6 Ways to Advocate for Your Special Needs Child

“Advocating for your special needs child is one of your most important jobs. It can feel overwhelming and intimidating, but if you remember that you know your child — and his needs — better than anyone, it gets a little bit easier to fight the good fight.”


special needs kids

Abbi Perets and her husband learned quickly when their son was in the NICU that they needed to speak up for him.  Now that he’s six years old and in kindergarten, there’s a lot that he can do for himself — but he still needs them to fight for him frequently. Here are six critical ways Abbi and her husband have learned to advocate for their son.



Even if every other aspect of your life is cluttered and chaotic, you must create an organized medical file for your special needs child. You really do need every piece of paper that relates to his disabilities, services, needs, and so on. Keep the current year’s papers readily accessible in print and digital format, if necessary. Make a monthly stop at an office supply store and use their machines to copy and scan all your information quickly and efficiently. Commit an hour each month to reviewing your files and ensuring that your paperwork is in order.


When you have a child with special needs, you have to educate yourself on a host of topics other parents never encounter. It’s unfair — but they don’t get to hang out with your awesome kid, so it all evens out. At any rate, you need to learn about your rights, what you can and can’t get for your child, any new therapies that might help your child, and lots more. Be willing to learn, ask questions, and keep asking until you understand. You don’t have to blindly agree to what a doctor, therapist, or school official tells you — you know your child better than anyone else. Continue reading "6 Ways to Advocate for Your Special Needs Child"

Tablets, iPads Revolutionize Education for Special Needs Kids

120512_Tablets, iPads revolutional education for special needs kids_Page_1_Image_0001In the two years since the debut of the iPad, schools have found how beneficial the new technology can be to children with special needs and students with learning disabilities. A student with autism can let his teacher know that he is hungry and what he would like for lunch. Touch screen apps can help kids with fine motor difficulties, while eBooks let students read at their individual reading levels without worry of ridicule from classmates. Many schools across the country are purchasing iPads for their students with special needs and learning disabilities, and are finding that students are more motivated and more self-confident using this technology, despite their educational challenges. Continue reading "Tablets, iPads Revolutionize Education for Special Needs Kids"

Targeting Child’s Play to Help Tackle Autism

Some Simple Exercises, When Done Early, Show Promise in Helping Autistic Kids Socialize and Communicate

As efforts expand to diagnose autism earlier and more accurately, researchers also are striving to figure out ways to treat children as young as 1 year old.

Specialists at the Kennedy Krieger Institute here, who focus on disorders of the brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal system, are testing the use of early intervention groups to improve social and communication skills for 1- and 2-year-olds who are considered at high risk for autism and related disorders.

Pic_WSJ_Targeting Child's Play
Picture by Stephanie David   Anna David barely spoke before the program, but now talks, sings and dances.

The average age of children diagnosed with autism in the U.S. is around 4 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interventions typically start later than that to treat the spectrum of disorders that leave about one in 88 children struggling to socialize and communicate. Many also exhibit repetitive behaviors.

Early diagnosis and intervention is a mantra in the field: The earlier children can get help, the brighter their long-term prospects, say experts. But it isn’t certain what, if any, type of intervention is helpful with very young children, so researchers have been testing different approaches. Continue reading "Targeting Child’s Play to Help Tackle Autism"

MOVEing Creations

Erie Homes for Children and Adults, Inc.ehca2
226 E. 27th Street, Erie, PA 16504

Phone: 814-454-1534

Erie Homes for Children and Adults (EHCA) has a unique program that makes holiday crafts, stationery, and home decorations for the general public that provides work for over 65 of its residential individuals.

MOVE (Making Opportunities for Volunteerism & Exploration) started in 1998 by EHCA and is now run by Program Director Debra Niland.

Debra:  “It was really in response to a handful of our individuals who wanted to change their day program. These seven people were in a sheltered workshop at the time and had little interaction with the outside. They wanted to go out in the community more and be helpful but couldn’t exactly hold down a job.”

Debra and her colleagues at EHCA created a working environment that eventually became MOVE. Over the years, MOVE has compiled 40-45 locations in and around Erie, PA where its residents can perform volunteer work in addition to making crafts that are sold at fairs and during the holidays.

All the individuals are adults over 21; most are in wheelchairs and have severe physical needs. But they are all given the opportunity to contribute to a project/products.

“The ideas come from the staff and the individuals that work at MOVE. The program has been very successful but keep in mind, we give away more than we sell. We gift crafts to nursing homes, day care, hospice and that’s very rewarding for all of us”

Now that Christmas is almost here, MOVE is focusing on its next major holiday, Valentine’s Day.

MOVEing creations_photo            MOVEing-creations_photo3           MOVEing creations_photo2

For those interested in these products or in purchasing crafts, please contact Debra at niland@ehca.org and visit http://www.ehca.org/node/25

Therapeutic Horse Riding Choices

Photos by Yvette Janvier

On any Saturday afternoon at centers around the Delaware Valley and the nation, children with disabilities are learning to ride a horse. Therapeutic horseback riding is an enjoyable, educational activity that develops skills and builds friendships.

Therapeutic riding programs vary in their programs, riding styles and even the size of their horses. Riders can be found in an indoor ring or out on the trail. Some children take lessons alone, others in pairs or larger groups.

In most area programs, an instructor closely accompanies beginners and at least one volunteer “sidewalker” walks or jogs alongside the horse and supports the rider. More experienced students can trot and canter on their own. Programs also range in price, from free of charge to $50 or more per lesson.

Find a Therapeutic Riding Center

Delaware   |   New Jersey   |   Pennsylvania
NARHA, the national organization for equine-assisted activities and therapies, offers information and a member list.
Click here for Philadelphia-area farms and stables offering horseback riding and lessons.

At most riding centers, time in the saddle is just the beginning. Students participate in a variety of equine activities, such as grooming, feeding,attaching the lead rope and walking the horse. In addition to weekly instruction, many stables offer special events, as well as specialty and summer camp programs. Here are examples of the varied horse therapy activities offered by area riding centers. Continue reading "Therapeutic Horse Riding Choices"