Events, Classes & More in CLT For Special Needs Youth and Teens

By Rachael Weiss ~ Publisher July 18, 2021

Are you looking for things to do in the Charlotte area with kids or adults who have developmental or physical disabilities? There are many fun activities and events around Charlotte for families that include a child with disabilities.

Several Mecklenburg, Union, York, and Lancaster County organizations and businesses offer events or special accommodations for kids and/or adults with disabilities on a regular, ongoing basis. We have also included local parks, trails, and other public places accessible to people with disabilities.

While the Charlotte-area Macaroni KID publishers do their best to keep up, please double-check with these local businesses or organizations to make sure event details haven't changed. 

Do you know of an upcoming event in Charlotte for families with functional needs? Email us details at and we will add them to our Macaroni KID events calendar! You can also enter it here.

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Charlotte-area organizations that offer events and activities for people with disabilities

NAMI Charlotte

The mission of NAMI Charlotte is to protect the dignity of and improve the quality of life for individuals and their families living with the effects of severe and persistent mental health conditions through advocacy, education, and support.


NCEI ~ North Carolina Early Intervention

The North Carolina Early Intervention Branch (NCEI) is a part of N.C. Division of Public Health. It is the lead agency for N.C. Infant-Toddler Program (ITP). The Infant-Toddler Program provides supports and services for families and their children, birth to three who have special needs. Research shows that this time period is critical. It offers a window of opportunity to make a positive difference in how a child develops and learns. Sixteen Children's Developmental Services Agencies (CDSAs) across North Carolina work with local service providers to help families help their children succeed.

MaxAbilities York County

MaxAbilities, also known as the York County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs.  Our Mission is to maximize abilities for individuals with special needs in York County by Teaching, Empowering, Advocating, and Mentoring.

SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs

The South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) is the state agency that plans, develops, coordinates and funds services for South Carolinians with the severe, lifelong disabilities of:

  • intellectual disability and related disabilities
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • traumatic brain injury
  • spinal cord injury and similar disability

GiGi's Playhouse

With over 50+ brick and mortar locations across the United States and Mexico and 200 inquiries to start new locations all over the world, GiGi’s Playhouse is the ONLY network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers. Every day, we provide FREE, life-changing therapeutic, educational, and career training programs for 30,000+ individuals of all ages. 

The Shepard's Lodge

The Sheperd’s Lodge (TSL) bridges the gap in services and supports for persons living with an Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDDs) / Autism, as they age out and exit the school system and are transitioning into adulthood and the workforce. To create and maintain Customizable, Affordable, Sustainable, and Safe living arrangements for the individuals we serve that promote independent living skills.

The Skills Group

The Skills Group of Charlotte is a non-profit focused on further educating teens and young adults with special needs. They offer activities and life-skill experiences to help them build confidence and allow them to interact with their communities in a meaningful and productive way.

The Arc of North Carolina

The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

Family First Community Services

The driving force behind the development of FFCS was a vision to create a model community-based program that would serve clients with mental health/substance abuse challenges in North Carolina. Since then, the company has expanded to provide a variety of services to children/adolescents/adults with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and/or Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities in Mecklenburg County and other catchment areas. 

Disability Rights & Resources

DRR is an all-encompassing organization that helps facilitate equity and independence for those who are living with or loving those with disabilities. From activism to activities, this community support has a lot to offer and has locations within all of our local communities. 

Wrights Law

Parents, educators, advocates, and attorneys come to Wrightslaw for reliable information about special education law and advocacy for children with disabilities.

Easter Seals

Easterseals UCP provides meaningful and exceptional services so that children, adults, and families living with disabilities, behavioral health challenges and autism can live, learn, work and play in their communities.

Autism Charlotte

What started from five parents gathering to advocate for their children has morphed into Autism Charlotte, a resource for families navigating the Autism Spectrum. It provides support, programs, services, advocacy, and presence where very little existed previously. 

Autism 360

Autism 360's mission is to enhance autism treatment, education, and hope for all children through our wrap-around-care model. Our goal is to prepare children with autism to excel in school, community, and home-based settings. At Autism 360 each child and family will have the tools and support they need to reach their fullest potential. 

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Charlotte-area businesses and museums with events and activities for people with disabilities

Spirited Sprout | Waxhaw

Spirited Sprout offers an indoor sensory-friendly play environment that includes, soft play, indoor playsets, therapy-grade swings/slides and much, more. Along our walls, you will find touches of STEM, Montessori, and Waldorf. We maximize our space (and wheelchair accessibility) by going vertical with many of our sensory toys! 

Main Street Children's Museum | Rock Hill

Within this wonderful setting, imagination and curiosity merge into creative play! Nursery rhymes such as Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater and Simple Simon have been transformed into life-size, three-dimensional play and learning spaces for young children from birth to six.

Discovery Place | Charlotte

Discovery Place is a private 501c(3) not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to inspiring exploration of science and the natural world through extraordinary exhibits and educational programs that inform, challenge, and engage audiences of all ages. With three locations from which to choose (uptown, Dilworth and Huntersville), there's plenty of fun for the whole family.

Sea Life | Concord

Families with children on the autism spectrum or children with sensory processing disorders are invited to the aquarium two hours before the public on Sundays for a sensory-friendly underwater journey.

Riverbanks Zoo | Columbia

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 2,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of the nation’s most beautiful and inspiring botanical gardens. The lush 170-acre site features dynamic natural habitat exhibits, scenic river views, spectacular valley overlooks, and significant historic landmarks. The pathways are large and easily navigated (when not crowded) by those with wheelchairs and other walking aids. 

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Charlotte-area sports opportunities for a person with disabilities


Matthews Athletic & Recreation Association (MARA) ~ Bambino Buddy-Ball

MARA Bambino Buddy-Ball is for boys, and girls, and young adults, ages 5-20*, living with special needs (mental and/or physical) that have the desire to play organized non-competitive baseball. Players are paired with MARA volunteers where they learn baseball skills and experience the thrill of team play and camaraderie in a safe, loving, and fun environment. Our program also helps to develop confidence and positive self-esteem! You can find more information here.

A Chance To Dance

When dance teacher Kim Smith was unable to find a program for her daughter Reagan who's on the autism spectrum, she combined her love of teaching dance and her determination to give all children the opportunity to express themselves artistically to bridge a gap. Through ACTD, an arts program created by her and inspired by Kim's daughter, she's created a home to give every child a Chance to Dance. You can find more information here.

Mecklenburg County Recreation ~ Therapeutic & Inclusive Recreation Services

Mecklenburg County offers programs from summer camps to adaptive sports. Here is a list of what is offered: 

  • Boccia
  • Goalball
  • Archery
  • ParaCanoe
  • Flag Football
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Lacrosse
  • Kickball
  • Cheerleading

 For more information about our adapted sports programs, contact Therapeutic and Inclusive Recreation Services at 980-314-1192 or TRinfo@MeckNC.Gov

Southtown Wake Park

Wakeboarding is traditionally thought of as a sport requiring a rider to be pulled by a boat. Cable wakeboarding allows a rider to be pulled by an overhead cable ski system over features. At Southtown Wake Park, riders will be able to participate in one of the world’s fastest-growing extreme sports. Because it is cable-run, Southtown is able to accommodate riders with different physical requirements and often welcomes riders with different disabilities. You can get more information here

The Adaptive Sports and Adventures Program (ASAP)

ASAP is designed to challenge individuals (youth and adults) with a physical disability by creating sport and recreational opportunities in order for individuals to develop an active lifestyle: one without limits or barriers. ASAP activities include, but may not be limited to: 

  • Athletics/ Track & Field
  • Basketball
  • Biking
  • Camp
  • Fishing
  • Handcycling
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Rugby
  • Sailing
  • Snow Skiing
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Water Skiing

For more information, you can visit the ASAP website here.

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte

The Lake Norman YMCA, in partnership with Carolinas Rehabilitation, provides an adaptive water skiing program for adults and children with disabilities. Through water skiing, participants gain the self-esteem and confidence that comes from being independent and away from the wheelchair. You can get more information here.

Xtreme Ice Center

The Xtreme Ice Center in Indian Trail offers sled hockey and both assisted and unassisted skating for athletes who are unable to skate in a traditional manner and would like to figure skate or play hockey. Click here for more information. 

The Arts and Science Council

ASC often offers classes and opportunities for children and young adults with special needs. You can contact them here for more information.

Drums 4 Life

4L has observed the therapeutic benefits of drumming for many individuals and groups over the years. Current research is now verifying the therapeutic effects of ancient rhythm techniques. Recent research reviews indicate that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system, and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self. D4L partners with Psychologists, Counselors, and Music Therapists to assess and report on the clinical needs and treatment of participants. D4L currently has a partnership with Queens University's Music Therapy Clinic in Charlotte, NC. Find more information here.

The Charlotte Rollin' Hornets

Does your special needs child love basketball? The mission of the Rollin’ Hornets is to promote independence for both children and adults with physical disabilities and provide opportunities to pursue active, healthy lifestyles in adaptive sports. Find out more here.

Safe Splash Swim Labs

We offer private swimming lessons for kiddos and adults with unique needs including special needs swimming lessons for children with autism, sensory struggles, ADHD, physical disabilities, and other challenges. We can help you reach your goal of teaching your child water safety skills and how to swim, but we also understand that being in the water has incredible calming and therapeutic benefits. We welcome you into our warm-water pools at SwimLabs Fort Mill purely for the therapeutic benefits, the feeling of weightlessness and relief from physical discomfort. Whatever your goal, being in the water can help improve balance, coordination, strength, and range of motion and it’s common for parents to notice a confidence and self-esteem boost as well. You can find more information here.

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Favorite accessible Charlotte-area, Union, and YoCo parks and trails 

Crooked Creek Park
5900 Oakwood Ln, Indian Trail, NC

With an adaptive playground as well as a traditional "woodland theme" playground, this park has trails and plenty to do for families with all abilities and challenges. There is also a splash pad that is fully fenced. 

Freedom Park
1908 East Boulevard, Charlotte, NC

Freedom Park offers trails, playgrounds, and athletic fields for all abilities and ages. While no play structure is truly adaptive, there are adaptive swings and ramps for easier access. 

Miracle Park (not yet opened!)
Rock Hill

Miracle Park is a project designed for people of ALL ages and abilities to play and work! It will be located in Rock Hill, SC, and will be the first of its kind in the US! It will also be the first park in the world to hold a Universal Design certification! Click here to see the site plans and progress!

Col. Francis Beatty Park
4330 Weddington Road | Charlotte

Several playgrounds and paved trails make this park a favorite among Charlotte's great park systems. There is also a pond for duck-sighting and fishing. 

Trailhead Park
7714 Tega Cay Dr, Tega Cay, SC 

Featuring trails and an inclusive playground this park in Tega Cay is relatively new and a crowd favorite.