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Summer Activities for Children with Special Needs

Things to Do in Charlotte and at Home
 Jul 18, 2018  15 min read

Summer is here and the kids are at home. When the days seem endless and activities become harder to find, check out these ideas for things to do that are fun, engaging, and accessible!


Indoor Activities

charlotte movie theaters with sensory friendly showings


Nothing beats the hot summer days like spending a few hours in a cool movie theater. But for many kids with sensory sensitivities, the standard theater experience can be overwhelming. The good news is, there are several movie programs offered throughout the summer for kids that are sensory friendly. The Regal Cinemas in Gastonia participates in the My Way Matinee program, playing family-friendly movies with lights up and sound down, making the experience more enjoyable for people with sensory processing issues. The next showing is on July 14th at 10:30am, Hotel Transylvania 3, at Regal Franklin Square Stadium 14 (Gastonia).

AMC also has a Sensory Friendly Film program along the same lines, with a sensory-friendly showing every second and fourth Saturday of the month at participating theaters (in Charlotte, that includes AMC Carolina Pavillion 22 and AMC Concord Mills 24). The next sensory friendly showings include “Mama Mia! Here We Go Again” on July 24 and “Hotel Transylvania 3” on July 28.

Library Reading Programs

Libraries offer a lot of great programs to take advantage of this summer. From reading programs to movie showings, library programs can help improve focus, attention, active listening, and socialization. Some events to look out for:

Charlotte libraries: Family Storytime, Story Explorers, Listen & Move Storytime, or see their calendar for a full list of events.

Cabarrus libraries: Baby Story Time (0-1), Preschool Story Time (3-5), Just for Me Story Time (6-8), Music and Movement, or see their calendar for a full list of events.

Gaston libraries: Family Story Time, Toddler Time, Preschool Storytime, and Fantastic Fridays, or see their calendar for a full list of events.

Hickory libraries: Baby Time, Toddler Story Time, K-3 Stories, Paws to Read, Maker Mondays (5+), or see their calendar for a full list of events.

Day at the Aquarium

Kids of all ages can enjoy a day at the aquarium, learning about fascinating sea creatures from fish to turtles to sharks. The SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium is an easy drive if you’re living in Charlotte or Concord, and on Toddler Tuesdays parents get a free child ticket with purchase of an adult ticket.

If you’re in Hickory, check out the Catawba Science Center for an aquarium as well as hands-on exhibits and a planetarium.


Outdoor Activities

child at sensory friendly petting zoo

Petting Zoo

Looking for fun outdoor activities? Most kids love petting zoos, and interacting with animals can be a great confidence boost for kids who may otherwise struggle with social interaction. If you’re looking for a place around Charlotte, Darby Acres Farm and Hodges Family Farm are both cute, family-owned farms you can visit by appointment or on special event days. Near Gastonia, look for similar public events available at Whispering Hope Farm.

If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, Zootastic Park, Lazy 5 Ranch, and Tiger World are all open to the public during the week and include both viewing exhibits and petting areas. Make a day-trip to see the lions, tigers, and bears – oh my!

Picnic at the Park

Parks are a ton of fun for kids, as they have playgrounds, lakes to fish at, and a lot of open space for the imagination to run wild. Grab a picnic blanket and some sandwiches (and sunscreen of course!) and head to your nearby park. Freedom Park near Dilworth is one of our favorite spots, and it’s equipped with ramps for wheelchair/ walker users and well as sensory-stimulating playground equipment. You can find a whole list of inclusive playgrounds and parks on Mecklenburg county’s website.


Summer Camps

summer camps for kids with special needs near charlotte

Kamp Kaleidoscope

Located in Gaston County, Kamp Kaleidoscope is a summer camp specifically for kids with developmental disabilities, ages 7 and up. They offer a wide range of fun activities, such as science/environmental projects, recreational activities, and health and wellness programs. Contact the Arc office for more information.

Camp Boomerang

Aimed at providing a traditional camp experience, Camp Boomerang engages kids with autism spectrum disorder (ages 5-17) in summer camp activities as well as enrichment activities. Kids are able to participate in field sports, swimming, fishing, arts and crafts, etc. The YMCA runs this camp weekly beginning the May 28th through the week of August 27th.

Camp Luck

Camp Luck is a camp for children with heart disease who are 7-14 years old. Since the camp is medically supervised, “Heart Kids” are able to safely participate in more traditional camp activities like canoeing, fishing, archery, dance, rock climbing, and more. The camp runs from August 5-10, but the spots fill up fast. Check out their website for more information.


Keeping Cool

special needs accessible swim lessons in charlotte

Swim Lessons

Swimming is an important skill for all children to have and is a great way to get them active during the summertime. If you’re looking for programs that accommodate special needs, the Marion Diehl Recreation Center, located in Charlotte, offers swim lessons specially for adults and children with special needs. Check out their brochure for more information.

Waterpark Backyard

Between the long lines, loud crowds, and pricy tickets, waterparks may not always be the best option for parents of special needs kids. If you think your child would be overwhelmed by a commercial waterpark, why not create one from the comfort of your own backyard? Jump over the sprinklers, slide down the slip-and-slide (you can even make your own with a plastic sheet & pool noodles here), and splash through the kiddy pool. Or check out this innovative obstacle course one parent came up with for her backyard waterpark.

Ice Crafts

Need ways to keep kids cool this summer without standing them in front of the A/C unit? Make some Kool-Aid-colored ice pops and let your child give ice painting a try. For ice crafts kids can eat when they’re done, check out a list of 25 popsicle recipes kiddos can make too.


Crafts at Home

Some days it’s just too hot to go outside, but that doesn’t mean we can’t engage our minds and bodies. Grab some craft supplies, sit around the kitchen table, and let the kids show off their creativity.

crafts for kids with special needs  

Paper Plate Bugs

Get creative and bring out the finger paint! Using household items, such as paper plates, not only saves money, but allows for children to use their imagination. Have them paint the plate however they want and let it dry. Then use paper, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, or any other supplies to make the insects come alive.

fun crafts for kids with special needs  

Popsicle Stick Monsters

Gather up all the left over popsicle sticks this summer and put them to good use! Glue five or six of them together and use different colored paint to make unique monsters. You can use googly eyes and construction paper to add the finishing touches to them and voila, there you will have the perfect popsicle stick monster!

summer crafts for kids  

Dragon’s Breath

Has your child ever imagined what being a dragon would feel like? Well now it’s easy with this fun craft, just grab a toilet paper roll and wrap it with some fun colored construction paper. Glue strips of red, orange, and yellow tissue paper to create the effect of fire at the end of the tube. Add pom pom balls and googly eyes for the dragon’s face. Feel free to add any more decorations of your choosing!

crafts for children with sensory processing needs  

Rainbow Foam Dough 

You’ve probably heard about DIY slime, but what about making your own foam? This colorful, textured dough is fun to make and sensory-motivated children will love squishing it bewteen their fingers.

craft ideas for kids with special needs  

Cornmeal and Powdered Paint

The textures and colors make for a fun craft that works eye-hand coordination, observational skills, while allowing kids to feel multiple textures while they paint.

craft ideas for kids with sensory needs  

Sponge Painting

Another great idea for sensory stimulation with arts and crafts, make sponges into different shapes and sizes. Try multiple kinds of sponges for a variety of textures to hold.

craft ideas for children who have sensory needs sticky sticks  

Homemade Waxy Sticky Sticks

Make your own yarn wax sticks that kids can shape and form anywhere, in home or in the car.

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This Notice of Privacy Practices describes how we may use and disclose your protected health information to carry out treatment, payment or health care operations and for other purposes that are permitted or required by law. It also describes your rights to access and control your protected health information. Protected health information is information about you, including demographic information, that may identify you and that relates to your past, present or future physical or mental health or condition and related health care services.


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Your protected health information may be used and disclosed by our office staff others outside of our office who are involved in your care and treatment for the purpose of providing health care services to you.
Your protected health information may also be used and disclosed to pay your health care bills and to support the operation of our practice.
Following are examples of the types of uses and disclosures of your protected health information that we are permitted to make. These examples are not meant to be exhaustive, but to describe the types of uses and disclosures that may be made by our office.

1. Treatment: We will use and disclose your protected health information to provide, coordinate, or manage your health care and any related services. This includes the coordination or management of your health care with another provider.
For example, we would disclose your protected health information, as necessary, to a home health agency that provides care to you. We will also disclose protected health information to other healthcare providers who may be treating you.
For example, your protected health information may be provided to a physician to whom you have been referred to ensure that the physician has the necessary information to diagnose or treat you. In addition, we may disclose your protected health information from time-to-time to other health care providers (e.g., a specialist or laboratory) who become involved in your care by providing assistance with your health care diagnosis or treatment to us.
2. Payment: We may use and disclose protected health information about you so that the treatment and services you receive at Compleat KiDZ may be billed to and payment may be collected from you, an insurance company, or a third party. This may include certain activities that your health insurance plan may undertake before it approves or pays for the health care services we recommend for you such as: making a determination of eligibility or coverage for insurance benefits, and reviewing services provided to you for medical necessity. For example, if you have a back injury, we may need to give your health plan information about your condition, supplies used, and services you received.
3. Healthcare Operations: We may use or disclose, as needed, your protected health information for healthcare operations. These uses and disclosures are necessary to run Compleat KiDZ and make sure that all of our patients receive quality care. For example, we ma)'use protected health information to review our treatment and services and to evaluate the performance of our staff in caring for you. We may also combine protected health information about many patients to decide what additional services Compleat KiDZ should offer, what services are not needed, and whether certain new treatments are effective. We may also disclose information to doctors, nurses, technicians, medical students, and other personnel for review and learning purposes, we may remove information that identifies you from this set of protected health information so others may use it to study health care and health care delivery without learning the identities of specific patients.
We may share your protected health information with third party "business associates" that perform various activities (for example, billing or transcription services) for our practice. Whenever an arrangement between our practice and a business associate involves the use or disclosure of your protected health information, we will have a written contract that contains terms that will protect the privacy of your protected health information.
We may use and / or disclose protected health information to contact you to, remind you about an appointment you have for treatment or medical care.
We may use or disclose your protected health information, as necessary, to provide you with information about treatment alternatives or other health--related benefits and services that may be of interest to you. You may contact our Privacy Officer to request that these materials not be sent to you.
4. Other Permitted and Required Uses and Disclosures That May Be Made Without Your Authorization or Opportunity to Agree and Object:
We may use or disclose your protected health information in the following situations without your authorization or providing you the opportunity to agree or object. These situations include:
(i) Required by Law: We may use or disclose your protected health information to the extent that the use or disclosure is required by law. The use or disclosure will be made in compliance with the law and will be limited d to the relevant requirements of the law. You will be notified, if required by law, of any such uses or disclosures.

(ii) Public Health: We may disclose your protected health information for public health activities and purposes to a public health authority that is permitted by law to collect or receive the information. For example, a disclosure may be made for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury or disability.

(iii) Communicable Diseases: We may disclose your protected health information, if authorized by law, to a person who may have been exposed to a communicable disease or may otherwise be at risk of contracting or spreading the disease or condition.

(iv) Health Oversight: We may disclose protected health information to a health oversight agency for activities authorized by law, such as audits, investigations, and inspections. Oversight agencies seeking this information include government agencies t-rat oversee the health care system, government benefit programs, other government regulatory programs and civil rights laws.

(v) Abuse or Neglect: We may disclose your protected health information to a public health authority that is authorized by law to receive reports of child abuse or neglect. In addition, we may disclose your protected health information if we believe that you have been a victim of abuse, neglect or domestic violence to the governmental entity or agency authorized to receive such information. In this case, the disclosure will be made consistent with the requirements of applicable federal and state laws.

(vi) Legal Proceedings: We may disclose protected health information in the course of any judicial or administrative proceeding, in response to an order of a court or administrative tribunal (to the extent such disclosure is expressly authorized), or in certain conditions in response to a subpoena, discovery request or other lawful process.

(vii) Law Enforcement: We may also disclose protected health information, so long as applicable legal requirements are met, for law enforcement purposes, these law enforcement purposes include (1) legal processes and otherwise required by law, (2) limited information requests for identification and location purposes, (3) pertaining to victims of a crime, (4) suspicion that death has occurred as a result of criminal conduct, (5) in the event that a crime occurs on the premises of our practice, and (6) medical emergency (not on our premises) and it is likely that a crime has occurred.

(viii) Research: We may disclose your protected health information to researchers when their research has been approved by an institutional review board that has reviewed the research proposal and established protocols to ensure the privacy of your protected health information.

(ix) Criminal Activity: Consistent with applicable federal and state laws, we may disclose your protected health information, if we believe that the use or disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public. We may also disclose protected health information if it is necessary for law enforcement authorities to identify or apprehend an individual.

(x) Military Activity and National Security: When the appropriate conditions apply, we may use or disclose protected health information of individuals who are Armed Forces personnel (1) for activities deemed necessary by appropriate military command authorities; (2) for the purpose of a determination by the Department of Veterans Affairs of your eligibility for benefits, or (3) to foreign military authority if you are a member of that foreign military services. We may also disclose your protected health information to authorized federal officials for conducting national security and intelligence activities, including for the provision of protective services to the President or others legally authorized.

(xi) Workers' Compensation: We may disclose your protected health information as authorized to comply with workers' compensation laws and other similar legally established programs.
5. Other Permitted and Required Uses of Disclosures That Require Providing You the Opportunity to Agree or Object
We may use and disclose your protected health information in the following instances. You have the opportunity to agree or object to the use or disclosure of all or part of your protected health information. If you are not present or able to agree or object to the use or disclosure of the protected health information, then we may, using professional judgment, determine whether the disclosure is in your best interest.

Others Involved in Your Health Care or Payment for our Care:

Unless you object, we may disclose to a member of your family, a relative, a close friend or any other person you identify, your protected health information that directly relates to that person's involvement in your health care. If you are unable to agree or object to such a disclosure, we may disclose such information as necessary if we determine that it is in your best interest based on our professional judgment. We may use or disclose protected health information to notify or assist in notifying a family member, personal representative or any other person that is responsible for your care of your location, general condition or death. Finally, we may use or disclose your protected health information to an authorized public or private entity to assist in disaster relief efforts and to coordinate uses and disclosures to family or other individuals involved in your health care.
6. Uses and Disclosures of Protected Health Information Based upon Your Written Authorization Other uses and disclosures of your protected health information will be made only with your written authorization, unless otherwise permitted or required by law as described below. You may revoke this authorization in writing at any time. If you revoke your authorization, we will no longer use or disclose your protected health information for the reasons covered by your written authorization. Please understand that we are unable to take back any disclosures already made with your authorization.
Following is a statement of your rights with respect to your protected health information and a brief description of how you may exercise these rights
1. You have the right to inspect and copy your protected health information
This means you may inspect and obtain a copy of protected health information about you for so long as we maintain the protected health information. You may obtain your medical record that contains medical and billing records and any other records that we use for making decisions about you. As permitted by federal or state law, we may charge you a reasonable copy fee for a copy of your records.
2. You have the right to request a restriction of your protected health information
This means you may ask us not to use or disclose any part of your protected health information for the purposes of treatment, payment or health care operations. You may also request that any part of your protected health information not be disclosed to family members or friends who may be involved in your care or for notification purposes as described in this Notice of Privacy Practices. Your request must state the specific restriction requested and to whom you want the restriction to apply.

We are not required to agree to a restriction that you may request. If we agree to the requested restriction, we may not use or disclose your protected health information in violation of that restriction unless it is needed to provide emergency treatment. With this in mind, please discuss any restriction you wish to request with your health provider.

You may request a restriction by making your request in writing to our Privacy Officer. In your request, you must tell us (1) what information you want to limit; (2) whether you want to limit our use, disclosure, or both; and (3) to whom you want the limits to apply, for example, disclosures to your spouse.
3. You have the right to request to receive confidential communications from us by alternative means or at an alternative location
We will accommodate reasonable requests. We may also condition this accommodation by asking you for information as to how payment will be handled or specification of an alternative address or other method of contact. We will not request an explanation from you as to the basis for the request. Please make this request in writing to our Privacy Officer.
4. Your may have right to amend your protected health information
This means you may request an amendment of protected health information about you in a designated record set for so long as we maintain this information. In certain cases, we may deny your request for an amendment. If we deny your request for amendment, you have the right to file a statement of disagreement with us and we may prepare a rebuttal to your statement and will provide you with a copy of any such rebuttal. Please contact our Privacy Officer if you have questions about amending your medical record.
5. You have the right to receive an accounting of certain disclosures we have made, if any, of your protected health information This right applies to disclosures for purposes other than treatment, payment or health care operations as described in this Notice of Privacy Practices. It excludes disclosures we may have made to you if you authorized us to make the disclosure, to family members or friends involved in your care, or for notification purposes, for national security or intelligence, to law enforcement (as provided in the privacy rule) or correctional facilities, as part of a limited data set disclosure. The right to receive this information is subject to certain exceptions, restrictions and limitations.
6. You have the right to obtain a paper copy of this notice from us
upon request, even if you have agreed to accept this notice electronically.
You may complain to us or to the Secretary of Health and Human Services if you believe your privacy rights have been violated by us. You may file a complaint with us by notifying our Privacy Officer of your complaint. We will not retaliate against you for filing a complaint

You may contact our Privacy Officer at (704) 824-7800 for further information about the complaint process.

This notice was published and becomes effective on August l, 2011.