Fun Outings for Your Child with Special Needs


Published:

When the Baldwins traveled from Apex to a family reunion in Ohio last year, their son, Cade, 11, who has high-functioning autism, refused to get out of the car.

"There were a lot of kids running around, a lot of unstructured play, and he doesn't like that type of situation at all," says his mom, Jennifer Baldwin. "That was an outing 'fail.'"

Every parent knows the embarrassment that comes when a child is uncooperative or makes a scene in public. From the toddler tantrum punctuated with screams and flailing limbs to the preschooler who insists (loudly!) on a toy, the stress is often compounded by the stares of onlookers. The good news is that these scenes tend to become less frequent as children age, making outings easier.

But when your child has a special need, it may seem like every foray into the public has the potential for disaster. Depending on your child's needs, these challenges might ease as she gets older, or they might be lifelong considerations.

We talked with some local parents who offer their thoughts and suggestions for taking kids with varying special needs out and about.

Be clear with others about your child's needs

Cade's family has learned - "through trial and error, really," Baldwin says - how to navigate the uncharted territory of social events, outings, and even just trips to the store with him.

After the episode at the reunion, the Baldwins attended a Halloween party and "took things step by step," Baldwin says. "We let Cade know that although he knew the owners of the house and the children, there would be people there he didn't know. I told him no one would talk to him if he didn't want. Then I spoke with the guests and said, 'Don't approach him right away, let him do his own thing.'"

At first, Cade wouldn't get out of the car. Then Baldwin enticed him into the bonus room, which was quiet. They eventually progressed upstairs to where the food was. "That was a big gain for us," she says. "He was at the party and didn't mind that there were other people there that he didn't know."

What helped, she says, is that the other guests didn't push for interaction, which could cause him stress. The Baldwins learned that making the effort to create a comfortable environment for their son made a big difference in the success of the party.

Follow your child's lead

Of course, what's comfortable for each child is different.

Claire Constantikes' 10-year-old son, George, has food allergies - but not just to peanuts or eggs. "He's allergic to all but about six foods," she says. George has an allergic disease called eosinophilic esophagitis and requires a feeding tube.

The condition creates challenges to social outings. "It seems like every social event revolves around food in some way," says the Wake Forest mom. "[But] we've taken the approach that he shouldn't be ashamed of his tube. We won't go off into a corner and hide when it's time for him to eat. We'll stay where we are."

Sometimes, she says, people ask questions and, far from feeling offended, the family welcomes them, talking about George's condition and other differences among children. George is more than happy to participate in such conversations.

Constantikes recalls when George was at a birthday party talking to a boy who said he hated broccoli and spinach. George said he wished he could eat those foods. The other child said, "That's weird." Rather than sulking away in shame, George stood up tall. "You think that's weird?" he said. Then he lifted his shirt and showed him his feeding tube. "Take a look at this!"

"Living with this [condition] has let us have conversations with friends and people we don't know about how the challenges in our life can not only make us more compassionate but open our eyes to the challenges that others face, too," Constantikes says.

Consider a helping hand (or paw)

In the case of the Silvestre family of Apex, even the simplest outings became more challenging - and potentially dangerous - as their son Hunter, who is severely autistic, gained mobility and started to wander off.

"He's an escape artist," says his mother, Dionne. "I'd try holding his hand, but he'd squirm out. And even the 5-foot fence in our yard didn't stop him. But if you put a locator band on his wrist, he'd try to take - or chew - it right off."

Finally, the Silvestres adopted Bow, a specially trained service dog. "He's made a huge difference," Silvestre says. Not only is Bow trained in search and rescue - in case Hunter slips away - but the two can be attached with special vests and tethers. "I don't have to worry about Hunter running out of the store anymore," she says.

Another benefit? "It's made Hunter a little more social," Silvestre says. Kids are naturally attracted to the gentle dog, who's part Great Dane, part Labrador, and even adults will ask questions about Bow when the family goes out. Hunter is fascinated that people are interested in his dog.

And the support and companionship have gone both ways. When Bow had a veterinarian checkup, Hunter went along and helped calm the dog. "It's like they're connected spiritually," Silvestre says.

Find support and community

Sally Hinton of Cary remembers the time she took her 12-year-old son, Brandon, who has cerebral palsy, to the park and they butted heads over a climbing structure she knew she wouldn't be able to spot him on. "It turned into a scene, and I had to practically pry him off the bars," Hinton says. Other parents were staring openly. "I understand it's hard to not stare, but on the other hand, I sometimes really wish it weren't that way," she says sadly.

Such occurrences can be difficult for parents - and also for their other children, who may feel that their brother or sister gets more attention or impacts their lives in a negative way. With these challenges, it's easy for families to feel isolated.

To help her family deal with those kinds of issues, Hinton makes sure her other children - ages 3, 9 and 10 - have peers who understand their family's situation.

"They attend three-hour workshops for siblings of special needs kids, called 'sibshops,'" she says. "It's a safe place to talk about the good and the bad that comes along with having a special-needs sibling. My kids really look forward to going every month."

Spending time with other families who know what it's like to live with a child with special needs can provide encouragement, empathy, even a new perspective.

"Families with special-needs children have cycles of good days, manageable days and not-so-good days," Constantikes says. "Living with [these challenges] means knowing there will be moments when things are going to be low, and accepting that, too."

Parents recommend getting involved with organizations that support families of children with special needs. The Family Support Network (www.fsnnc.org) hosts the "sibshops" Hinton's children attend and also offers family events throughout the year, such as holiday parties and a spring festival.

In addition, some local businesses offer outings exclusively for families of children with special needs (see sidebar). Attending these events can reduce stress and allow everyone in the family a night of fun and community.  n

Kathleen M. Reilly is a Triangle mom and writer.

Fun and stress-free family outings

These businesses offer activities just for families of children with special needs. For details and additional recreational and enrichment opportunities for families, see the resource listings beginning on p. 45 of our Special Kidsguide.

*    Monkey Joe's Special Needs Night, visit www.monkeyjoes.com

*    Marbles Kids Museum Family Fun Night, visit www.marbleskidsmuseum.org

*    Bounce Back Kids, visit www.bouncebackkids.org

*    N.C. FACES (Food Allergic Children Excelling Safely), visit www.ncfaces.org

?

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Weekend Family Fun Across the Triangle

May 24-26: Remembering D-Day; a Walk in the Woods; A Kid’s Life; Lithuanian Dancers; and Roots, Shoots and Leaves.

May 20-23: Crafty Kids, Night Hike, Marker Chromatography and “The Wizard of Oz” Outdoors

Here are some fun things to do the week of May 20-23 with the kids.

Triangle Summer Movies Under the Stars

Enjoy watch these free or discounted films under the summer night sky.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2019

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Prior to opening to the general public, the museum will be open from 9am to noon for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The museum's regular exhibits will be available, in addition to...

Cost: $4-$12

Where:
North Carolina Transportation Museum
1 Samuel Spencer Drive
Spencer, NC  28159
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Transportation Museum
Telephone: 704-636-2889
Contact Name: Ian J. Kuhn

More information

Ages 6-14 swim, walk and run to benefit Just Tryan It, an organization dedicated to supporting families facing pediatric cancer. Proceeds benefit families at UNC and...

Cost: $55

Where:
Chapel Hill Country Club
103 Lancaster Drive
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Sponsor: Just TRYAN It
Contact Name: Sheryl Blackwell
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Enjoy an Art Market with more than 170 visual arts and crafts exhibitors from across North Carolina and the nation; Kidsplosure, showcasing multiple interactive educational...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
Fayetteville St.
, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Website »

More information

The Triangle's annual agricultural festival showcases animals, home grown food, family entertainment, music, antique farm equipment, carnival rides and more. Gate admission and parking are...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a day-long event created by local teen girls for local teen girls that features demonstrations and vendors, and successful and powerful women from the community who can show girls the...

Cost: Free with advance registration

Where:
Hilton Raleigh
3415 Wake Forest Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Girls World Expo
Contact Name: Valerie Moore
Website »

More information

Celebrate our community and all things spring, with flowers, gardens, butterflies, shows, arts, crafts, treats and more to delight all ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Chapel Hill
140 W. Franklin St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Website »

More information

It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (ages 6-under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Get in the driver's seat with this hands-on experience with vehicles of all kinds. Children will be allowed to touch, climb on and ask questions about their favorite vehicles in a safe,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Park
2200 Laura Duncan Rd.
Apex, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Town of Apex
Telephone: 919-249-3507
Contact Name: Allie Prelaske
Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 2-5 enjoy movement and mindfulness. Learn basic yoga elements through age-appropriate breath-work techniques, games, storytelling, and creative visualization.

Cost: $15 or use your package/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 5-13. Homeschool Yoga is a one-hour class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness. Weave in art and journaling before or after...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »

More information

The flowers are in full bloom at the park! Create a craft bursting with color inspired by nature. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult accompaniment...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Ages 5-13 enjoy a one-hour yoga class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness, encourage the development of communication and social...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with disabilities make New Orleans creole. Register online. Choose course #120057.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Come celebrate Turtle Day by stopping by the park’s visitor’s center to learn some cool facts about North Carolina’s turtles! Meet our live park ambassador – Frankie the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Making a kite is the perfect fun spring project! Learn about the forces that make kites fly and listen to the story of Benjamin Franklin and his kite (did he really draw electricity from lightning...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy the classic story as presented by Rags to Riches Theatre for Young Audiences. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
Carrboro, NC  27510


Website »

More information

Connect with your baby, other parents and yourself during this adult-focused postpartum yoga class. Recommended for babies newborn to walking. Take a mat, a blanket for your little one, and...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
Website »

More information

Discover the joy of cooking with storybook characters. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online. Choose course #120084.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Come celebrate Turtle Day by stopping by the park’s visitor’s center to learn some cool facts about North Carolina’s turtles! Meet our live park ambassador – Frankie the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Help monitor and keep bluebird and wood duck boxes clean throughout our park, create or place additional habitat boxes and assist with other natural resource tasks. Come prepared to learn and work...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

This after-school class for kids in grades 3-5 offers fun learning yoga poses and mindfulness techniques to reduce stress. Grades 3-5. 

Cost: $15/class, or use your class pass/membership.

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt. Carmel Church Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Website »

More information

Bring your curiosity and creativity and explore a variety of art media. Grades 3-5. 

Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Enjoy a family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy karaoke. Take a dish to share. Register online. Choose course #121043.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Come celebrate Turtle Day by stopping by the park’s visitor’s center to learn some cool facts about North Carolina’s turtles! Meet our live park ambassador – Frankie the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy Raleigh’s premier Japanese animation and culture convention. Concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise, unique artwork and more highlight the event. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $65/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Relax in the courtyard with live music and food. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Edison Johnson Community Center
500 W. Murray Ave.
Durham, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Each Fourth Friday of the month join us for a night of art, film, food and fun. This is free and open to the public.​

Cost: Free

Where:
SummerStage
800 Taylor St
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Hi-Wire Brewing and abc11

More information

Enjoy Raleigh’s premier Japanese animation and culture convention. Concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise, unique artwork and more highlight the event. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $65/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Get inspired by the park's natural beauty and contribute to a community art project celebrating the season of flowers. Head to the Finley Center to make a few paper flowers and help to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Dogs, face painting, animal tattoos, a bounce house, dog contests and canine demonstrations, handmade bandannas, photo booths and local vendors highlight this annual festival to benefit the...

Cost: $15-$30

Where:
Duke University East Campus
Durham, NC


Website »

More information

One Saturday of the month join us for our family fun series. This is free and open to the public. Here is what you can expect: 10am-12pm: Come to the plaza for family-friendly activities for...

Cost: Free

Where:
SummerStage
800 Taylor St
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Hi-Wire Brewing, abc11, and Offline

More information

Take a walk in the woods and discover the animals and plants that call our park home. Help collect data for our Natural Resource Inventory Database and other citizen science projects. All...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (ages 6-under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Stop by our FREE discovery table to learn about songbirds! Registration is not required. The display table is located at the Upper Playground.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants use GPS coordinates to track down hidden “caches.” Learn what geocaching is all about and head out to find a real geocache in the park....

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-2117
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Enjoy Raleigh’s premier Japanese animation and culture convention. Concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise, unique artwork and more highlight the event. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $65/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.