Sports for Kids with Disabilities, Special Needs in Southeast Michigan

In search of adaptive sports programs for a child with physical or developmental disabilities? Here are local special needs sports programs to check into.

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Your child doesn’t have to sit on the sidelines just because they have a disability or a special need. Whether your child with Down syndrome is itching to swim or your little one who uses a wheelchair would love to play basketball, southeast Michigan organizations offer adaptive sports and special needs sports programs for those with a range of abilities. Take a look at the offerings to see which organizations will be a fit for your kid.

Canton Leisure Services Inclusive Recreation

  • Address: 46000 Summit Parkway, Canton
  • Phone: 734-394-5367
  • Ages: Ranges based on program; Leisure Club Programs ages 15-plus.
  • Cost: Varies based on program; open to residents outside Plymouth-Canton, too.

Whether your child has a developmental or physical disability, they’re welcome to get active with the therapeutic recreation programs. Leisure Club Programing (typically running September-May) includes a non-competitive bowling league, a Fit Club, karate and a “Moves and Grooves” dance class to learn social dances (kids can work on a routine). Plus, there’s an adaptive sports class to teach participants how to play everyday sports with their abilities. Sign up for adaptive swim lessons during the winter season for ages 4 and up. In summer, kids 8-14 can sign up for Camp A.B.L.E.

Downriver Panthers

  • Address: Various venues throughout downriver community
  • Phone: 734-771-6541 (ask for Patrick)
  • Ages: No age requirement
  • Cost: Free (except for bowling)

This downriver team offers sports for the physically disabled and those with special needs, including swimming, bowling, cycling and baseball.

Friendship Circle

  • Address: 6892 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield
  • Phone: 248-788-7878, ext. 231 (ask for Catie) or catie@friendshipcircle.com
  • Ages: 6-plus/sports programing
  • Cost: Vary by program and amount of dates program is meeting. Some start around $50/members, $75/nonmembers

Sports clinics mirror school year, usually running October-May. These clinics help kids develop skills in a number of sports, including soccer, basketball and Krav Maga. During the summer, sign up for Friendship Circle’s softball league coordinated with Miracle League of Michigan with activities out of Southfield. Programs here are open to all needs and abilities.

GUTS – Ground Up Training System

  • Address: 1008 Orchard St., Ferndale
  • Phone: 248-415-5535
  • Ages: 4-plus
  • Cost: Varies but generally $8-$20 per class

This facility offers year-round fitness, athletic and sports programs for children, teenagers and adults with special needs. Current options include Zumba, martial arts, yoga, Autism Movement Therapy, Sensations Dance and one-on-one strength and conditioning. Class trials are free and sponsorships are available for families in need.

Inclusively Fit

  • Address: 37980 Commerce Drive, Sterling Heights
  • Phone: 586-850-5004
  • Ages: 5-plus
  • Cost: Ranges $45-$55/hour for one-on-one training, $30-$45/hour buddy workouts (one trainer-two clients)

As the name states, this is an inclusive facility where everybody is welcome, no matter the physical or cognitive disability. Find plenty of exercise and fitness opportunities at this gym especially for kids and adults with special needs. Participate in one-on-one physical fitness with a trainer and learn how to walk the treadmill, do pushups and sit-ups, use adaptive machinery and more. Or, clients can enjoy the full basketball court or obstacle course. After-school tutoring is also available.

Independence Township Parks, Recreation and Seniors

  • Address: Locations vary throughout Clarkston
  • Phone: 248-625-8223 or dwescott@indetwp.com
  • Ages: 7-14
  • Cost: On average $200

Kids from the township or outside are welcome to participate in a range of “buddy” sports, which include kids 7-17 who sign up to help kids with various disabilities play sports. At different times throughout the year, sign up for therapeutic recreation Buddy Basketball, TR Buddy Soccer and in the summer, TR Buddy Baseball. Many participants have cognitive disabilities with or without physical limitations, though anybody with any type of special need is welcome.

Jewish Community Center of Metro Detroit Special Needs Fitness Classes

  • Address: 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield
  • Phone: 248-661-1000
  • Ages: 15-30
  • Cost: For fitness class: $40/member, $50/nonmember, $10/single class (member), $12/single class (nonmember)

Have a teen or young adult with special needs looking to get active? Join a six-week fitness class, which welcomes those of all special needs. Activities range from aqua aerobics, yoga, Zumba and more. Check to see when the next session begins.

Michigan Adaptive Sports

  • Address: Pontiac Lake Recreation Area in summer, Pine Knob in winter
  • Phone: Contact via email at michiganadaptivesports@gmail.com
  • Ages: 5-plus
  • Cost: $25/lesson

This Michigan chapter of Disabled Sports USA has adaptive downhill skiing and snowboarding in the winter and adaptive water skiing and kayaking clinics in summer for those with a variety of physical and intellectual disabilities. Many participants’ disabilities range from amputation and paralysis to cerebral palsy, head injuries and developmental disabilities, the site notes.

Michigan Challengers Wheelchair Basketball

  • Address: Carleton Middle School, 8900 15 Mile Road, Sterling Heights and Beech Woods Recreation Center, 22200 Beech Road, Southfield
  • Phone: 248-796-4673 or 586-212-6196
  • Ages: 5-18 (enrolled in elementary, middle or high school)
  • Cost: $25/registration fee, additional fees for transportation and lodging when traveling to competitions and conferences locally, regionally and nationally

Sign your kid up to play basketball with this local group. Practices are 7-9 p.m. Mondays at the Macomb County location and third Wednesdays at the Oakland County spot. Prep team or varsity team available – both co-ed. While athletes don’t need to use a wheelchair daily, they must have a disability that affects their lower extremities, organizers note.

Oakland County Adaptive Recreation

  • Address: Drop-in program at Boys and Girls Club of Oakland & Macomb Counties, 1545 E. Lincoln Ave., Royal Oak
  • Phone: 248-424-7077
  • Ages: 6-18
  • Cost: Free

During the school year, starting in October and running through winter, kids with any abilities can attend a drop-in open gym for an hour and a half on Saturday mornings at the Boys and Girls Club in Royal Oak. Volunteers and staff oversee the open gym, and there’s a range of activities and sports.

OUCARES Recreation Programs

  • Address: OUCARES at Oakland University, 425C Pawley Hall, Rochester
  • Phone: 248-370-2424 or email oucares@oakland.edu
  • Ages: Programs for ages 4 through adult
  • Cost: Varies based on program; ranges $50-$130 and scholarships are available

Kids anywhere on the autism spectrum along with their friends and siblings can participate in these sports programs, which throughout the year include indoor and outdoor soccer, Judo, basketball, volleyball, bowling, swimming, yoga, and Snagolf – also known as “starting new at golf,” a modified version for kids who need more assistance.

Sterling Heights Special Recreation

  • Address: Various locations in Sterling Heights
  • Phone: 586-446-2700
  • Ages: Vary based on activity
  • Cost: Vary based on program and whether resident or nonresident. Contact for details

Find a plethora of activities for kids with various disabilities, such as baseball, bowling, soccer, cheerleading, dance – including for kids in wheelchairs – and more. Check online for the latest newsletter detailing programming.

Special Olympics Michigan – Southeast Region

  • Address: Various counties across southeast Michigan
  • Phone: 248-688-9603 (southeast region office)
  • Ages: 2-7/Young Athletes Program, Special Olympics begins at ages 8-plus
  • Cost: Free

Find a multitude of sports offerings through Special Olympics Michigan, including skiing, figure skating, snowboarding, basketball, cycling, gymnastics, golf, volleyball and many more. Open to kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as cognitive delays. No prior experience necessary. Reach out to the Special Olympics Michigan – Southeast Region to get hooked up with your county’s specific contact. Learn more on the Be an Athlete page.

The Miracle League of Michigan

  • Address: Miracle Field, Southfield Civic Center, 26000 Evergreen Road
  • Phone: 248-506-4604
  • Ages: Noncompetitive and competitive leagues for kids and young adults ranging 4-25 years old
  • Cost: $75/10-game baseball season (includes major league jersey, hat and trophy), $50-$75/other programs

This Easter Seals Michigan program welcomes kids with any disability to play one game per week – no experience necessary. With the help of “buddies,” kids can learn the game and have an opportunity to bat, run bases and score. Games are two innings and last an hour – plus the participants use safety equipment. Other programs through Miracle League of Michigan include dance, soccer and football in the fall and bowling the first week of January. Programs run six to eight weeks.

Wheelchair Hockey League

  • Address: Games at Canfield Alkali Arena, 2100 Kinloch St., Dearborn Heights
  • Phone: 519-250-7274
  • Ages: 10-65-plus
  • Cost: $125/season

Sign up to play adaptive wheelchair floor hockey from October-May. Kids with a range of disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, spina bifida, arthrogryposis, osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bones) can join in.

YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit Adaptive Fitness Programing

  • Locations:
  • Phone: 248-644-9036 (Birmingham), 734-261-2161 (Livonia)
  • Ages: Varies by program; opportunities available for kids ages 3-plus
  • Cost: Varies based on members or nonmembers

Find an adaptive fitness program with non-competitive games in basketball, kickball, T-Ball, tennis and more at the Birmingham Family YMCA and Livonia Family YMCA. Adaptive swim lessons also available at Birmingham Family YMCA and Macomb Family YMCA. Also, adaptive personal training is available to help establish healthy habits. Offerings may vary by location; contact your local YMCA for details on offerings.

Did we miss any local organizations? Let us know in the comments so we can add them to our list!

This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for 2017 by Shelby Stewart.

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