Winter Brings Opportunities for Inclusive Recreation

Winter Brings Opportunities for Inclusive Recreation

Making winter recreation accessible to all, local organizations are offering a wide array of opportunities for community members of all abilities to participate in inclusive recreational opportunities. From sled hockey and skiing to basketball and bowling, children and adults of all abilities can find activities to match their interests!

‘Tis the season for winter sports here in western Massachusetts – and thanks to a wide array of local resources, opportunities for recreation are available to all. Taking advantage of community resources and the local landscape, organizations from all across the state have worked to create a large network of recreational opportunities that are truly accessible to all – both indoors and out.

Western MA families can take advantage of opportunities to participate in active recreational activities within groups with diverse abilities, and can learn about and/or utilize adaptive technology through special events held by local organizations and athletic leagues.

Participation in recreational opportunities that are truly inclusive to all is a great way for families to experience diversity and to learn from the skills and life experiences of others; additionally, inclusive recreational environments help to provide opportunities for folks of varying abilities to enjoy recreational activities together.

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Q&A: 18 Recommended Winter Resources & Activities for Families with Special Needs in Western MA

Q&A: 18 Recommended Winter Resources & Activities for Families with Special Needs in Western MA

When our readers ask, Hilltown Families does our best to find the answers. Please feel encouraged to share your favorite places in the comment section!

Jean Engle of North Adams writes, “Once the colder weather sets in, where are the best places to visit and socialize for parents and children with special needs? Are there any specialized activities?”

Holyoke High School’s Adaptive Physical Education Program is an inspiration! Here’s a video of the program they held at Fitzpatrick Ice Arena to inspire other schools and communities to model a similar program in their area:

Lisa Levheim writes, “It’s a little far from North Adams, but Whole Children in Hadley is amazing! They have after school programs and daytime programs for homeschoolers and younger kids.”

Swansea Benham Bleicher writes, “Most family centers will welcome children with special needs. Contact the Coordinators ahead of time if you are concerned: Northampton Parents Center, Easthampton Family Center, Belchertown Family Center, Amherst Family Center, Cummington Family Center, Gateway Family Center, South Hadley Family Center, Ware Family Center

Matt Sawyer writes,Ski Butternut offers skiing and snowboarding adaptive programs for people with special needs.” Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Special People


When I meet up with those who are disinclined to do what is best for my child, it is probably time to find someone else to do that particular job, or time to find another group in which she can take part because there are many special people out there who are willing to do what right no matter what. And our special daughter deserves those special people in her special life because, after all, she’s so special …to us.

She’s just a girl. Not special. Not any different than any other toddler. She’s infatuated with Princess Sofia and Doc McStuffins. She has a stuffed lamb, Mi Mi, who she can’t be without. She adores her daddy and loves playing school because her mommy is a teacher. She’s a pint size philosopher who packs a punch with wise words that are seemingly beyond MY years. But she isn’t special. She’s just another child in a world of children.

But to us, her father and me, she is everything. She is quite extraordinary and yes…she is special; special in ways that are too numerous to ever recount in a single post let alone a single novel.

But she also has special needs. She needs help making her muscles strong; to get her core to fire, her left thigh to not fail her, her ankles to hold her steady. She needs help getting her fingers to work in a coordinated way so that pulling a sticker off a paper isn’t a monumental marathon-like task. She needs wait time so that her mind can map out a succession of movements. She has needs…special needs.

Over these last few years, I have been awestruck with the humans that we have encountered; professionals whose sole desire is to get her to develop to be her best self. On the way to stronger muscles and more coordinated fingers, they have taught her the satisfaction of persistence, the wonderful feeling of meeting goals, the necessity to pay attention and follow directions and the invaluable knowledge that a desire to work hard even if it is inconvenient or difficult is one of the most important characteristic one could possess. For these humans who have a constant presence in my daughter Ila’s life, I am more grateful than I could ever pen. Our daughter is special, as special to these helping humans as she is to us.

As with most toddlers, she belongs to many different types of groups. Each “group” has a leader. And while many are willing and able participants in our quest provide every opportunity for Ila’s brain to develop new pathways for movement and the processing of that movement, unfortunately, we have also come across humans, adults, who see our daughter’s special needs as a burden; “an extra thing to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

Anthologies on Parenting Kids with Special Needs

Two Groundbreaking Anthologies on Parenting Kids with Special Needs

In "My Baby Rides the Short Bus," non-conformist parents telling their subjective stories with humor and grace.

I recently received two fantastic anthologies on parenting kids with special needs to review, My Baby Rides the Short Bus and Gravity Pulls You In. Most nights since receiving these two treasures I end the day by reading a chapter or two — finding myself  choked up with tears as I read a parent’s complicated, heartbreaking story; or laughing with parents on the fringe navigating life with a special needs child.  These are stories for everyone.  Parents with special needs children will relate to the stories of these contributing writers, and community member will better understand the parenting experience of raising a child with autism, Asperger’s or other differently-abled children.


In lives where there is a new diagnosis or drama every day, the stories in My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with Disabilities provide parents of “special needs” kids with a welcome chuckle, a rock to stand on, and a moment of reality held far enough from the heart to see clearly. With over 30 contributors from professional writers to novice storytellers this assortment of authentic, shared experiences from parents at the fringe of the fringes is a partial antidote to the stories that misrepresent, ridicule, and objectify disabled kids and their parents.


In 33 essays and poems in "Gravity Pulls You In," parents raising children on the autism spectrum explore their lives inthe context of autisum's own special gravity, discovering what's important and what they find centering.

Within the accounts of fierce love and keen regard for their unique children in Gravity Pulls You In: Perspectives on Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum lie moments of exceptional clarity and transformation. These pieces are sure to resonate with parents, caregivers, and anyone who’s interested in the world of autism. Their slice-of-life depictions are a refreshing departure from the usual diagnosis/grief/acceptance arc of many autism accounts, and serve as a reminder that life is lived in the many small, everyday moments.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Saturday, November 6th, 2010

There will be a reading on Saturday, November 6th, 2010, 2pm at Food for Thought Books (106 North Pleasant St.) in Amherst, MA, by contributors from both books: co-editor Jennifer Silverman and essayist Sierra-Marie Gerfao of My Baby Rides the Short Bus, and co-editor Kyra Anderson of Gravity Pulls You In.

  • Jennifer Silverman is an optimist in a pessimist’s clothing, and “mama” to two boys, one of who has autism. She lives, writes and agitates in New York City.
  • Sierra-Marie Gerfao (“Maria June”) lives in New England with her wife, their son, foster daughter, and one sweet old dog. Vocationally she serves full-time in a family ministry at a church.
  • Kyra Anderson chronicles life as a homeschooling mom and writer in New England on her blog, Her work has appeared in several small presses. Her memoir, How My Son’s Asperger’s Saved My Ass, is in progress.

Medical Equipment for Children with Special Needs

Pass It On

Last year my son, Ivan, was in dire need of a special stroller for kids with low muscle tone. He was using a mainstream stroller at the time, but it just wasn’t giving him the support he needed. The poor guy was slumped over whenever he was in it!

We tried going through our insurance, but because Ivan was small (less than 30 pounds), the insurance company felt he was fine with the stroller he had. Our PT then told us about Pass it On, a charitable organization in Mashpee, MA that provides gently-used medical equipment to families with special needs kids. We gave them a call, got on their
waiting list, and in less than a month Ivan was strolling about town in his new (at least for us) Convaid Cruiser. And all it cost us was the small delivery charge of $25!

If you’re looking for medical equipment, definitely give these guys a call. They’re always happy to help and if they don’t have the item you’re looking for they’ll put you on a waiting list. If you have an old wheelchair or gait trainer that your child no longer uses, consider donating it to Pass it On so another family can use it. And they always accept money donations to keep the operation going, too!

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