Activities in Des Moines 4 Kids with Special Needs

Activities in Des Moines 4 Kids with Special Needs

Many kids’ schedules are packed with extracurriculars, but for children with special needs, it can be challenging to find programs they can participate in fully. We’ve rounded up some adapted classes and activities in the Des Moines area that accommodate a variety of learning styles, so that kids with special needs—be they physical, social, or emotional—can partake in the same enriching fun as their peers.

Adaptive Sports Iowa

1421 S. Bell Avenue Ste. 104 • Ames, Iowa 50010 • (888) 777-8881 x 115 (515) 292-3251 x 115

Adaptive Sports Iowa provides sports opportunities for Iowans with physical disabilities. They offer a number of sports programs, have introduced adaptive sports in the Iowa Games and sponsor a RAGBRAI cycling team. Sports programs currently offered are Beep Baseball, Goalball, Sled Hockey and Wheelchair Basketball.  They also assist local middle and high school athletes by providing equipment, so they can participate in track and field events. In addition, they will work closely with the school coaching staff so that the athlete’s experience is a positive and meaningful one.

Adventures in Social Drama

9121 Northwest Windsor Drive • Johnston, IA, United States • (515) 306-0030

Adventures in Social Drama offers drama classes to individuals with autism to enhance their social and communication skills. They also address problematic social issues through theatre-based role-play workshops to promote artistic expression and generate awareness of a wide variety of social issues. Adventrues in Social Drama offers Special Needs Classes, Dramatic Social Skills Exploration, Improvisational Classes and Small Group Social Skills classes. Check their website often for new classes and to register.

Art Spectrums at the Des Moines Art Center

4700 Grand Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50312 • (515) 277-4405

Art Spectrums is a FREE program offered by the Des Moines Art Center for children and teens on the autism spectrum. Art Spectrums students are introduced to the unique environments of the museum and art studio. Participants look at artwork and discuss observations. Museum artwork serves as the inspiration for a related activity in the studio. These sensory experiences can aid in the development of cognition, communication, and motor skills. Classes are offered the third Sunday of the month at 12:00 noon and 2:00 pm.  Registration is required.

Community Support Activists Momentum Art Program

6000 Aurora Avenue Suite B • Des Moines, IA 50322 • (515) 883-1776

CSA believes in the transformative power of art. Art is a tool that can build confidence, inspire hope, and develop resilience. Often individuals with disabilities see art as inaccessible to them due to a lack of money for art supplies, knowledge or confidence, or the lack of a safe space to create. Momentum provides free art opportunities to underserved populations that include an annual juried art competition and exhibition as well as art workshops offered throughout the year. In addition, Momentum offers studio space and mentorship programs.

Courage League Sports

4405 121st Street Urbandale, IA 50323 • (515) 421-4021 and 110 N. Ankeny Boulevard Suite 300A • Ankeny, IA 50023

Courage League Sports is a non-profit adaptive sports and recreational facility that offers year-round programming for children and adults who aren’t able to go full speed due to a physical, cognitive or emotional disability. By adapting the pace, equipment, or nature of an activity, Courage League can provide a safe and accessible environment where participants can go at their own speed. They offer activities ranging from sports like volleyball, soccer and basketball to arts related activities like music, drama and painting classes.  Visit their website for a complete list of programs, camps and clinics and to register.

Kids in Harmony, LLC

Des Moines, IA • (515) 494-4618

Kids in Harmony offers a wide variety of innovative and interactive music therapy group sessions for children of all ages and abilities. Groups are strength-based, meaning that therapists focus on the participants’ strengths and learning styles to create an enjoyable learning experience that helps children reach individualized goals within the group setting. Classes take place at preschools, public and private K-12 schools, daycares, and more. Contact Kids in Harmony for more information.

Menagerie Stables

4175 NE 64th Street • Altoona, Iowa 50023 • (515) 577-8038

Menagerie Stables is dedicated to improving the wellbeing of children and adults living with physical, cognitive, and/or emotional disabilities through the benefits of equine-assisted activities. Therapeutic riding lessons are offered during the spring, summer, and fall. Lessons are staffed by certified instructors. Give them a call to find out more.

Sensory Friendly Shows at the Des Moines Civic Center

221 Walnut Street • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 246-2300

Des Moines Performing Arts hosts a sensory-friendly show as part of their Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Family Series. The 10:00 am performance of “The Ugly Duckling” on November 3, 2018 and the 11:00 am performance of “Underneath the Magical Moon” on March 6, 2019 will be sensory-friendly performances.

Sensory Friendly Hours at the Science Center of Iowa

401 W Martin Luther King Jr Parkway • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 274-6868

Sensory Friendly Hours provide a quieter, less crowded SCI experience for families with children on the autism spectrum.  Families will enjoy exploring the Science Center of Iowa with the help of Sensory Guide signage, which indicates audio, visual and activity stimuli. Sensory Friendly Hours are the first Saturday of the month from 8:30–10:00 am, October through May. Admission is FREE, and no advance tickets are required. Simply check in at the Box Office when you arrive!

A Special Time Just For You at Get Air

3799 86th Street • Urbandale, IA 50322 • (515) 528-7549

Get Air offers a dedicated time just for jumpers with special needs. Music is played at a lower volume and the park’s atmosphere is calmer. One parent or guardian can support jumpers on the trampoline for free. Siblings of jumpers are welcome to jump for the same price, but should be more careful during this time. A Special Time Just For You is on Saturdays from 8:00 to 10:00 am and is $13 Big Air or $8 Little Air (Under 46″).

Spectrum Stories at the Des Moines Playhouse

831 42nd Street • Des Moines, IA 50312 • (515) 277-6261

Open to any student, Spectrum Stories is specifically designed to provide drama experiences that best support the development of pretend play, social interaction, and non-verbal communication. Spectrum Stories uses story, music, and art to bring imagination to life! Pre-registration online at is encouraged but drop-ins are also welcome.  The classes are offered monthly on Saturdays from 1:30 to 2:30 pm.  $5.00 per session (payable by check or cash at the door).

Spirit Taekwondo

Iowa Center for Higher Education Activities Center • 2880 Bell Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50321 • (515) 202-5289

Spirit Taekwondo provides master instruction and family-oriented service with a view toward the overall health and well-being of every student. Their philosophy ensures that learning will take place in a safe, nurturing environment. Modifications have been made in their program so a student with special needs can succeed and be empowered in life. Master Ratekin is a Certified Para-Taekwondo Instructor with the World Para-Taekwondo Instructor’s Association and member of the Adaptive Martial Arts Association. Their Therapeutic/Special Needs program is offered on Mondays and Thursdays at 5:00 and 5:30 pm.  Visit their website to register.



Know of any events or activities happening for special kids in Des Moines? Let us know below so we can share the love!


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