Exclusive Webinar with the Author of “Falling of the Cliff”

On Thursday January 4th 2018, there will be an exclusive webinar by Ronnie Polaneczky author of the article “Falling off the Cliff”. This article was published in the Daily News and online at Philly.com. It talks about real-life issues that children who have special needs face as they transition into adulthood. There will also be a special guest, Nick Smith who works directly with people who are transitioning into the community as adults.

This is an awesome opportunity to learn more about obstacles many individuals might face along with finding solutions. If you would like to attend this webinar, don’t forget to register! Link Below

Register Here for Webinar on January 4th 2018 at 2:00 pm 

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

Cori the Dog is Helping Individuals with Special Needs Learn How to Swim

A dog named Cori, from California, has been helping children with special needs learn how to swim. Cori works with Jodie Powel, the founder of Special Fishies. Special Fishies is an organization that teaches kids who have special needs how to swim. According to the National Association of Autism, drowning is a leading cause of death for individuals who have autism. Special Fishies’ mission is to save lives by helping children gain valuable swimming skills.

Cori helps the children break down barriers by reducing the anxiety and stress that can be associated with learning new skills. The children are able to learn techniques in half the time with Cori’s help. The relationship each individual builds with Cori is unique and beneficial to their learning. Cori’s sister, Surf Dog Ricochet, is also known for helping individuals with special needs how to surf.

Together, Powell and Cori help to educate individuals on the importance of learning how to swim. They also hope their story will inspire others across the nation to incorporate trained dogs into their swim programs.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Google Maps Engages Wheelchair Accessible Areas

Google maps is a top contender when it comes to navigation. They now want to make navigating easier for individuals with special needs by creating a system where you can see wheelchair accessible areas such as parks, restaurants, shopping centers, and much more.

Sasha Blair-Goldensohn is a software engineer at Google who uses a wheelchair. Last year Google updated their navigation system to allow you to see “wheelchair” accessibility next to hours of operation, address, etc. Since Google relies on users to submit information into their system, they are trying to create a simple 5 question system. Goldensohn is now working towards a push for individuals to partake in the expansion.

This will help make life a little easier for those who need wheelchair or even stroller and walker accessibility. Together everyone can partake in helping Google expand their navigation for every individual.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

Google Wants Help Tagging Accessible Places

How to Create a Stable Future For Your Loved One with Special Needs

Parents and families want to care for their children throughout their life time physically and financially. However, having a child with special needs requires special attention. You especially want to make sure your child qualifies for government benefits and other programs available.

Leaving retirement plans and assets to your child could greatly impact those receiving government aid. There are a few different options parents and families must protect their loved ones. In your retirement savings plan, beneficiary designation can help create flexibility and creating a special needs trust are two ways to ensure proper planning for the future.

You must ensure that your estate plan is designed properly by a trusted estate planning attorney. Securing a stable future for your loved ones is a top priority.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Hotels Are Now Learning to Accommodate All Individuals

Alexander and Maximillian are brothers from Anaheim, California. Max is 10 years old and is on the autism spectrum. Alexander and Max come from a family that loves to travel; their parents believe it is a great learning opportunity for them. However, during their travels they soon learned that basic necessities for Max were not always easily accessible.

Alexander thought up the idea that hotels should offer these basic necessities to all their hotel guests. Families who have individuals with special needs need things like diapers, weighted vests, and various other items. With this idea in mind Alex’s parents encouraged him to write a proposal and send it to various hotels, so he did.

After sending out his proposal he received little to no response. Nevertheless he didn’t stop trying until he finally got a response from a hotel next to Disneyland. Mr. Gee from the hotel invited Alex and his father to present their ideas to Sheraton Park Managers. Since then Mr. Gee and the hotel have spent $8,000 implanting new accommodations for families. Restaurants now have dietary food options, sippy cups, and utensils. They even brought in a behavioral therapist to train their employees.

Thanks to Alex and his family there will now be hotels who accommodate everyone including families who have individuals with special needs.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Target’s New Clothing Line Specially Made for Individuals with Special Needs

After listening to its guest and team members the mega store, Target has created a clothing line specifically designed for children with special needs. The clothing line comes from the idea of minimizing discomfort associated with sensory issues. They will be offered through The Cat & Jack children’s clothing line.

The line of sensory friendly apparel will not have tags, or embellishments which cause discomfort. They will also offer pants with a higher rise and wider hip to accommodate individuals who wear diapers. Prices will range from $4.50 – $7.00 and will be available online.

The expansion of clothing to accommodate individuals from all walks of life is a fantastic idea. If the line is successful expansion to junior-adult sizes might be in the future.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Sweet Heat Jam Co. is Bringing People Together

Sweet Heat Jam Co. is based in Katy, Texas and was created by Nolan who has down syndrome. Once he graduated high school his mom Christine wanted him to find his purpose. Sweet Heat Jam Co. employs individuals with special needs and acts as a training program.

Working and creating gives them a purpose. They pour passion into their cooking. Nolan even has some fun ways to use the jams. He suggests using them as a marinade on meat and fish.

A church and its pastor, who they met at Special Olympics welcomed the company with open arms to use their facility. Whether they will expand further hasn’t been decided, but the joy and positive energy that Sweet Heat Jam Co. brings is undeniable.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Rodeo for Individuals with Special Needs

Tucker Day Rodeo at double diamond ranch, is a rodeo for individuals with special needs. They have the opportunity to show off their riding skills, barrel racing, pole bending, and other fun events. More than 50 individuals were given the opportunity to participate.

The Tucker Day Rodeo was inspired by Tucker Blaine who has down syndrome and participated in a horse competition. Tucker’s participation in that event made the audience cheer with happiness. His bravery and love for life inspired co-director Lee Ann Johnson’s husband to create the first annual Tucker Day Rodeo.

The joy that the rodeo brings to all the individuals participating is worth all the hard work. Due to amazing sponsors and successful fundraisers the event is free to all families and their children.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


The Difference Between Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals

Many people are employing the help of emotional support and service animals. However, there is a difference between the two.

An emotional support animal is a companion that provides therapeutic support to someone who has either a mental or psychiatric disability. These animals are often part of a bigger treatment plan for an individual with medical or emotional needs. Animals can help people in a variety of ways. Some help combat loneliness, depression or even phobias. Since these types of animals aren’t limited to people who have special needs, they are not covered by federal laws. However, under the “Fair Housing Act”, communities with a “no pets” policy should be reasonably accommodating to the individual with an emotional support animal. Most domestic animals will qualify as an emotional support companion. Cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, snakes and even mini pigs are all examples of animals that can be considered for emotional support.

Service animals are different in that they are trained to perform a task or set of tasks to help an individual who has special needs. The majority of the time service animals are dogs. They can be trained to guide someone who is blind, fetch items, and assist in pulling a wheelchair or even alert a person who is having a seizure. These dogs can accompany an individual in places that pets aren’t usually allowed. Service animals are for people who have some sort of special need and are trained to perform a task. They can also serve as emotional support animals, but not all emotional support animals are trained in a way that qualifies them as a service animal.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Cooking Class for the Special Needs Community

Individuals with special needs in Phoenix, Arizona now have the opportunity to learn how to cook healthy meals. Thanks to Sprouts Kitchen Network there will be a cooking course offered at First Place Phoenix. Lifestyle expert and New York Times best-selling author, Cheryl Najafi will work alongside the network. The goal is to one day feature cooking videos by Cheryl Najafi.

It is important to teach health and nutrition to all, including how to make smart food choices. In order for these valuable lessons to stick they will teach the basics of nutrition, how to prepare meals, and make smarter food choices. The course will also allow students to grow their own herbs and vegetables.

These courses will be a great step for those individuals who are in the process of learning how to live independently. The ultimate goal of these courses is to create involvement with parents, students, and the community.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


How Robots Can Help Individuals with Special Needs

Manor, Texas has implemented the first talking robot in central, Texas, as a new tool to be used in the classroom. This robot, named Milo, was created for those with autism in mind; however, it has shown to be beneficial to all children, not just those with autism.

Milo is used as a teaching aid and has the ability to teach unlimited lessons as well as 4 different languages. It has easy visual communicators to help children understand more effectively, and is also helpful for non-verbal students who can use Milo as a tool to manipulate speech.

Milo addresses 4 key areas including; emotional, social, conversation and self-regulation. It can identify facial expressions and label feelings. Socially, Milo is able to help children with the comprehension of situations as well as pinpoint common ways to handle them. Maintaining and ending conversations as well as teaching ways to handle stress are just a few of the ways Milo addresses these four areas.

Milo’s ability as a robot to be 100 percent consistent with its lessons as well as its limitless amount of patience has a positive impact on all children, especially those who are on the autism spectrum.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


4 Key Points in Encouraging the Success of Your Child

There are lot of different obstacles families who have children with special needs face. One set of parents were given the opportunity to speak at the Family Retreat Weekend hosted by The Texas School for the Deaf. Their speech was titled “The Importance of Parents Involvement in your (Deaf) Childs Education”.

Once they discovered that their oldest daughter was deaf and had cerebral palsy they began a new journey. Their focus was to explain to parents how they must actively be involved in their children’s education. In their speech, they focused on 4 main points:

1. Seek Wisdom
The special needs community can seem large and confusing. There are government benefits, certain rights you have, and different types of education choices. In order to guide the ocean of the special needs community you must seek wisdom. This can be provided by community support, an attorney, a financial advisor, or through books. It is important to thoroughly understand exactly what your options are and how to maximize your benefits.

2. Expect the Best
In order for students to receive the best education possible, the student, parents and school must join together in a group effort. They explained how we must expect the best from our children and that means we also expect the best from their schools and teachers.

3. Communicate
Communication is key. Not only is it necessary to have an open line of communication, it is also important not to be a helicopter parent. You must be able to talk to your children and be interested in various aspects of their lives. Communication also goes further than just verbal communication. This family decided to learn American Sign Language (ASL) since their daughter is deaf. Although they may not be experts at it they try their best and that is the type of dedication to communication that must be shown.

4. Show Up
Make the effort to build relationships with your child’s teachers and staff. Become involved in their school programs and encourage development in the special needs community. By showing that you are making that extra effort, you are encouraging your children to do the same.

Their commitment to watching their children’s success does not go unnoticed. The purpose of their speech is to share their story on their tips and how to set up the best future possible for your child. It takes baby steps as well as your full heart.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

Playgrounds for Children with Special Needs are Popping up Across the Country

Creating a safe environment for children with special needs to play and enjoy their free time is important; a playground in Zelienople, Pittsburgh did just that. Originally created for a nearby program with 60 students the playground was created with the idea that all children on the autism spectrum have unique needs.

The playground’s creators strove to incorporate design features that responded to unique challenges facing the special needs community. For example in order to address sensory concerns, they wanted to create an environment that was calming so they did not add any bright and vibrant colors. Along with paying close attention to sensory concerns, individuals with autism could have a feeling of pressure or extra weight on their joints. Equipment that allows you to stretch was incorporated. Encouraging socialization is also very important a few pieces of equipment require two people to use, encouraging team work and socialization.

Playgrounds like this are popping up across the country with the help and encouragement of individual communities. It is a giant step in the special needs community, so that every child can experience the same joys of childhood.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Playground Offers Kids With ASD A Space Of Their Own

A Group Effort Brings Together a Baseball League for Individuals with Special Needs

The ACBA Champions League founded by Sherri Gifford is celebrating its 3rd year anniversary this season. Champions League is a baseball league for individuals with special needs. Gifford was inspired by her daughter who attended all of her brother’s sporting events, but never had a chance to participate.

Gifford helped spread the word of her newly developed organization through contacting pre-existing leagues such as GiGi’s Playhouse, and The River Valley Special Rec Association. It has become an enormous success; Champions League now has 4 teams, and athletes ranging from 4-22 years old.

Hosting the games is the group effort of the participants, parents, coaches, and volunteers. Each participant is partnered with a buddy to help keep them safe and assist if needed. Along with local organization such as Easter Seals who have donated special equipment. All individuals with special needs are given an opportunity to participate. Grifford says that watching all the players laugh and enjoy themselves is what ACBA Champions League is all about.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Texas Water Park Accessible for those with Special Needs Opens in San Antonio

Morgan’s Inspiration Island is a water park in San Antonio, Texas, specifically designed for those with special needs in mind. Creator, Gordon Hartman, designed this park with a goal to include those with and without special needs. His inspiration sprang from his own experiences with his daughter who often felt left out due to her cognitive and physical challenges.

This park includes a variety of features that accommodate unique needs and as a bonus; admission is free to those who have special needs. A few of these features include, fast passes for those who have trouble waiting in line, waterproof wheelchairs are available for rent as well as private areas set aside to allow transfer from one wheelchair to another, quiet areas are scattered around the park for those who need a break and water temperature can be adjusted for individuals who have a sensitivity to cold water.

These small adjustments that make the park more accessible to all, is an idea that Morgan hopes will spread to more water parks around the country.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Summer Fun Ideas for Families with Special Needs

Having a family member with special needs can mean more planning and research in terms of activities, but that doesn’t mean a family’s options are limited. There are many fun activities that the whole family can enjoy. The following are a few ideas that can accommodate all abilities.

Some movie theatres have recently started participating in sensory-friendly showings that follow a “lights up, sound down, no previews, run around” idea. This provides an environment that allows parents to be more at ease where they may otherwise be worried about their child’s behavior. The Autism Society has been a big partner on this concept and you can find more information on how it was started on their website. To find participating theatres in your area visit the links below.

With the help of special needs advocates around the country as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) guidelines, some playgrounds are now being built for all types of children with varying abilities. These playgrounds have wheelchair accommodations and certain specifications that allow for a safe and engaging environment. The Play for All Abilities Park in Round Rock, Texas is located at 151 North A.W. Grimes Blvd and includes features intended to help all children develop specific skills. Some of these features include a sensory pod sand box, rock band pod, all abilities plays cape and swings. Visit their website www.roundrocktexas.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/parks-trails/play-park to learn more. You can also find other playgrounds nearby at:

Theme Parks
Many theme parks have updated their policies to better support all of their guests. This includes the special needs community. Some have sought to provide services such as sign language interpreters, quiet rooms and listening devices. Disney has been exceptionally successful in its mindfulness to families with unique needs. Visit these websites if you are interested in theme parks for your family.
Sixflags.com/greatadventure/plan-your-visit/guests with disabilities

You can also find activities to participate in around your neighborhood. Activities as simple as backyard camping, art projects or nature walks can all prove beneficial and entertaining for the whole family. Check out the full article by Angela Nelson at the link below.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

The I Am Who I Am Foundation Will Begin to Change the Business World

Holly Simon a Chicago mom is proving to people around the country that everyone can be their own boss, including children with special needs. She started the I Am Who I Am foundation in hopes of inspiring children with special needs to use their unique abilities in the business world.

Simon and her children began I am Bath and Body Products they sell and package it themselves. The proceeds are used to fund raise for I Am Who I Am. Schools across Chicago are participating in this inspiring foundation in hopes that people will see past their disabilities and focus on their abilities instead.

I Am Who I Am will hopefully inspire and motivate children, parents, and teachers to join to together and break into the business world. There is no limit to how but you can dream is what I Am Who I Am is showing the world.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Leander ISD Commits to Improving and Expanding their Special Education Programs

Dan Troxell is the Superintendent of Leander ISD. He recently sent an email out to all Leander ISD parents in regard to Special Education programs. Currently Leander ISD serves over 4,000 students through their special education programs.

While the district currently complies with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act “IDEA” and Individual Education Program “IEP”, there has been a recent issue in regard to the Texas Education Agency “TEA”. The TEA is being accused of placing an 8.5 percent cap on the number of students eligible to enroll in Special Education programs. The TEA cleared this issue up by explaining that the 8.5 percent is not a cap but a relative indicator. Leander ISD has always exceeded this indicator and special education programs currently serve 11 percent of its student population.

Superintendent Troxell has made it his mission to ensure every student in the district receives the best education possible. Throughout the last 9 months Troxell has engaged parents, students, employees, and community members to gain knowledge and experience about special education and its programs. There will be a continuous stride to keep learning and improving all special education programs along with ensuring that all students will have access to these programs.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

How to Combat Isolation: Solutions from Parents of Kids with Autism

When a child is diagnosed with autism many concerns and challenges can arise within a family. Everyday it’s a new obstacle to overcome; whether that be negotiating with the school, dealing with outbursts, helping your child make friends or transitioning to adulthood. These challenges often leave parents feeling alone and overwhelmed. The tips below are a few ways to help keep the feelings of isolation at bay.


1. Reach Out

Find support through your special needs community and through other parents who are going through a similar situation. Social media outlets are a great way to connect and stay alert to any new programs or information that are being made available in your area. Joining local networks either online or locally in your community can be a huge comfort. Learning and listening to stories of others can help you feel less alone in times of stress and chaos.

2. Preserve Your Marriage

Don’t forget to show appreciation for your significant other. Sometimes mental and physical exhaustion can put a strain on a marriage. Focus on being a better team and set aside time for each other so you can grow together instead of apart.

3. Do Something for Yourself

Coordinate respite care for your child so that you can do something for yourself. It can be something as simple as entertaining a hobby, exercising or just finding something that reduces stress. Allow yourself this time to focus on your needs. Getting out of the house or breaking a routine can help you feel less isolated.

4. Communicate

Keep an open line of communication between teachers, aids and other parents. Check in frequently and be open about issues or challenges you or your child may be facing to help those around you adjust to the situation. Being open and communicating regularly with those involved in your child’s life will help create a productive environment that leaves you feeling less alone.

5. Prevent Child’s Isolation

It can be difficult to immerse your child socially. Many parents take on this task for their child who may be struggling to find friends on their own, or may simply not want to. One way to ensure that your child with autism is staying socially active is by joining groups like the autism society or participating in community activities that allow them to develop social skills and make friends. Social integration or occupational therapy can also be helpful.

These are just a few ways parents have sought to end isolation. For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Read the full article at the link below and browse our website for helpful resources in your area.


Project Search Helps Individuals with Special Needs Land Jobs

Project Search is a program designed to help individuals with special needs develop vocational skills and build professional experience through internships. Their goal is to help them find employment upon graduation of high school.

The CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Francis health system in Tyler, Texas is in its 2nd year of participating in the Project Search program. Eight individuals with intellectual disabilities were trained in this year long program where they worked as interns for CHRISTUS. This program teaches recent graduates with special needs the vital skills they need to successfully enter the workforce. Upon completion of the program over half of the interns landed jobs.

The transformation of these students to hard working employees is heartwarming to the project search organizers as well as the community.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

Visit Project Search Seton to find more information on this program in the central Texas area.



The True Power of Animal Companionship

Iris Grace Halmshaw is a 5-year-old girl from Britain with autism. Due to her autism, she doesn’t speak very much but she began expressing herself at the age of 3 through painting. She is now known worldwide for her soft monet style artwork.

Like many individuals with autism Iris experienced high levels of anxiety especially in social situations. With a little bit of research, her mother began to consider an animal companion to help her.  At first, they considered horseback riding, but Iris was not fond of horses. Then came a dog, however; the licking and hyper activeness of a dog bothered her. That is when an online fan suggested a Main Coon cat. Thula is a gentle and intelligent Main Coon cat that has become Iris’s companion.

Thula helps calm Iris’s daily anxieties and assists in her daily activities including walking out side, biking, and going on boat rides. Iris and Thula enjoy their time outside which has inspired many of Iris’s beautiful paintings. Thula the Main Coon has not only been a companion, but a life changing experience for Iris and her family.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

Love Story: Extraordinary Girl + Amazing Cat

Education Savings Account Program Could Be Coming to Texas

An Education Savings Account (ESA) program was added to House Bill 21 during the Texas legislation this year. ESA is a program for students with special needs that allows parents to move their children to private schools with state funding. Parents can only move their child from public to private if their child’s unique learning needs are not being met.

With the increasing cost of special education and related services; It may be difficult for parents to give their children the type of education they deserve. The ESA program gives parents the opportunity to use money that was deposited into their EA to pay for tuition at private schools, special education therapies, and more.

This change could give parents across the state the choice to choose a fitting education for their child with special needs that they may not have been able to before.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


The Essential Special Needs Planning Book One Evolution At A Time Now Available

Special needs planning begins long before the child turns 18. It is a process that you must start as soon as possible. However, there is a lot of confusion floating around the concept of special needs planning.

This is where attorney Julia Nickerson became invested in helping families who have loved ones with special needs. Ms. Nickerson’s sole purpose is to prepare families from the beginning and ensure they are taking the right steps forward. The book One Evolution at a Time does just that. It is a resource for parents, family, or friends to prepare them for all the winding obstacles they may face.

The Special Needs Forum hosts a series of events throughout of the school year that can help you plan for your loved one with special needs. If you missed an event or were unable to attend, this book was created as a planning guide to assist through the steps that must be taken in regards to government benefits, transition at age 18, financial planning, special needs trusts, and much more.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.



7 Facts about Mental Illness You Should Know During Mental Health Awareness Month

May is National Mental Health Awareness month and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness here are 7 facts you should know:

  1. 1 in 5 Children ages 13-18 have or will have a serious illness
  2. 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begins by age 14 and 75% by age 24
  3. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24
  4. 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness
  5. 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year
  6. 1 min 5 Americans experience a mental illness
  7. 1 in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Roberta the Robot Will be Able to Help Children with Special Needs

Techcrunch Disrupt Hackathon is a worldwide tech conference that is being held in New York City this year. Rutgers University sophomores introduced a robot-like device named Roberta that was created for teachers in special needs classrooms.

This robot uses, computer vision and sentiment analysis to identify distressed students in the classroom. When a student speaks to Roberta she turns spoken words into text. Once the text is written, Roberta can interpret the text and notify an adult if help is needed.

The inspiration behind the robot came from the notion that children with special needs have a difficult time communicating. Their goal was to create a “middle man” to help a child communicate more effectively and without distress.

With this growth in technology, there is hope to create and implement similar robots for individuals with autism and dementia. Hopefully one day, robots like Roberta will be available in classrooms nationwide.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


This robot helps kids with special needs to communicate

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

May is national Mental Health Awareness month. With the support of President Trump and the Department of Health and Human Services, there is hope to bring awareness and a sense of acceptance to mental health across the nation.

In the U.S. 1 in 5 adults will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder each year. A few disorders that we typically hear about include the autism spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders, neurocognitive disorders, and psychotic disorders. Mental health disorders can affect a person in a variety of ways whether personally at home or in the work place. They may also begin early in adulthood or develop later in life.

It may be difficult for an individual with a mental illness to receive help due to the stigma associated with it. However, with the right doctors and treatment a healthy prosperous life is possible. This month medical professionals, parents, and advocates from all around the nation join forces to break the stigma and hope to create a new front to mental health.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Parents and Advocates Urge Texas Law Makers to Create Programs for Children with Special Needs

A news channel located in Bryan-College Station, Texas reported a story of a young boy named RJ, who was born with a clubfoot and suffered a pediatric seizure that left him unable to use his left arm. A state funded program for early childhood intervention for children with special needs began assisting RJ, and he is now a joyful elementary student that gets around with the assistance of his walker.

Not all children with special needs in Texas receive the help they need. Texas’ population of children under 3 years old has grown 4% from 2011 to 2015. Even with this indicated growth, Texas is still neglecting children with special needs ages 0-3. Early Childhood intervention is a state government run program. Many participants in this program have ended their contracts with no intention of returning. This could increase the possibility of neglect and abuse in children with special needs. Medicaid’s reimbursement for therapists who help children with special needs was also cut.

These early childhood intervention programs are vital to the growth and development of children with special needs. Their decline will come with a higher public cost to families who do not receive the help they need early on. According to the Houston Chronicle, special education is twice as expensive. The federal government pays 1/5 of that cost while the remainder is paid by the school district and state.

This undeniable growth of the Texas population along with the pressure that parents and advocates are putting on law makers, will hopefully help the argument for a change. Texas legislatures have the opportunity to decide the direction in which special education may turn.


For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.



The Benefits of Music for Individuals with Special Needs

A variety of conditions fall under the term “autism”. Individuals with autism often have difficulty connecting and communicating. Many also have sensory issues such as hyper sensitivity (overly-stimulated) or hypo sensitivity (under stimulated). Although some sensitivity issues relate to sound, music has shown to help children on the autism spectrum with emotional and social development.

Music is often used as a key learning technique throughout a child’s lifetime. It can be a valuable tool to help draw out communication and forms of expression from those who struggle socially or who are non-verbal. Rory Allen conducted a physiological study that showed children reacted to music in the same way physiologically whether they had autism or not. This universal reaction could be explained by music affecting individuals “independent of any emotional understanding or imagination”. The song Gangham Style although written in Korean, is a great example of how rhythm and music can speak to individuals of all languages and backgrounds. Something as simple as a repetitive beat can attract a child’s attention. Introducing music to children with autism at a young age can encourage growth that may otherwise be inhibited or stunted.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Pets are Extremely Beneficial to Children with Special Needs

A recent study by the University of Missouri showed children with Autism who have pets “develop stronger social and communication skills”. Pets can help a child with special needs in a variety of ways, but selecting a pet based of your child’s sensory issues is key. For example, dogs can provide comfort and loyal companionship, cats can help children with high sensory issues and rabbits are good for children who enjoy quiet time and work better with more contained animals.

Zach Tucker, a 6th grader from Colorado, was diagnosed with high functioning autism at the age of 8. Severe anxiety kept him up at night, so he turned to animals for comfort; specifically, a chocolate lab named Clyde. Clyde is a trained assistance dog who helps Zach navigate his day to day anxieties and social fears. His parents say, “He’s never had anxiety at night since”. Everyone’s pet story is different but no matter which type of companion you choose, the benefits your child will receive are worth it.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Learn More about The Special Needs Forum Event on May 18, 2017

The Special Needs Forum continues its free live events series designed to educate families who have a loved one with special needs. On May 18th The Special Needs Forum will host their last event for the 2016-2017 school year “Residential Choices: Central Texas Best Options”. This event consists of a variety of residential providers, higher education opportunities as well as day camp options for families with loved ones who have special needs. This session is not only for those currently deciding on residential option, but for those who are planning years in advance. Come and network at our highly-anticipated event.

Location: 6200 Bridgepoint Parkway Building IV, 2nd floor (take right off the elevator and main room will be immediately on the left) Austin, TX 78730
Date: Thursday May 18, 2017
Time: 11:30am-1:00pm
Fees: Complimentary

Register Here

Sidekicks, The New App That Can Help Individuals with Autism

A new app on IOS called sidekicks has opened a door for individuals with autism. It gives parents the ability to communicate via the role of a sidekick on their phone. You can talk to them through the app about school, things they love, or just to help them with their social skills. The app also allows you to add other family members, teachers, or therapist to see their progress. Fizbit is an automated sidekick that will automatically interact with your child when you are unable too.

According to the website, “Parents whose kids chat regularly with their sidekick have reported an increase in sentence length and their child’s ability to respond to questions independently”. Through a click of an app this exciting new technology will help individuals across the world who have autism.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

Check out their website: https://www.sidekicks.com/#howitworks

Horseback Riding Proven to Help Individuals with Special Needs

Horseback riding has long been used as a therapeutic measure for people with special needs. A recent study by the University of Ioannina in Greece supports this type of therapy. Researchers reviewed “people with disabilities participating in modified or adaptive riding as therapy or hippo-therapy”. Results of the 16 studies showed that horseback riding helped with “motor function, posture, gait, and quality of life”. These studies demonstrated growth of social and emotional skills to those who participated in horseback riding therapy. These positive results show a big therapeutic value to individuals of all ages with special needs.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

Study Backs Therapeutic Benefits Of Horseback Riding

7 Steps You Should Take if You Have a Child with Special Needs

If you have a child with special needs, there are certain steps you must take to ensure that your loved one is cared for over their life time. Various government programs such as SSI, Medicaid, and Medicare may assist with expenses. However, relying solely on these services may not be enough. You must prepare for any and all obstacles that could occur in the future, even after your passing. These seven steps are carefully designed to assist you in your preparation:

Step 1: Find the Right Experts
Find an attorney that specializes in special needs planning, as well as a certified financial planner who has experience in the area.

Step 2: Select the Right Planning Vehicle
Learn how to plan for your child without disqualifying them for government benefits. Options to discuss with an experienced estate planning attorney include a special needs trust or 529 ABLE account.

Step 3: Carefully Select a Trustee
The trustee will control assets in the trust, so you should choose someone you trust. A Trust Company may also be a good option for families who are concerned about management of trust assets.

Step 4: Review your Life Insurance Policy
Review your life insurance policies to check that it does not disqualify your child from government benefits. The worst thing you could do is disinherit your loved one with special needs. Instead, the beneficiary can be a special needs trust that is drafted so it will not disqualify your child from government benefits.

Step 5: Decide how to Split your Estate
A planning professional, such as an estate planning attorney, can help parents work through their options.

Step 6: Write a Letter of Intent
A letter of intent can provide a detailed description of what parents want for their child.

Step 7: Implement your Plan ASAP

Make sure things are not just being talked, but that you work with an estate planning attorney to legally document your decisions. Otherwise, a judge could end up deciding how your estate will be distributed and your child with special needs could be disqualified from governmental benefits.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Ben Affleck Attends Autism Film Festival

“Orange County will shed light on autism in a major way — the inaugural film festival AutFest “From Spectrum to Screen” will celebrate and bring awareness through films, panel discussions and some heavy star power.”

This past weekend the festival screened a variety of films promoting autism awareness, films created by those on the autism spectrum and films by those who have been supporters of the autism community. Among those present was actor and director Ben Affleck. A screening of the movie the “The Accountant”, where Affleck is featured as an accountant with autism, was followed by a Q&A and award presentation.

Ben Affleck To Appear At New Autism Film Festival

PSJA ISD Opens a Program to Help Children with Special Needs Learn Valuable Life Lessons

The PSJA school district in the Rio Grande Valley has taken a step towards helping students with special needs by teaching them life skills for adulthood in a home-like setting. The home was purchased with the original purpose of being torn down, but after seeing the potential that the house had, a decision was made to turn the house in a second home for students with special needs.

The Learning in Functional Environment Home “LIFE” aims toward teaching basic household duties, such as dishes, laundry, and gardening. It also allows students with special needs to attend school until the age of 21. This new program will hopefully inspire school districts across Texas to open up similar programs.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

Push for Education Savings Accounts for Children with Special Needs

There has been a push toward “education savings accounts” that would create a program specifically for children with special needs. Children would have to be classified as special needs to be eligible and 21 years of age or younger.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act also known as IDEA, states that every child with a disability must be provided with special education that meets the needs of the child at no cost. Schools must adhere to this by accommodating and modifying services to fit the requirements of their students with special needs. Such services could include transportation, physical education and speech therapy.

Rep. Ron Simmons, who has a son that grew up with autism, states from experience that public school programs don’t improve fast enough. The proposed bill will attempt to close this gap.

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.


Keeping Kids Safe with Cocoon-Like Bed

“Rose Morris just wanted a safe place for her son Abram to sleep; she ended up building a specialty bed business that’s just earned national recognition from the U.S. Small Business Administration.”

Rose’s son, Abram was diagnosed with autism at age two, and has always had trouble sleeping through the night. The family became especially worried on vacations, fearing he might wander off during the night when everyone else was sleeping.

With the help of a friend from Texas, Rose came up with her idea of the “Safety Sleeper”. They went through several versions until they found one that worked for Abram. The safety sleeper is a tent-like portable bed made with machine washable, medical grade fabric and a special mesh overhead used for motioning. The beds are now being sold online at safteysleeper.com

For more information and resources on planning for your loved one with special needs, browse through our website at specialneedsforum.org.

Cocoon-Like Bed Aims To Keep Kids With Special Needs Safe