Kids with Special Needs Thrive in Arlington, Virginia

Working with kids and families in Arlington, Virginia is nothing short of a blessing. Our community has the best of both worlds: the excitement of a major metropolis and the charm of modern Americana. And for families with special needs, living in Arlington comes with some of the best resources and options in the country.

Here are 5 reasons why kids with special needs thrive in Arlington, VA:

1. Arlington schools are nationally recognized for their general and special education programs.

Arlington parents can boast that their children attend top-ranked elementary, middle, and high schools. Arlington Public Schools (APS) are situated in one of the wealthiest counties in the country and offer nationally recognized teachers, facilities, and extracurriculars. In order to find the best fit, students can also apply to attend a district school outside of their neighborhood.

APS has specialized autism programs for students in Pre-K through high school. At APS, kids have access to group and individual academic instruction, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling, social skills instruction, executive functioning instruction, assistive technology, and transition to adulthood services. Our providers’ experiences coordinating care between home and school have been overwhelmingly positive.

There are also a variety of private options nearby. Children with intellectual disabilities or behavioral challenges may benefit from programs at Phillips School, Ivymount School, Aurora School, or Alternative Paths Training School. Children with learning challenges may benefit from programs at The Auburn School, The Lab School, Oakwood School, or Commonwealth Academy.

After high school, Arlington citizens can attend college programs such as George Mason University’s MASI and Mason LIFE programs. Or they can attend vocational and life skills programs through Phillips Programs, St. Coletta of Greater Washington, or Arlington Department of Human Services.

2. Arlington Parks and Recreation programs make sure everyone gets a chance to play.

Like its public schools, Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation is nationally recognized. Arlington has the best public parks our providers have ever seen. Our favorites are the playgrounds at Rocky Run and Fairlington Park, the sprayground at Virginia Highlands Park, and the sports fields at Quincy Park. Kids also love to people-watch from the treehouse at Glencarlyn Park and dog-watch at the Shirlington Dog Park.

Arlington Parks and Recreation also operates 13 community centers. Kids and adults can take part in group activities and classes that range from chess to gymnastics to basketball to sewing. There are also parenting and preschool programs for both typically-developing and special needs children. Families with lower incomes qualify for reduced fees and tuition. And best of all, kids with disabilities have access to both regular programming and adapted sports programs; the county provides aides to children who need help participating alongside their peers.

3. Arlington families can find new activities and things to see each time they leave the house.

Arlington County is situated right across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. But in the midst of traffic jams and partisan conflict, Arlington offers its citizens respite in nature, community, and culture. Arlington has many distinct neighborhoods and you can experience many of them on the same walk. Our favorite routes include the loop around Shirlington Village, Wilson Boulevard from Ballston to Rosslyn, and the path alongside the National Cemetery, Marine Corps Memorial, and Netherlands Carillon. You can also run or ride bikes along the Custis, Mount Vernon, Four Mile Run, and W & OD trails.

But Arlington families do not have to go far to have fun. Because Arlington is small in size, children’s school friends often live right down the street. Passing through the neighborhoods, you will see kids playing together in their yards, walking hand-in-hand to the corner store, or meeting at their neighborhood libraries. And these Arlington libraries offer an impressive program of events, including social opportunities for preschoolers, kids, and teenagers.

4. Arlington local business are loved by kids and adults of all abilities.

Sometimes, our providers get to accompany families on community outings. Our role is usually to help kids gain independence, but we also learn a lot about kid-approved local businesses. Arlington kids love the cupcakes at Bakeshop and donuts at Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe. Their parents love the coffee at Northside Social or Buzz Bakeshop and miss the coffee from Java Shack (RIP). Kids and adults can get their homework done and have a treat at Idido’s Coffee and Social House, and then head to Burritos Bros and sit outside for dinner. Other favorite kid-friendly restaurants include Buuz Thai, Quarterdeck, the Italian Store, Weenie Beenie, and the food court at Ballston Quarter (where everyone can find something they want).

As for activities, families love watching an outdoor movie at the Market Common, skating at the Capitals Iceplex, and seeing a show at Signature Theatre. Sensory-seekers love the nearby trampoline parks, Ocean Dunes Waterpark, watching animals at the National Zoo, and hearing music at the Kennedy Center’s free Millennium Stage.

Several nearby businesses also employ adults who have developmental and intellectual disabilities: Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates, Sunflower Bakery, and That’s a Wrap Deli. Please tell us if you know of others!

Provider with Child - Patterson Behavior Services

5. Arlington families have access to a huge variety of medical and therapeutic treatment options.

When it comes to their child’s treatment, Arlington families have many choices! Families seeking a consultation or diagnostic assessment can contact Kennedy Krieger Institute, Children’s National Hospital, Inova, or one of the local developmental pediatricians in private practice. Military families can also find answers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Arlington is home to both big box and local therapeutic services providing speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, feeding therapy, academic tutoring, mental health counseling, early intervention, parent coaching, educational advocacy, and psychiatry (to name a few). However, sometimes too many choices can be overwhelming.

If you need help figuring out an action plan for your loved one, please complete our intake form. You will receive a response from a licensed professional within one business day. We can provide suggestions for next steps, including information about our behavioral therapy and consultation programs. We might be biased, but we believe that our level of commitment to Arlington families is hard to beat!

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