I am a New York City mom of 13 year old twins, one son, one daughter, and my son has Autism. Living in Manhattan people always assume there is so much to do, so many options and so many opportunities.
They are right....if they are talking about for my daughter. There are shows, restaurants, concerts, sporting events, tons of extracurricular activities....you name it, it is here for her.
For my son, it is not quite the same. While there are a few places that they can both enjoy together, I have to work much harder at finding options and opportunities for him.
I need places without long lines, and extremely loud noises, places he can truly get to enjoy where people will understand him. I am always on a mission to find these for him, I have searched high and low and here are some of my top picks....
Atlas for Autism is a private school for kids on the spectrum. The wonderful ladies who run it are kind enough to open their facility, 4 times a month, for free, to families with kids on the spectrum. The kids can play and the parents can chat which makes it all around great. My son lets out some energy in the big gym with all the cool equipment while I get to share share information with other parents!
The Friendship Circle is a wonderful program I feel lucky to have found. Twice a month, I drop my son off for two hours and he is paired up with a typical teenage to "hang out with." They have snacks, games and activities, and it is very affordable price wise! All the typical kids who work there are volunteers which I find amazing.
Kicking the Spectrum is a karate program geared towards kids with special needs. I am so excited about this program for my son! The classes take place in a Dojo and the kids will wear the traditional karate uniform during class. The instructor is very patient, he knows exactly how to talk to the children, the words, the tone, all of it. I am always proud of my son but now he will have something that he can be proud of.
Another activity I love to do with my son is take him to any Apple Store. They have computers and iPads that he can play on, the staff is always very nice and never rush you out.
We recently discovered walking over The Brooklyn Bridge! A great, free, physical activity to do. It can get a little crowded but there are benches along the way if a break is needed. Once you get into Brooklyn you can either walk back, take a subway or take a ferry back across!
The Central Park Zoo is another favorite! It is the perfect size zoo for a child like mine! You can feed some animals or just watch if you prefer, and of course the Sea Lion show always holds my son's attention. Bathrooms are easy to find and plenty of benches around for breaks!
We all walk past them all the time, but may not realize how much there actually is to do in Barnes and Noble! We love spending time in there, especially on a rainy day. What is great is that the kids do not have to be "quiet" like in a library. My son will spend time looking through books, DVD's or putting on a show with the stuffed animals. If he needs to take a break we head in to their cafe for a snack and a drink, and best of all, they have bathrooms!
Something new that we recently did that was a big hit, was take a Ferry from Brooklyn back to Manhattan. What a fun ride! It took about 40 minutes and was very reasonably priced at $6.00 per person on a Sunday. My son walked on without hesitation, took a seat next to a window, put his headphones on, and enjoyed the trip! I would recommend checking the schedule in advance if waiting too long could be a problem.
Another great outdoor space we love is The East River Esplanade. There are a variety of entrances for easy access. It can be a very entertaining place for my son. He can watch helicopters take off and land or watch boats of all sizes go by. We often bring his scooter and he will just ride and ride. There are plenty of benches along the way too, so I can bring a snack and we can always stop if a break is needed. He is having fun and letting out some energy!
These are some of my favorite things to do with my son. Having Autism makes it a challenge to find things that he can handle and enjoy. I will continue to search for options and opportunities for him. He deserves to enjoy experiences while living in this city just as much as every other kid!