The BEST After School Programs for Kids with Special Needs in New Jersey


The school year is fast approaching and when you have a child with special needs, finding an appropriate after school program can be super challenging.

After school programs available for special needs in New Jersey run the gamut from social skills groups to theatre classes to karate and dance. 

In addition to socialization, many parents seek out quality after school programs in lieu of child care for their child with special needs. "It is hard to find a caregiver who understands how to deal with a special needs child" said one parent, "I would rather put my son in a quality after school program where I know he won't be stuck in front of the tv. I want my child to spend those hours after school engaging with other children, having fun and possibly learning a new skill."

As an added bonus, many after school programs for special needs consist of a "social thinking" curriculum where children learn appropriate social behaviors, including interacting with others, rules of conversation and other integral social components.

We've combed the state for the best programs and here (in no particular order) are a few of our top picks for the best after school programs for kids with special needs in New Jersey.




Before Jaime Conroy was a mom, she worked in theater as both a lighting designer and a stage manager. Jaime met her husband, Jim, an actor, when they were both studying theater in college. Knowing how little was out there in the world for kids who struggle with social skills and learning disabilities, both extra-curricular activities and the arts, Jaime came up with the idea for Step Right Up Studio. 

Working with special education professionals, industry professionals, along with speech and occupational therapists Jaime has created classes for children with special needs that will have the most impact. Step Right Up's classes allow children to succeed at their own pace, in their own way, with proper support.

Children with ADD, ADHD, High-functioning Autism, Asperger’s, Sensory Processing Disorder, Executive Functioning Disorder, as well as other social disorders can feel right at home at Step Right Up. Our goal is to help children reach their full potential. We want to provide a safe, nurturing space where kids can strive to be the best versions of themselves, and express themselves freely.

Step Right Up Studio offers Social Skills, Voiceovers, Stand Up Comedy, Creative Movement, Creative Writing, Playwriting, and more for kids of all strengths and abilities.




CulinaryAcademy360 offers a comprehensive culinary vocational training and life skills programs in an environment and space modeled after a work or home setting in order to facilitate generalization of skills.

Participants gain the knowledge and experience necessary to develop essential life skills, become more independent, eat healthy, practice vocational skills, and explore related employment opportunities. Participants engage in hands-on culinary education in the areas of menu planning, shopping for nutritionally balanced food, food prep, serving, food/kitchen safety, cooking and clean up, as well as collaboration in the kitchen. Culinary related math skills and culinary history are imbedded as part of the class curriculum.

All culinary creations are made from scratch with a focus on health eating habits and broadening participants palates. When available, herbs and vegetables grown in the Spectrum360 greenhouse are used in food preparation, further developing the understanding of the relationship between growing and consuming produce.

For more information about classes, see our NeedQuest profile or contact Director, Chef Michael Matthews.




While Jammin' Jenn Music Therapy isn't specifically an after school program, Jenn sees kids after school, on the weekends, at events, on the street, basically anywhere she sees a kid in need she's there with her guitar. She's magical, like the Mary Poppins of music therapy.  We simply can't make a list of after school programs without recommending Jennifer Pacht-Goodman for music therapy. Yeah, she's that good.

Jammin’ Jenn Music Therapy is one of the premier providers of Music Therapy in New Jersey for a reason. With a practice expanding into Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, Jenn utilizes the power of music as a medium, specializing in helping special needs children and adults, especially those on the autism spectrum.

Her music therapy mission? Capture the power of music and help special needs individuals rise to their potential. Deliver music to special needs individuals with passion, skill, and experience. Conduct not good, not great, but outstanding music therapy. Show every individual and their family that she works with, her sincere interest in their well-being and best interest.

Does she have a waiting list? Yep. Should you get on it? Yes and yes. Some things are worth waiting for and Jenn is one of them. 




We've been trying to get Game U to join NeedQuest for about, um...two years now with no luck. But you know what? We're gonna take the high road and recommend them here because we think what they are doing is just that great for kids with special needs. Plus we know eventually they'll feel the love and join our community - "ONE OF US, ONE OF US..."

GAME-U is a unique program designed by game industry professionals that teaches students of all abilities how to design and build their own video games. Students learn game design, coding and robotics with their STEM-based curriculum.

Their curriculum is taught using project-based learning techniques, which ensures that students are learning the skills necessary for a career path. As part of their game development training, students learn the fundamentals of coding, using different languages such as C#, Javascript and C++.

We've specifically been stalking Brad Cohen who is the V.P. of the Accelerate program. The Accelerate class is a unique program designed by game industry professionals that teaches students of all abilities, including those with special needs, how to design and build their own video games! If you know Brad, tell him we're big fans. In the meantime, check out Game U for their after school gaming classes for your child with special needs. 




Arlene Rubin of Good Talking People LLC has been a speech therapist for a long time. She knows that children and adults with special needs need much more than just speech therapy, they need a SOCIAL THINKING CURRICULUM which is why Good Talking People incorporates this science-based research into every program they offer.

Good Talking People provides comprehensive diagnositic and therapuetic services for children through adults presenting with speech, language, communication, literacy, social skills, emotional regulation, executive functioning and socially based transition programs.  They also provide therapeutic recreational programs, including A Social Gathering for Kids, Teens, and Adults 18+.

If you live in Bergen County, call Good Talking People to see what they have to offer for after school this year. You might be surprised to find they have the perfect program for your child or adult with special needs.

Want your favorite after school program to be featured in our blog? Drop us a line at! We love to learn about new programs and resources!