Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ensuring Success for Individuals with Special Needs

Written by Maureen Bennie   
Monday, 19 September 2011 
Whether you are dealing with a recent diagnosis, transitioning a person to adulthood, starting a child in school, or are somewhere in the middle of these, it is important to ensure success for an individual with special needs. What can you do to help a person have the best life possible?
Here are some things to consider:
A Good Doctor – Having a supportive doctor who listens can make all the difference to a family. Find one that is knowledgeable at giving referrals to specialists for matters they can’t deal with, can see you quickly when problems arise, and can offer help with difficult problems from sleep disturbances to challenging behaviors. A doctor also needs to sign the Disability Tax Credit form (T2201 form).
Start a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) – Established in 2008, contributions to an RDSP can be made until the disabled person is 59. Read this blog post to find out more information.
Connect with a Support Group – A support group can be a great resource for information. It can also be a place to vent and not be questioned about why you feel a certain way. Talking to others in a similar situation can be comforting. You’ll meet people who have dealt with issues you are facing and can hear how they tackled them.
The Local Library – Libraries are more than just a great place to find books and other resources like DVD’s. Libraries can order in books they don’t have at their branch, offer free talks, and have community programs. Our local library offers the Story Pals program where reluctant readers practice reading aloud to a dog. This program has changed my daughter’s life –she has lost her phobia of dogs and her language skills have improved.
Establish Good Home/School Communication – During the school years, a child spends a good part of their day at school so it is important to know what is going on. Keep communication lines open between parents and teachers. Remain calm when things go wrong and try not to assign blame. Work as a team on issues that arise.
Attend Conferences and Workshops- Conferences and workshop opportunities are a great place to network and meet professionals, parents and learn about different resources. Hearing a professional speak about an aspect of special needs can broaden your information base and also provides an opportunity to ask questions face to face.
Get Involved in Community Activities – Participate in inclusive community activities so that the individual can meet their peer group and other adults. You can often make important connections in the community and find people for respite care, job opportunities or volunteer positions. Have a look at the book Get Out, Explore, and Fun for ideas on community outings.
Volunteer – Another great way to meet people and create another sense of community. Volunteer opportunities are available through organizations, sports groups, churches and community events. Read your local community circular or recreation centre brochure to find out where volunteers are needed.
Make a Will – Don’t leave things to chance. Consult with a lawyer who is familiar with will and estates and the implications around special needs.
Investigate Adult Services Early – Even if your child is not an adult yet, start investigating adult services. It takes a long time to become familiar with the paperwork and how to access services. Starting this process close to adulthood doesn’t leave enough time to connect with the right people or agencies.
Travel – Although a long trip with flights may not be possible, try shorter travel trips or even day trips. It’s important to see new things and learn to cope with new situations. Nowhere in life does everything stay the same.
Try New Things – Even though this can be stressful, change is what life is made of. Exposure to new things can create a new interest or passion. You won’t know until you try. A new experience may not go well the first time, but subsequent exposures may lessen stress. My daughter cried at her first Story Pals session, but by the third session she was really enjoying it.
These are just a few ideas to keep in mind. The bigger the community surrounding the child or adult, the more opportunity there is for success. People connected to an individual increases the likelihood that they will take an interest in their well being. The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” really is true.

About Maureen Bennie -
Maureen is the mother of two children with autism - Marc age 14 and Julia age 12.  For 8 years, she managed an at-home Intensive Behavioral Intervention Program which  involved working with speech pathologists, child development specialists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.

In June of 2003, Maureen, in conjunction with Vicki Harris, created the Autism Awareness Centre. As a director, she manages the Centre’s website, book division, communications, and assists with the planning and management of conferences the Centre organizes. The Centre has organized over 65 conferences in Canada and the UK and has provided book resource support at more than 60 events throughout Canada and the US.

Maureen is the author of over 100 articles and book reviews that have appeared in magazines, newsletters and on websites throughout North America and the UK. She is an active presenter throughout Canada on autism topics and the subject of book resources and how to use them effectively. She co-authored a book about adults on the autism spectrum published through the Autism Calgary Association.

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