Understanding the Puzzling Pieces of Autism

On Going ASD/Special Needs Programs

The information and resources contained on this web page are for educational and informational purposes only and are not considered to be a full endorsement from the Autism Society of Iowa.


Adventures in Social Drama – Des Moines, IA

  • Theatre for the child with autism at the Des Moines Playhouse.  Social skills and problem-solving can be improved using theatre games and role playing.
  • For more information or to register, contact Annie Mielke at (515) 306-0030, www.asdrama.org  or annie.mielke@asdrama.org


Apex Athletics Wild – Johnston, IA

  • A special athletes team for all ages (adults and kids). It is a cheerleading program for both girls and boys. There are “Cheer Peers” who individually help each athlete plus coaches. There is a monthly tuition of $25 but that includes the uniform cost! It is located at:  5750 NW Beaver Drive #3,  Johnston, Iowa, 50131. They perform at local competitions, and events. It is AN AMAZING opportunity with many great people. *All competition fees are free to all special athletes.  For more information, contact Peyton at peyton0119@live.com or (515) 276-9137.


The Arc of East Central Iowa


Art Spectrums – Des Moines Art Center – Des Moines, IA

  • The Des Moines Art Center’s Art Spectrums has expanded its free program to teens on the autism spectrum, ages 11 – 16 years old, to explore and make art.
  • Art Spectrums provides opportunities for children and teens with autism to exercise their creativity and build their self-esteem through sensory experiences that aid in the development of cognition, communication, and motor skills. Participants visit and discuss a work of art in the museum for inspiration and then make their own artwork in the studio.
  • For more information or to register, https://www.desmoinesartcenter.org/education/art-spectrums or contact Kara Fedje, museum educator, via email: kfedje@desmoinesartcenter.org or call: 515-271-0349.

ChildServe– Ames

  • Parents of young children affected by Autism often struggle to find services and support. That’s why ChildServe is bringing its Autism Day Health program to Ames.
  • ChildServe‘s Autism Day Health supports children through a program that combines therapy, nursing, early intervention, skill development, and more.  The program uses the STAR curriculum (Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research) to focus on language, functional routines, pre-academic skills, play and social concepts. 
  • This unique program offers services during the day Monday-Friday which gives parents the flexibility to work or attend school or take care of other responsibilities knowing their child’s special healthcare needs will be met.
  • ChildServe in Ames will open its Autism Day Health program this fall serving Medicaid-eligible children with a diagnosis of Autism ages two to five (start date for services will be September 5).
  • Providers and interested parents are encouraged to call or write ChildServe‘s Autism Program Manager Shawn Kolb at (515) 251-5551 or shawnko@childserve.org to learn more and to schedule a personalized tour.​


Climb Iowa – Grimes, IA

  • One Friday a month Climb Iowa will have all its adaptive climbing equipment and staff available for those that would like to take advantage of our adaptive climbing capabilities. Adaptive Climbing Fridays will go from 6-9pm, and the cost is $20 per climber. This includes all of your equipment and climb time!
  • Please RSVP by calling (515)986-2565 so that we can ensure we are fully staffed for these Fridays. If you know of anyone that would want to take advantage of the adaptive climbing program, please pass this information on to them.
  • To check out 2017 and 2018 availability and sign up to climb, click here!
  • For more information, click here: http://www.climbiowa.com/events/adaptive-climbing/


Courage League Sports – Ankeny, IA

  • Click here for upcoming Courage League- Ankeny programs!
  • Courage League Sports is a non-profit adaptive sports and recreational facility that offers year-round programming for children and adults who aren’t able to go full speed due to a physical, cognitive or emotional disability. By adapting the pace, equipment, or nature of an activity, Courage League can provide a safe and accessible environment where participants can go at their own speed.
  • Where:  100 N. Ankeny Blvd (next to Palmers Deli)
  • Phone: 515-421-4021 or http://www.courageleaguesports.org/ankeny


Courage League Sports – Urbandale, IA

  • Click here for upcoming Courage League Clinics and Camps!
  • Courage League Sports is a non-profit adaptive sports and recreational facility that offers year-round programming for children and adults who aren’t able to go full speed due to a physical, cognitive or emotional disability. By adapting the pace, equipment, or nature of an activity, Courage League can provide a safe and accessible environment where participants can go at their own speed.
  • Where:  4405 121st St. Urbandale, IA 50323
  • Founder/President: Melissa Clarke-Wharff – melissa@courageleaguesports.com – Phone: 515-423-9930
  • Program Director: Molly Wuebker, OTD, OTR/L – molly@courageleaguesports.com Phone: 515-450-6540
  • Phone: 515-421-4020 or http://www.courageleaguesports.org


Dance Without Limits – West Des Moines, IA

  • Ballet Des Moines presents Dance Without Limits — ballet classes that are especially designed for children with special needs who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the joy of dance. Each class lasts about 45 minutes, and offers a volunteer to child ratio of 1:1. Classes session are held at the School of Classical Ballet and Dance at 1721 25th Street, West Des Moines, Iowa.
  • For more information and to register, click here:  http://www.dancewithoutlimits.org


Des Moines Playhouse/Spectrum Theatre – Des Moines, IA

  • Spectrum Theatre of Cedar Falls is partnering with the Des Moines Playhouse for Spectrum Stories for those on the autism spectrum, ages 6 -18, in the Des Moines area.
  • Join us for an exciting day of drama! Come to one session or come to all! Open to any student, Spectrum Stories is specifically designed to provide drama experiences that best support the development of pretend play, social interaction, and non-verbal communication. Each session is carefully designed to enhance creative expression of spectrum youth while supporting the profile marker needs of each participant. Developed with the guidance of Professor Gretta Berghammer of the University of Northern Iowa, and the Sturgis Youth Theatre, Spectrum Stories uses story, music, and art to bring imagination to life! Pre-registration online at dmplayhouse.com is encouraged but drop-ins are also welcome.
  • For more information or to register, click here:  https://www.dmplayhouse.com/events/ages-6-18-spectrum-stories
Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center – Urbandale, IA
  • Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center, PC is a pediatric clinic that offers speech and language therapy, private tutoring, and academic programs. Our Language Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP) targets reading, comprehension, math, social skills, science, social studies, brain training, expressive language and writing skills. There is a small child to teacher ratio, and the program is designed for school-aged children with speech and language delays. This great, individualized program is led by a certified teacher and has both half- and full- day options. See your child’s confidence and academics soar in the LEAP!
  • For more information about our services please contact 515-419-4270 (Urbandale) or 319-358-6323 (Coraville) or visit our website at www.enrichmenttherapies.com


Grimes Public Library – Special Access Browsing- Grimes, IA

  • Grimes Public Library will be opening at 8am on the second Saturday of each month to offer an hour of quiet(er) browsing. Anyone with a special need as well as parents and/or caregivers is welcome to attend.
  • The library will open to the general public at 9am.
  • For questions or more information, feel free to contact fionn@grimes.lib.ia.us


Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant – Council Bluffs, IA

  • The Miss Amazing Pageant is a pageant for girls and women with physical and/or mental disabilities. It allows girls to compete and gain confidence in a supportive and fun environment! Miss Amazing Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that originated in Nebraska and is now expanding nationwide. It is a very girly event, and the girls leave with new friends, a medal, crown, trophy, and of course, confidence!  For more information click here:  http://iamissamazing.com
  • The 2018 Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant is on February 17 & 18 at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs. Click here for additional details.


Just Right For ME! – A Theatre Class for Students on the Autism Spectrum – TCR Theatre, Cedar Rapids, IA

  • TCR’s Just Right for ME! theatre class is specially geared toward students on the autism spectrum.  Each class is designed to provide a safe environment for creative expression, facilitate social connections, offer students models for developing and practicing social skills through theatre and story dramatization, and most importantly teaching how the magic of theatre is FUN.  This class culminates in a classroom showcase of works generated throughout the 10-week period.  Our stories will be shared during the final class meeting.  TCR Theatre,  Cedar Rapids 102 Third St. SE Cedar Rapids, IA 52401-1246, 319-366-8591.  For more information:  https://www.theatrecr.org/


Kids in Harmony, LLC – Des Moines and surrounding areas including Ames

  • Kids in Harmony is a quality music program taught by board certified music therapists. The class is designed to provide children of all abilities with developmentally appropriate and enriching opportunities to sing, move and explore musical play.  Sessions are playful and designed to meet developmental needs of each participant as well as provide a positive bonding experience with parents/caregivers.  Class size is limited to 10 in order to ensure individualized attention and will surely be a highlight of your day!
  • To learn more, contact Shelly at kidsinharmonymusic@gmail.com, 515-494-4618 or visit: http://www.kidsinharmonymusic.com


Metro West Kids Learning Center – Clive, IA  New Location – 2 miles east of their former office at 13300 Hickman Rd, Ste 110.  Right next door to the Casey’s General Store.

Social Language Groups for preschool, grade school, teenagers and young adults, OT, Speech Therapy, Tutoring, Consulting, In-home Therapy, Tele-therapy, Job Coaching, ACT Prep, Reading Clinic, Phone conferencing, IEP/504 Plan School Meetings, and Physical Therapy.
  For more information call 515-987-8835 or http://www.metrowestkids.net or email: info@metrowestkids.net


Notes For Autism – Ames, IA

  • Building Social Skills Through Music Interactive Experiences.  Music facilitates social interaction, self regulation and coping in profound ways for all people with demonstrated positive effects for kids with autism. For more more information, email Sean Huston at sm4huston@gmail.com


Reel Movies for Real Needs, Marcus Theatres – Cedar Falls, IA & Iowa City, IA

  • Marcus Theatres Reel Movies for Reel Needs is a specially designed program to serve families with special needs such as autism or other challenges, who seldom attend movies. Reel Movies for Real Needs creates a welcoming and comfortable environment – lower sound, lights up – where families with children who need accommodations will be able to share the experience of seeing family friendly films at a theatre.
  • Check out these upcoming Reel Movies for Real Needs:
    • Coco – November 25
    • Star Wars: The Last Jedi – December 16
    • Ferdinand – December 30
  • For more information:  https://www.marcustheatres.com/marcus-specials/sensory-specific-films/reel-movies-for-real-needs


Religious Education Programs

  • Lutheran Church of Hope – West Des Moines, IA
  • St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church – West Des Moines, IA
    • Program includes Individualized Religious Education Plans, Support for integration into RE classes, Adaptive RE classrooms, Adaptive Sacramental Preparation, Adult Sacramental Preparation and respite nights.
    • For more information contact Jess Streit at 515-440-1030 or jstreit@saintfrancischurch.org
  • Valley Church – West Des Moines, IA
    • Hand in Hand special needs ministry focuses on four key areas; Healthy Relationships, Active Participation, Nurturing Community and Developing Faith.
    • For more information, click here or call 515-226-9973.


Sports Leagues For Those With Disabilities


Sturgis Youth Theatre – University of Northern Iowa – 
Spectrum Theatre Program

  • This program is open to ALL students ages 6 and older, AND is especially designed to provide drama experiences that best support the development of pretend play, social interaction and non-verbal communication.  
All sessions will be taught by Gretta Berghammer in collaboration with UNI Youth Theatre students.  Gretta has been working with spectrum youth for four years in both specific and inclusive formats.  The workshop sessions are carefully designed to enhance creative expression of spectrum youth while supporting the needs of each participant. 
Location:  University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa.  Interested parents and families can learn more by contacting Gretta at 319-231-1700 or gretta.berghammer@uni.edu, or  https://www.uni.edu/theatre/theatre-uni/sturgis-youth-theatre/about


True Potential Education- Life Skills Training

  • This life-skills program is designed to target students in 6th – 12th grade in need of academic, pre-vocational, living and social skills for increased independence. This fun program will address helpful skills for high school years and beyond!
  • For more information, go to http://www.truepotentialed.com/life-skills.html.


UNI Spectrum Project – Cedar Falls, IA

  • The UNI Spectrum Project offers a music, movement, theatre and art opportunity for children with different abilities. Productions are created by the performers with direction from UNI students.
  • The UNI Spectrum Project meets Saturdays, 1-2:30 pm at Lincoln School in Cedar Falls from January through April.
  • For more information, go to www.spectrumproject.org or contact Kevin Droe at kevin.droe@uni.edu.


UNI – A New inclusive dance company at UNI

  • Bethany Piotter a student at UNI has started an inclusive dance company.  She is only able to take 12 children this year, so the first 12 people to email her and sign up will get the spots. To register, email piotterb@uni.edu. You need to be registered by September 23rd. Once you email, she will give you more specific details and will ask more information of you. The first meeting will be October 10th in WRC 185/187. We will then continue to meet on Mondays from 6:45-7:45pm with a semester performance on December 5th.


West Music Piano Gallery – Urbandale, IA

The class is entitled “Socializing through Song,” and will utilize music interventions to improve sharing, turn-taking, self-regulation, and attention skills for children ages two to five years old with special needs.
  • SoundReach Choir  For Teens And Adults Who Have Developmental DisabilitiesSoundReach Choir is a performance group for teens and adults who have developmental disabilities. Individuals in the choir do NOT need to have previous musical experiences or training, just an enjoyment of music and people! SoundReach is a non-threatening environment for individuals to explore their musical talents. Membership is open to anyone interested.  For more information call Jenny Denk at 515-278-1000 ext. 6110 or email jdenk@westmusic.com




ACOUSTICS MUSIC GROUP – Acoustics is for young adults interested in music. Meetings are Tuesdays from 4:40 p.m.-5:30 p.m. at River Music Experience, 129 N. Main Street, Davenport. The website is www.rivermusicexperience.org

Participants share music they like, play musical games, play musical instruments, and have performers attend to play concerts for them. West Music, which formed the group, has specially trained personnel who will teach music lessons to those with disabilities. For more information call West music at    (309)764-9300.

YOUNG ADULT BOWLING LEAGUE – League members bowl on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. at the Quad City Entertainment Center 4401 44th Avenue, Moline. Call (309)517-1158 for more information. The bowlers have a variety of mental and physical disabilities.

DAVENPORT JUNIOR THEATER – Davenport Junior Theater program offers its spectrum program for children ages 10-17 for the winter session. Staff member work with students across the spectrum and students who have similar needs on such skills as emotional expression, impulse, socialization, and teamwork through theatre. .Classes are on Thursdays from 5:45 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. at the Annie Wittenmeyer Complex, 2822 Eastern Avenue, Davenport. There is a charge to participate. For more information call 563-326-7862.

DAVENPORT CHALLENGER LEAGUE – Challenger League is a separate division of Little League Baseball enabling boys and girls with physical and mental disabilities, beginning at age 5 and up, to enjoy the game of baseball regardless of their ability.  Contact: Curt Locey (563)449-0057, Email: davenportchallengerleague@gmail.com

MOLINE CHALLENGER LEAGUE – A division of Little League the Challenger Division offers girls and boys, beginning at age 5 and up with physical and mental disabilities, the opportunity to play unrestricted baseball regardless of their ability. Contact Information:  Pam Swim (309)786-3097 or Jan Garlock (309)786-8319   Email: rpswim@mchsi.com  or jgarlock55@hotmail.com   Website: www.molinechallengerleague.com

DAVENPORT BUILDS – Davenport BUILDS is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and bringing the proven benefits of creative play therapies to children with autism.

  • This is a volunteer program that brings Adult Fans of LEGOS (AFOLS) together with children to share in the common interest of LEGOS.
  • During each session children and AFOLS will work with exciting themes to build problem-solving skills, provide an opportunity for creative expression, and foster an appreciation of how things work while they create things together.
  • The group meets on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, from 10:00 a.m.—Noon, at Roosevelt Community Center, 1220 Minnie Avenue, Davenport, IA 52802
  • Children with autism and their family members are welcome. You can register at 563-328-7275, or at cityofdavenport.com/parks. There is a $20 yearly fee per member.

HAND-IN-HAND/TESSA’S PLACE  – 3860 Middle Road Bettendorf, Iowa 52722 (563) 332-8010
Non-profit organization that assists families and children/teens/young adults with special needs through provision of respite programs and year round enrichment activities. Social and leisure options for teens and young adults include: Friday movie nights, Saturday overnights, bowling league, meal preparation with friends, Get Fit, Inspiration Studio (teens/young adults with art interest/talent) and summer day camp (for school-age and young adults). Teen & Young Adult Nights are offered two Saturdays each month. Meets at Hand-In-Hand 3860 Middle Road, Bettendorf, Iowa 52722 (563) 332-8010

PEOPLE WITH PURPOSE – Meets at Hand-In-Hand 3860 Middle Road, Bettendorf, Iowa 52722 (563) 332-8010 .  Provides volunteer opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Meets weekly on Tuesdays, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  It is not a support group, but is a means to offer meaningful volunteer opportunities for young adults in our community. As it is a regular program, participants are required to register in advance for the dates and times they would like to attend, and also complete enrollment information to keep on file. Contact molly_handinhand@yahoo.com for more information. There is no charge to attend.

IA/IL SPECIAL OLYMPICS – To provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.  Contact Information:  Iowa-Nancy Shannon 563-285-8185 or nsshannon@aol.com  Illinois-Cathy Betar 309-734-5903 or cbetar@soill.org  Website: www.soill.org

NEW KINGDOM TRAIL RIDERS – Provides therapeutic horseback riding program known as “Mounted Achievers” this is an alternative type of physical therapy and rehabilitation to the mentally and physically handicapped of the Greater Quad Cities and surrounding communities.  NKT provides affordable riding lessons to people representing ages ranging between three and adult with a variety of disabilities.  Contact Information: 309-787-0627 or 309-764-4220   Website: www.nktriders.org  Email: nktriders@infonktriders.org