Parents and guardians of kids (and young adults) with special needs will be happy to know that there’s no shortage of summer camps and programs in the Magic City specifically geared for kids and young adults with special needs. Whether your child has autism, ADD/ADHD, or an intellectual or physical disability, there’s something fun for everyone.
Many summer camps in this guide offer need-based scholarships to help cover costs and many Miami-Dade County and Children’s Trust camps are low-cost, and are offered at various locations throughout Miami. It’s best to register early, as spots tend to fill up quickly.
Animation gets real
Teens and young adults with autism and related disabilities can explore computer animation and filmmaking at a summer program presented by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, Miami-Dade Public Library System and Arts4All Florida. Participants learn real life skills, such as animation, writing, editing, storyboarding and iPad music making.
The program is appropriate for students ages 13-22 with autism or related disabilities who can follow instructions, independently communicate and participate in a group setting.
When / Where: Weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 10-14 at the North Dade Regional Library, 2455 NW 183 St; June 17-21 at the South Dade Regional Library, 10750 SW 211 St., Cutler Bay.
Cost: $100 Miami-Dade residents; $400 Non-Residents. Scholarships available to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch or receive assistance such as SNAP benefits.
Contact: Liliana.Hernandez@miamidade.gov; (305)375-4634; www.AllKidsIncludedMiami.org
The Friendship Circle of Miami Beach and North Dade is a non-profit organization that caters to children with special needs and their families. With one-on-one attention from volunteers, children will enjoy field trips, music, arts and crafts and performances.
When: Weekdays, June 11-21, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; a four-day field trip camp is available from Aug. 13–16 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (campers will go to the Frost Science Museum and Flamingo Water Park, among other places.)
Where: Miami Beach Jewish Community Center (JCC), 4221 Pine Tree Drive, Miami Beach
Cost: $300 per week and $300 for the four-day field trip camp. Scholarships available.
Contact: 305-330-5653; firstname.lastname@example.org; fcmiami.org/summercamp
Since 1990, Shake-A-Leg Miami has empowered thousands of children and adults with physical, developmental and economic hardships by utilizing Biscayne Bay to offer therapeutic water activities.
In its summer camp, kids ages 6-17 of all abilities can learn how to sail, snorkel, fish and kayak during their choice of four water-based camps on Biscayne Bay.
When: Weekdays, June 10 through Aug. 9; 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., after-care available.
Where: 2620 S. Bayshore Dr., Miami.
Cost: Marine Academy camp: $75 weekly; Adventure Island and Water Sports camps: $350 weekly.
Contact: (305) 858-5550; email@example.com; shakealegmiami.org
Individuals with disabilities will find camp experiences in sports, swimming, arts and crafts, educational field trips, special events and more. The camps are managed by certified therapeutic recreation specialists.
Several camps are funded by The Children’s Trust and are offered for free to kids in sixth through 12th grade who have a disability.
A limited number of slots are available, so it’s recommended to pre-register. The registration fee is $15.
When: June 10 – Aug 16; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays; early drop off and late pick up available.
Where: Goulds Park, 11350 SW 216 St., and Gwen Cherry Park: 7090 NW 22nd Ave.
Contact: Goulds: (305) 234-1673; Jody Cox, Jsantia@miamidade.gov; Gwen Cherry Park: (305)-694-4889, Belinda Phillips, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Parks Department also offers fee-based programs for special needs campers from 6 to 22. Same times as above.
Where: Highland Oaks Park, 20300 NE 24th Ave., and Camp Matecumbe: 13841 SW 120 St.
Cost: $45 per week plus a one-time $15 registration fee.
Contact: Highland Oaks Park: Thera Johnson, email@example.com, 305-935-4588; Camp Matecumbe: Diana Bonet, Dbonet@miamidade.gov; (305) 752-4966
The Children’s Trust
The Children’s Trust offers a plethora of after-school programs and summer camps for low-income families and for kids with special needs., in grades sixth through 12th Visit www.thechildrenstrust.org to learn more and to see the dates the camps will be offered.
Summer Camp: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m: FREE (registration fee: $15)
▪ Westwind Lakes Park: 6805 SW 152 Ave.; 305.380.9106; firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ Goulds Park: 13841 SW 120 St.; 305.234.1673; email@example.com.
▪ Gwen Cherry Park: 7090 NW 22 Ave.; 305.694.4889; firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ Tamiami Park: 11201 SW 24 St.; 305.222-2128; arleneB@miamidade.gov.
Camp J Miami strives to create the most inclusive and supportive environment for children of all abilities. Children and teens with developmental disabilities and/or physical challenges are welcome in all camp programs at the Alper JCC.
When: June 17 - Aug 9.
Where: Alper JCC, 11155 SW 112th Ave.
All applicants must complete an individualized assessment to determine whether the program will meet the needs of each prospective camper.
Contact: Youth & Camp Director and Inclusion Director Nikki Fernandez at 305-271-9000 x273 or email@example.com.
Walter Javier, a fire lieutenant for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, who trains rescue divers for the department, is also the director of activities for the Sabrina Cohen Foundation and does adaptive water sports for quadriplegics.
He and neuropsychologist, Dr. Judith Migoya, started the summer surf camp six years ago in Surfside for kids who have autism or are on the spectrum.
When: Two weekly sessions: Aug. 5 – 9; Aug. 12 – 16; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Ages: 8 to 14
Where: Surfside Community Center, 9301 Collins Ave.
Cost: One-time registration fee of $50 and $500 per weekly session. (Scholarships available based on financial need.)
Contact: 305-936-1002; www.SouthFloridaTherapists.com
Art in the Park
An arts program for children and youth, ages 6-17, with and without disabilities, led by professional art teachers and disability experts. The program was developed by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs as part of its “All Kids Included - Accessible Arts Experiences for Kids” (AKI) initiative.
When: Saturdays, 9-11 a.m.
Where: Camp Matecumbe, 13841 SW 120 St.; Highland Oaks Park, 20300 NE 24 Ave.; Miller Drive Park, 5510 SW 94th Ct.
Contact: DIA@a4lmiami.org; (305) 576-1212; www.miamidadearts.org
For children, ages 6-14, with intellectual disabilities, EXPLORE focuses on developing leisure interests as well as social and community skills through recreational experiences.
When: First and third Saturdays of the month, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Where: Ojus Park, 18995 W. Dixie Hwy, North Miami Beach,
Cost: $15 per session, plus food or entrance fee depending on outing.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; (305) 935-4588; www.miamidade.gov
LEAPS ( Leisure Education and Planning Skills) is a social outing program for teens and young adults, ages 15-25, with intellectual disabilities. Group activities and outings focus on developing independent living skills, social skills and community skills.
When: First and third Fridays of the month, from 6 -10 p.m.
Where: Westwind Lakes Park, 6805 SW 152 Ave.
Cost: $20 per night plus food or entrance fee depending on the outing.
Physical conditioning and training using adapted handcycles. Staff and volunteers will coach athletes.
Call to inquire for cost and to see the dates it will be offered.
Where: Tamiami Park 11201 SW 24 St.
Contact: 305-222-2128 or email@example.com.
Adapted Aquatics is for those 6 and older, with physical or visual disabilities. Call for an appointment.
Where: Palm Springs North Pool, 7901 NW 176 St., Hialeah
Cost: $40 for a group session of eight classes, plus $15 registration fee; $150 for eight individual classes plus a one-time $15 annual registration fee.
Contact: 305.935.4588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Caitlin Granfield at email@example.com