Tips for Visiting Theme Parks for Your Special Needs Child

Going to a theme park with family is almost a rite of passage during the summertime. But in the event that one or more of your children have special needs, you’ll have to do a bit more planning and be a bit more intentional before heading out so that your entire family can enjoy the outing. One of the reasons you need to be prepared is that children whose special needs issues are of a sensory nature may find the noise, the flashing lights, and the large crowds to be overwhelming. And this can turn what should have been a fun-filled day into anything but.

What follows is a look at how to plan before heading out, what to do while at the theme park, and which theme parks to consider visiting with your family.


Preparation Before Heading Out

You’ve probably heard the saying that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Truer words have never been spoken. Before heading out for a day of family fun at a theme park, be sure to do the following:

Picture Perfect: Bring a recent photo of your child in the event that he or she wanders off unbeknownst to you.

Think Comfort: Bring things that will comfort your special needs child if he or she becomes overwhelmed. These can include toys or even games that will calm your child down if need be.

Don’t Do Too Much: One of the biggest mistakes that you could make is to pack way too many activities into a single day. Doing an excessive amount of stuff can overwhelm anyone, so think quality of experience rather than quantity of time.

Bring Snacks: While many theme parks forbid people from bringing in food, they will generally waive this ban if your child has any food allergies. So be sure to let the staff know if there’s any issue.

When You’re At the Theme Park

Planning before heading out is a good idea, but you’re not home free once you get to the theme park. There are things you can do once you arrive that will help your child to enjoy the occasion.

Visit Guest Services: As soon as you arrive, you should head right over to guest services to let them know that you have a special needs child. Some theme parks will give out special access cards to special needs kids that will make for a more pleasant day out. Don’t be shy. Ask!

Time Out: If your child suddenly gets overwhelmed by all the noise and activity, you should ask a staff member which areas of the park are the quietest. This will provide your child with a place to calm down and unwind before heading back to the fun and games.

An App for That? There are apps that are geared towards special needs children, and they can be helpful if your child has a case of sensory overload. So bring games along just in case.


Theme Parks to Visit

There are plenty of theme parks that offer special needs access passess to those who need them. The complete list features a variety of parks for the whole family. Here are three that stand out:

  1. Morgan’s Wonderland: This theme park is located in San Antonio, Texas. Even better, all of the rides that the theme park offers are suitable for people with special needs. Admission is free to people who have special needs.
  1. Holiday World: This theme park, located in Santa Claus, Indiana, offers a special pass for people who have special needs. This boarding pass, as theme park refers to it, allows a person with as many as three of his or her friends to bypass the lineup for the rides.
  1. Sesame Place: This theme park, located in Longhorne, Pennsylvania, offers a wristband and special access card to patrons who have disabilities. Such people can avoid lines at as many as half a dozen rides and three wet rides each day.

If you plan ahead, you and your special needs child can enjoy a great day out at an amusement park. Have fun!

LAUSD Needs to Reform Funding for Special Needs Students


There has been a small victory for families of special needs and high risk students in Los Angeles as the state now demands district leaders spend more funding on these students. As parents have advocated for their children to receive the extra help they need, it has fallen on deaf ears to Los Angeles Unified School District until now. The Los Angeles Unified School District, or LAUSD, has been short changing the special needs community for years, officials from the California Department of Education say, and the state will no longer stand for it.

How Does a School District Control Spending?

Every year, school districts get additional subsidizing from the state known as supplementary and focus stipends which endeavor to close the gap between the amount of financing special needs students at present get and how much they should be getting.

The LAUSD is the biggest state funded educational system in California. It is the second biggest government funded school district in the United States. (Only the New York City Department of Education has a bigger student population.) The LAUSD school district has a spending budget of $6.78 billion.

As per the claim, only half of the $700 million the area reported spending on high needs students amid the 2013-14 school year was actually spent on those students. What’s even more troubling is how large of a population of students this affects: 79 percent of the students in the district who get special education services are likewise distinguished as low-income, ESL or foster youth. 

A claim documented a week ago in Los Angeles Superior Court affirms poor bookkeeping by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). They have completely neglected the special needs children of funds they are budgeted to receive under the Local Control Funding Formula.

What is The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)?

The Local Control Funding Formula, signed by Jerry Brown in 2013, allows schools to have more control of their spending. However, while schools are able to manage their budgets via local decision making, there is still a standard set for funding schools equitably. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Overview provides information about LCFF funding and accountability provisions. Additional information on LCFF implementation is contained in a letter issued jointly on August 7, 2013, by the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.


What Does this Mean for Special Education?

Without the proper funds, special education departments can not function properly. Despite the lack of funds for the special needs programs, the superintendent of LAUSD got a pay hike of a staggering 32%, sources say. With the budget error, special education teachers are sadly underpaid. This error also subtracts the number of educational field trips, materials, tutoring opportunities, help in language arts and math, etc, for a wide variety of students. Special education teachers and substitutes go through training to learn how to teach special needs children, and are very hard to come by. Luckily, with the California Department of Education’s mandate on LAUSD to be compliant with the terms of their spending, there is hope that all of this will change for the better.

Are you concerned your child may not be receiving the help they need? Contact the California Special Needs Law Group if you have questions about advocacy, your child’s individualized education plan, or whether your school district may be underfunding special needs students.

The Best Summer Camps for Children With Special Needs

Summer camp is where many children create memories, form friendships, and enjoy the great outdoors. If your child has special needs and would like to attend a summer camp, there are lots of choices across the U.S. that specifically cater to children who have a wide range of special needs.

summer camp for special needs

Let’s take a look at 5 of the best summer camps for children with special needs. There are obviously many more possibilities, but these selections offer a great mix of things that will be particularly beneficial to your child.

Camp No Limits

This camp organization’s mission is to educate and employ campers with limb loss to discover and develop a healthy, joyful and independent lifestyle. It offers camping in California, Florida, Arizona, Maine, Texas, Missouri, Connecticut, Idaho, and Maryland. The California camp is situated at Pine Summit Camps in Big Bear Lake, which features an elevation of just south of 7,000 feet. Kids can enjoy rope challenges, zip lines, swimming, and more. Since 2004, Camp No Limits has provided a family company experience that offers parent and child peer support, adapted recreational activities, and cutting-edge prosthetic education. The Friendship Circle ranks Camp No Limits at #20 of on its Top 25 list.

National Ability Center

Coming in at No. 4 on the Top 25 list, National Ability Center in Park City, Utah features camping opportunities for children with cognitive impairments, physical limitations, and autism. Children are given the chance to make friends and social connections, and the fact that there is camping available year-round means that you child can take advantage of winter camps, summer camps, and adaptive sports camps. As for reviews, the National Ability Center achieved a stellar 4.9 out of 5 stars and 89 reviews on Facebook.

Camp Grace Bentley

Camp Grace Bentley, located on the shores of Lake Huron, gets the No. 10 slot on the list. At this camp in Burtchville, Michigan, your child can develop a greater sense of independence by taking part in lots of new adventures and by engaging in teamwork with other campers. The camp, which is open to campers with a variety of mental and physical challenges, caters to people between the ages of s7 and 16, and the nine-day camping sessions can be enjoyed between late June and mid-August. If your child likes swimming, movie nights, dances, theme nights, arts and crafts, and campfires and sing-alongs, then this camp will do the trick. While there were only three reviews on Google, they were all 5 stars.

summer camp for special needs

Camp Greentop

Started in 1937 and located in Catoctin National Park, which is close to Thurmont, Maryland, Camp Greentop caters to children with cognitive, physical, and emotional disabilities. In fact, it is one of the country’s oldest camps designed to meet the needs of people who have special needs. Children as young as seven can enjoy the camping experience. Camp Greentop takes the No. 5 spot on the Top 25 list. On TripAdvisor, the camp has, at last count, 287 reviews. 211 of those rated the camp as “excellent” and 51 of them rated the came as “very good.” In fact, it has 5 stars out of 5 stars overall.

Camp Paivika

While Camp Paivika did not make the Friendship Circle list, it is nonetheless a quality camp for children with special needs. Situated in the picturesque San Bernardino National Forest, AbilityFirst Camp Paivika provides summer, spring, and winter programs for children with disabilities. Yelp only has one review on Camp Paivika, and the reviewer gives the camp 5 stars.

So, there you have it — 5 of the best summer camps for children with special needs. If your child wants to go to camp this year, you can check out what the aforementioned have to offer. As always, the California Special Needs Law Group are always here to help in any way we can. To schedule a free 30-minute consultation, give us a call at 888-900-0744.


California Schools Celebrate Prom for Special Needs Students

When it comes to the rite of passage that is the high school prom, no student should be left out. Yet all too often special needs children are left feeling excluded from prom festivities that traditionally represent an important coming-of-age milestone.

Special Needs Students

According to the Meeting the Needs of Special Education Students report, the majority of special education students–between 80% and 85%–are capable of achieving the same academic standards as other students provided that they have access to specially designed instruction, appropriate support, needed accommodation, and appropriate access.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the vast majority of special needs students on the verge of graduating would, if proper accommodations were made, love the opportunity to celebrate the end of their high school years with their peers. And, indeed, some California schools are doing more to make special needs students feel welcome at school proms.

An even more interesting development, however, is a trend that shows some California schools and organizations opt to hold proms specifically for special needs students — and the results have been positive.

Sherman Oaks

At the Help Group Sunshine School in Sherman Oaks, a special prom was recently held for students with special needs. The event, filled with dancing and merriment, was just as special for the students as it was for the parents.

In fact, one mother who was interviewed said that she derived personal enjoyment simply by seeing her son get the chance to enjoy his prom the way that other kids get to enjoy theirs.

A reporter who attended the event said that a lot of the students at the prom were non-verbal, but she added that speech was not a prerequisite to having a lot of fun.

Night to Shine

The Calvary Church Los Gatos on January 10 teamed up with the Tim Tebow Foundation, churches in Silicon Valley, businesses, and schools to celebrate the Valentine’s Weekend with youth who have special needs.

The plan was to make the event especially memorable for attendees. For instance, they got the chance to enter the prom on a red carpet complete with friendly paparazzi cheering their arrival. They also had the chance to go to hair and makeup stations and shoe shine stations. And, of course, there was dancing as well as the opportunity to be crowned as the prom’s king or queen.

Special Needs Students

San Gabriel Valley

In May, San Marino High School played host to special needs high school students in the San Gabriel Valley region. At this prom that was geared towards special needs students, attendees dined on food, danced on the dance floor, and enjoyed the music from the DJ. The event allowed the 75 special needs students in attendance to enjoy the company of their peers.

Prom is certainly an important rite of passage, and no student should be deprived of the opportunity to attend. The aforementioned proms in California are just three examples of how special needs students can enjoy the the rite of passage that is the high school prom.