25th, 2017)
Surfing with Nixon is a nonprofit organization that gives kids with autism a chance to surf as a form of water therapy. Surfing gives kids sensory input and teaches them to control their bodies in and out of the water, while at the same time bringing families together who are dealing with the same or similar experiences. Click here for more info.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix – Special Night of Play (August 26th, 2017)
Special Night of Play is an evening for families with children affected by special needs, allowing them access to the museum during a less-crowded and more peaceful atmosphere compared to our regular business hours. This event is free for families affected by special needs; pre-registation required. Maximum six tickets per family. Click here for more info.

Wings Autism (October 7th, 2017)
Wings for Autism is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism (or other intellectual or developmental disabilities) experience when traveling by air. The program provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security, and boarding a plane. Click here for more info.



Ongoing Activities

We Rock the Spectrum
We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym was founded to provide a place for children of all ability levels to play and grow together. As the only kid’s gym that offers an all-inclusive philosophy we have found all children can benefit from our uniquely designed sensory equipment that is specifically designed to aid children with sensory processing disorders. The gym includes ten specialized pieces of sensory equipment, indoor play structures, open play, parties, and a monthly “Parent’s Night Out”. Click here for more info.

Hubbard Family Swim School
For children with special needs at all levels of swimming skill. Class focus for the Special Needs classes is based on the swimmers and can include: submersions, backfloats, rollover breathing, and independence in the water. Though the instructors are not therapists or individuals who are specially trained to work with children with special needs, H.F.S.S. offers the opportunity to enjoy the excitement of the water and the freedom it allows to children who have difficulty with motion or expression in varying forms. Click here for more info.

Keen Arizona
All of KEEN’s programs are based on a single principle: pair a trained volunteer with an athlete and let them discover together how much they can do. They might swim (using adaptive equipment, kick boards or flotation devices), they might play in the gym with a basketball or kick a soccer ball. Many love to bounce on balls or be pulled along the floor on a flat scooter. The session ends with everyone coming together in a circle and sharing with the group what they did that day “that made them very proud.” Athletes burn energy, meet and interact with new volunteers, see old friends, and then rejoin their parents, who have had some precious respite time. Occurs on the first and third Sunday of every month. Click here for more info.

AMC Theater (Sensory Friendly Films)
AMC is proud to partner with the Autism Society to offer unique movie showings where they turn the lights up, and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing! The Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month. Please check your local theater listings for specific showtimes. Click here for more info.

Studio Movie Grill (Special Needs Screenings)
A pillar of SMG’s Outreach for the past eleven years is the monthly Special Needs Screenings, designed for families raising children with special needs, and scheduled following the release of a new family movie. These family-friendly movies are free for children with special needs and their siblings, with adult tickets available for before-noon price. Special Needs Screenings are shown with the lights up and the volume lowered and children are free to move around, talk, or even dance in the aisles during the movie. Click here for more info.

Snip-Its Salon
Snip-its stylists, in conjunction with Autism Speaks®, receive special training to meet the needs of children with autism. They were one of the first to provide this unique training for stylists so going to Snip-its is a positive experience for children with autism. The Snip-Its website provides a guide for training in hair cutting, and provides  several videos to help acclimate you and your child to the experience. You can also schedule a pre-visit with your child to familiarize them with the salon and the stylists. Available at participating salons. Click here for more info.

Sports Leagues

Special Needs Camps

Forgiving God


  1. to give up resentment of, or claim to, something given in return, compensation, or retaliation
  2. to cease to feel resentment against

Is it ever appropriate to talk about forgiving God? I guess it would depend what we mean by “forgive”. If we are implying wrongdoing on God’s part, then I would say no. But what about the aspect of forgiveness that means, “to cease to feel resentment against”? Continue reading

Helping Special Needs Families

At some point, most families, couples, and individuals will run into a family with a member who has special needs. Their stories, filled with challenges, often give rise to a desire to help. But where to start? As a father of a special needs son, I realize that the idea of helping special needs families can be intimidating. Every family is unique, special needs or not, but the thought of helping a family whose needs are very different than our own, or perhaps completely unfamiliar, can be intimidating.

I want to share some ideas that may hopefully stir up some imagination and creativity regarding ways to come alongside and help special needs families. Continue reading

Angry at God

This post has been a long time in coming. Years. It’ll probably stretch into a series.

The thing is, I’m mad at God.

My anger towards God has not been easy for me to admit, especially in a public forum like this. The truth is, I’m nervous about how it might come across. I don’t want to surprise or disappoint my friends and family. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression about the God that I love. I don’t want to lead anyone astray.

But I am mad. And not just a little mad. Not like a kid pouting in the corner over not being able to have a piece of candy. It’s more like a person who feels like they have been betrayed by a spouse. Or like a person who believes that they have been wounded by their best friend. Or like a person who just found out that their understanding of what life is about is not accurate and now everything has been turned on its head. It’s a deep-seated kind of anger. The kind that simmers for a long time and starts to boil over. It’s real anger, and that scares me a little bit. Continue reading

Affording Private School: Applying for Scholarships – Part 1


Many have asked us or have wondered, how (when it is so obvious that we are poor) can we afford to send our kids to private school? And the truth is, we can’t. The only money that we have spent on our children’s schooling has been on Pre-School.

So how can our kids attend private schools? The answer is that each year we apply for scholarships through local School Tuition Organizations (STOs), and, thus far, each year we have received enough in scholarships (and some donations from friends and family) to cover the full cost. Continue reading

To Kill or to Heal

Hudson’s eyes looked trustingly at me. He didn’t like medicine (who does?) but at this point he could tolerate it well enough. It wasn’t going to be a wrestling match. This time. He groaned in gentle protest, like he knew what was coming, but he wasn’t up for a fight. It had been a tiring day and we both were spent. I could hear the heart monitor gently beeping in the background. We dimmed the lights as a couple nurses came in and fussed a bit, confirming his medication and trying to make the room feel less like the hospital we were in. One of the nurses asked, “Would he take it better from you?” I replied that he would without much thinking about it. It was true, of course. I had given him medicine countless times- we had a routine. Familiarity. Consistency. I was “safe”. That’s why I was there. I am Hudson’s person. My presence helped him stay calm. He knew me. Trusted me. Safety. Familiarity. Routine. That’s the key. 

I will. Yes. I’ll do it. She gave me the syringe. Clear liquid. Taken by mouth. No biggie. “You got this, little guy. Daddy’s right here.” He takes liquids well. Aspirin. Ibuprofen. Vitamins. Done it a thousand times. Routine. Consistency. Repetition. “Ready?” I showed Hudson the syringe. His eyes told me he knew what was happening and that he was ready.

He opened his mouth a bit, and without any protest, without any spills, without anything happening worth mentioning at all really, medication that could stop a man’s heart slid silently out of the syringe in my hand and down my son’s throat.  Continue reading