Winter Indoor Fun for Children with Special Needs

Below-zero temperatures and piles of snow are enough to make anyone feel a bit claustrophobic this time of year. Finding indoor spaces for children who are on the autism spectrum or have other special needs to burn off excess energy without becoming overstimulated can be a challenge. Fortunately, the Indianapolis area has an array of indoor options available.


I Can We Can Pediatric Therapy provides one-on-one and small-group gymnastic-based occupational and physical therapy for children with special needs at facilities across the metro area, offering daytime, evening and Saturday hours. “The benefits of moving therapy to a gymnastics setting includes the use of new equipment and ways of movement not readily practiced in daily living, which helps keep children actively engaged,” says founder and CEO Kelly Donley. Check the website for locations and days/times, plus details of monthly Parents Night Out events. (

Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park in Fishers hosts Special Needs Time on the second Monday of each month at 6 pm. The facility’s music is turned down, and an adult can jump with their child at no cost. Children’s tickets are $8. (

The Flip Zone in Plainfield offers GymStars, a free gymnastic class for children with autism ages 3 to 12, on Saturdays from 9-9:45 am. Instructors focus on basic gymnastic skills while promoting sensory integration, eye contact and coordination. (

Wright’s FUNdamentals Gymnastics in Greenwood hosts a parent/child class called Special Forces on Wednesdays from 5-5:50 pm. for children with special needs ages 3 to 8. “It’s an amazing class,” says Katie Friedericks, mom to a 3-year-old son with autism. “The kids can go at their own pace, and there is lots of free time built in.” Monthly tuition covers the class and an open gym session each week. (

InterActive Gym in Zionsville hosts group gymnastics classes for children with special needs upon request. The one-hour sessions cost $10 per child with a minimum of five children and a maximum of 30 per group. Private lessons are also available. Contact Special Events Director Gen Speitel at 317-733-3000 Ext. 1135 or [email protected]. (


I Can We Can Pediatric Therapy just launched a low-cost adaptive swim program focused on swim safety and socialization in one-on-one and small-group settings. The organization also offers aquatic-based occupational and physical therapy at facilities including the Jewish Community Center of Indianapolis, the Community Healthplex Sports Club and the Greenwood Family YMCA. (

The Monon Community Center in Carmel offers one-on-one and semi-private adaptive swimming lessons. “They teach my typical and my special needs child together, which saves time,” says Carmel mom Kathy Shreve. “My typical child really helps my special needs child, and they are learning together.” To schedule an assessment, contact MCC Inclusion Supervisor Michelle Yadon at 317-573-5245 or [email protected]. (

Several YMCA of Greater Indianapolis branches offer one-on-one and group adapted swimming lessons. The Baxter YMCA on the south side hosts WAVES, or Water Access for Very Exceptional Swimmers, a swim class aimed at helping those with special needs be comfortable in the water. Search programs by branch. (

InterActive Gym in Zionsville offers parent/child group swim classes upon request. The lessons are 30 minutes if there are fewer than 10 children or 45 minutes if there are 10-20 children. The cost is $15 per child. Contact Shelby or Jessica at [email protected].


For more open-ended play, there’s The Park Indoor Playground at Traders Point Christian Church, just off Interstate 65 in Whitestown. Along with a soaring play structure, rock climbing wall and basketball areas, the space also features a “Quiet Zone” for children with special needs, complete with a sensory swing. There is no entry fee. (

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis offers printable Sensory Stories with pictures and descriptions of several exhibits, giving recommendations for quiet spaces – such as beneath the “Fireworks of Glass” or the Dinosaur Art Gallery – as well as those that include loud sounds and bright lights. Download:

The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis offers a slew of adapted programs catered to children with special needs. At the Baxter YMCA on the south side, there are winter programs for dance, sensory motor skills and martial arts. Search adapted programs by branch. (

Bundle up and head to one of these great locations around town for a little exercise and fun this winter!

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