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7 Fun Things to Do with Special Needs Kids in The Palm Beaches

Having a special needs child can make life more complex in many ways, but never quite as much as when you’re trying to plan fun things to do. Wheelchair concerns, sensory concerns, crowd concerns, meltdown concerns – everything must be thought out ahead of time before giving something a try. It’s easy to understand why it may be tempting for some parents to throw their hands up and call it a day; sometimes, it’s just easier.

Play Day
Photo by Renee Travis

With that in mind, we decided to do some of the heavy lifting for you. Families with special needs can find plenty to do in The Palm Beaches, and some of them are even free! Here is a quick punch list of fun things to try:        

Jupiter Flatwoods Trail

The Jupiter Flatwoods Trail was the first natural area in the state of Florida to become autism-friendly. The 0.5-mile trail that makes up the Jupiter Flatwoods Natural Area is paved, making it wheelchair accessible throughout the entire adventure. Offering visual and sensory scavenger hunts, “sensory walls” and swinging benches with plenty of nature to behold, it’s a fun, FREE thing to do on a lazy afternoon.

Florida Fishing Academy

The Florida Fishing Academy, located in Riviera Beach, now offers a few unique opportunities for wheelchair users to get out on the water. With a brand-new, custom-designed, 49-passenger, handicapped-accessible fishing boat and 11 specially designed SeaSpi snorkeling water scooters, passengers are both safe and in control of their water adventure. Similar to jet skis, the scooters also have an electric motor and a glass bottom and are driven with hand controls, similar to a motorized wheelchair. Simply look down to take in all the incredible beauty the ocean has to offer! The Florida Fishing Academy also has a wheelchair-accessible kayak launch on a floating dock located at the Riviera Beach Marina.

Outdoor Activities
Photo by Renee Travis

One must be part of a group to take advantage of the Florida Fishing Academy’s Wheelchair Accessible Boating Program, as it can’t be booked individually. If booked in cooperation with a school program, it is free for participants. If booked as a group assembled separately from a school program, the cost is $950–$1,400 depending on the length and type of excursion. Plan 3–6 hours for your water adventure.

Spanish River Park

Situated between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, Spanish River Park and its 94 acres have a lot to offer the adventure seeker. Make a day of it at this picturesque park. Pack a picnic and take it to their newly designed playground, which has a pour and play surface to make it easy for wheelchair users to navigate, including transfer stations that give access to the entire playground. Don’t miss the zipline, which was a huge hit with my crew! Want to head to the beach instead? The park features a tunnel under A1A that leads to the beach, with a mat placed partway on the sand to accommodate wheelchairs. Clean public bathrooms, camping, fishing and nature trails complete the Spanish River Park package. 

Please note there is a $20/car entry fee into the park.

Spanish River Park
Photo by Renee Travis

Sugar Sand Park Science Playground

Sugar Sand Park is one of the best-kept secrets in Boca Raton. As a mom, free is my middle name, and this park does not disappoint!

The playground itself is an impressive three-story structure, with a dizzying number of ways to have fun. The designers of the playground did an incredible job making it inclusive to everyone, to an extent I’ve never experienced before. A few new impressive features include wheelchair-accessible swings and slides, sensory walls, a quiet nook, an expanded climbing structure that allows access to people of all ages and abilities, ramps wide enough for wheelchairs, and a sign language alphabet board. 

Don’t forget to grab a carousel ride on your way out. It will be the best $1 you’ve spent all day!

Please note: If your child is prone to wander or get lost, this may not be the best option for you.

Swings and Slides
Photo by Renee Travis

Children’s Science Explorium at Sugar Sand Park

Also part of Sugar Sand Park, the Children’s Science Explorium is a wonderful spot for exploring both the indoors and outdoors. The first Saturday of each month offers visitors the opportunity to explore the museum in a sensory-modified setting with sound and lighting adjustments. My crew loved playing with the Magna tiles and the multiple science stations. From the gravity well to the magnet table, to the pneumatic tubes and beyond, they were delightfully entertained. And just a few steps outside brought us to the butterfly garden and nature trail, where we walked and talked about nature and the many things the kids saw along the way.

The Chocolate Spectrum

The Chocolate Spectrum, located in Jupiter, was started by a mom of an autistic child with a passion for chocolate. Now employing 15 differently abled individuals, chocolate has never been sweeter, both in taste and in purpose. 

Drop in to the Chocolate Spectrum any Saturday between 12 and 2 p.m. to make your very own delicious chocolate confections. Anyone aged 4 and up can join them in their kitchen. You only pay for what you make, and prices start at $12.

Adrenaline Entertainment Center

A wall-to-wall trampoline park located in Lake Worth, Adrenaline Entertainment Center is among our favorites. For a child who is sensory seeking and needs sensory input, trampolines are pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. Adrenaline offers high-energy fun through a variety of activities like dodgeball, rock-climbing, foam pits, battle beams and more.

And for the sensory sensitive child, Adrenaline Entertainment Center offers special Sensory Sundays on the first Sunday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. Reserved exclusively for those with special needs and children aged 6 and under, there is no music or flashing lights, which makes for a comfortable, calm and fun experience.