By Guest Blogger Katy Biagini with Family Support Network of Central Carolina
When you are faced with a child’s disability, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, isolated, and alone. Overwhelmed as you swim through a sea of information pertaining to your child’s diagnosis, seek resources and support to navigate the journey ahead, and ask questions about the future. Isolated as you may struggle to communicate how you’re feeling with those closest to you and often don’t have any immediate family or friends who have experienced the same diagnosis themselves. Alone as you become your child’s fiercest advocate and take the first, scary steps to reach out and ask for help. All of these feelings, and more, are both valid and common to parents of children with special needs and many of these feelings are cyclical, meaning they may resurface over time and as you reach new milestones in your and your child’s life.
Part of our role here at the Family Support Network of Central Carolina is to help families connect. Connect one-on-one with our Parent Referral Specialist, so they can receive both a listening ear and a list of relevant resources for their child’s specific diagnosis. Connect with other families who have ‘been there’ and can act as both a safe place and tremendous resource. What better ‘expert’ is there than another parent who has walked through the same journey just a few years before you?
Below you’ll find a list of resources we compiled to share with families of children with special needs. We hope this acts as a great ‘starting point’ as you begin to explore and compile your support system. Despite how you may feel right now, you are not alone on the journey ahead.
For more information on our organization and programming, please visit our website. To ‘connect’ with us for additional information, resources and support, or to be added to our mailing list for updates and upcoming events, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Local Parent Groups
- Moms Group- A parent group for moms of children with special needs, meets one Thursday a month from 8:00-9:30 p.m.
- Dads Group- A parent group for dads of children with special needs, meets one Tuesday a month from 8:00-9:30 p.m.
- Rare Disease Moms Group- A parent group for moms of children with a rare disease, meets one Thursday a month from 8:00-9:30 p.m.
- Black Parents Group- A parent group for Black parents of children with special needs, meets one Thursday a month from 8:00-9:30 p.m.
- Parent Mentors– Sometimes, the best support comes from someone else who has “been there.” Research has proven that families raising children with special needs benefit significantly from the support of other parents in similar situations. Through our matching program, you can talk with a trained volunteer Parent Mentor who is raising a child with similar needs and challenges. Our access to state and nation-wide networks enables us to locate family matches even for rare conditions or situations.
- Sibshops – Sibshops is a free social support group for siblings of children with special needs in grades k-6 (hosted by the Family Support Network of Central Carolina). This program is free to all Guilford County residents (and surrounding counties). Several sessions are typically held each year in our satellite office (at 515 College Road, Suite 14), from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Due to COVID-19, all Sibshops meetings are currently being held via Zoom Call. This group is led by two FSNCC Staff Members and facilitated by two high school aged students who are also siblings of brothers/sisters with special needs.
- Summer Camp Directory– Every year, Family Support Network compiles an N.C. Summer Camp Directory for families of children with Special Needs. Our intention is to connect families with resources and programs that will serve their family through all seasons of their journey. We hope this list serves you and your family well as you seek opportunities to enrich your children.
- UNITE Event– Our annual U.N.I.T.E. event stands for “Understanding Inclusion Takes Everyone.” The goal behind this event is to bring together organizations from across our area that serves families of individuals with special needs. This event is powerful in that it brings all of these local resources to one place, where we can be united in mission and accessible for families to connect. This event is hosted every spring in Downtown Greensboro at beautiful LeBauer Park. It is co-hosted by the following organizations: Family Support Network of Central Carolina, Downtown Greensboro, Greensboro Parks and Rec and Greensboro Downtown Parks, Inc.
ADDITIONAL LOCAL RESOURCES:
- All Ability Acting- Greensboro– The Drama Center encourages people, including those with disabilities, to perform and participate in all its theater programs. AAAL is a special opportunity for individuals with disabilities to work together to create a piece of theater.
- ARC of Greensboro– The ARC believes that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are entitled to the rights afforded every American and that they demand to be included and participate as full members of the community. Here at the ARC, we believe everybody deserves a choice and a voice! We believe in and support the concept of People First. The ARC believes that all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are defined by their own strengths, abilities and inherent value, not by their disabilities. The ARC provides many programs such as Challenger Sports, ArcBarks, employment options, and art classes.
- Autism Society of NC– The Autism Society of North Carolina provides support and promotes opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals within the autism spectrum and their families.
- Allegro Music Therapy– Allegro provides individual and group music therapy, and education in a variety of settings. We serve typical children, teens and adults of all ages, as well as those with special needs. This includes individuals with learning differences, physical and developmental disabilities, those with diagnoses along the autism spectrum, Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related conditions, traumatic brain injury, acute and chronic pain and medical patients.
- A Special Blend– A Special Blend aims to serve a great cup of coffee while achieving a greater goal by providing employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Having a job gives people a sense of dignity, purpose, belonging, and acceptance. Our mission extends further than just a job or a cup of coffee; we believe our customer will be inspired and positively changed by their interactions with our employees. We hope to create a loving community that values all people.
- Buddy Break– This resource provides 3 FREE hours of respite for parents of children with special needs. Held at West Market Street United Methodist Church on the 3rd Saturday of each month from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Siblings are welcome as well. If your child would like to attend Buddy Break, make sure you call to reserve a spot. Please email email@example.com for more information or click here to read the TMoM blog on this amazing organization.
- Childcare Resource Center – CCRC is your trusted source for information about quality child care in Forsyth and the surrounding counties. You can read a TMoM blog about their services here.
- Children’s Developmental Services Agency (CDSA)- Greensboro– Our area Early Intervention office, offering diagnostic evaluations, access to therapy services, and service coordination for children from birth to age 3. Parents, physicians, and other service providers may make referrals to the CDSA to arrange for screenings and consultations. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Chez Genese– At Chez Genèse we believe the desire to find meaning and fulfilling work is woven into basic human need and nature, and that every person has a skill set to contribute. It is our goal, as a team, to come alongside incredible individuals who (due to an intellectual or developmental disability) may oftentimes have the odds stacked against them in the workforce, to help develop and celebrate their own interests and potential.
- Community Theatre OnStage Acting– ‘OnStage and Inclusive’ is a unique 2 week multi-age theatre program that engages special needs participants of varying abilities to work on self-expression, advocacy and communication skills through expressive theatre arts. This inclusive theatre program is by audition only and the selected Company will use the 2 weeks to create performances based on collaborative ideas formed with their acting partners. There will be Acting, Vocal and Inclusive specialists to work with the Company. Additional backstage learning opportunities including lighting, sound and stage management are also available by audition.
- Down Syndrome Network– The Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro is committed to enriching the lives of individuals with Down syndrome by connecting with new families, providing social and educational opportunities for our members, and promoting awareness and inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome in our community. You can also click here for a blog about the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Winston-Salem.
- Family Support Network of Greater Forsyth – The Centers for Exceptional Children, Family Support Network of Greater Forsyth (FSN) is dedicated to strengthening families and enhancing the lives of children with special needs, from birth to age 21, in and around Forsyth County.
- Greensboro Cerebral Palsy Association– Shares information for parents and caregivers of children with CP, including information on treatment options, causes, and symptoms.
- Gateway Education Center– The Mission of Gateway Education Center is to be a model program for the education and care of children, 3-22 years of age, with severe cognitive, physical, and/or medical disabilities. Education and care include developing and maintaining, with dignity, humanity, and purpose, each student and his/her family’s potential in the areas of health, social/emotional, behavioral, vocational, daily living, and academics.
- Guilford County Schools Exceptional Children & Psychological Services Office– Providing diagnostic assessments, case management, and school placement assistance for children ages 3 and up.
- Guilford Parent Academy– Provides free information and training on a variety of topics for parents, grandparents and family members caring for children and young people in Guilford County.
- Greensboro Parks & Rec– The Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department exists to provide professional and diverse leisure opportunities through inclusive programs, facilities, parks, and open space, ensuring that Greensboro is a desirable place to work, live and play.
- Greensboro United TOPSoccer– TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a community-based soccer program for young athletes with disabilities, organized by community volunteers. This outreach program was started with the help of the Family Support Network and the Down Syndrome Network, and is a program of GUSA. TOPSoccer is open to any child, age three* or older, regardless of diagnosis or ability. Our players include children with autism, Down syndrome, intellectual and motor challenges, Cerebral Palsy, and other disabilities.
- Haynes Inman Education Center– Haynes-Inman Education Center is a Guilford County public separate school located in Jamestown, North Carolina that serves approximately 130 students ranging in age from preschool to age 22 with severe to profound cognitive and/or physical disabilities. Our facility also has one preschool inclusion class that educates special needs students as well as regular education students.
- Horsepower– Horsepower Therapeutic Learning Center is a non-profit organization serving the North Carolina Piedmont Triad community since 1995. We are a Premier PATH International Center that provides therapeutic horseback riding and equine-assisted therapy to over 300 individuals with disabilities, as well as able-bodied students, each year.
- iCan Bike and iCan Swim Greensboro– The objective of iCan Bike and iCan Swim is to teach individuals with disabilities to bike and swim. Our program uses specialized equipment, coaching, and encouragement to reach this goal. Through the use of our equipment, we gradually introduce the instability of the bicycle until the participant “discovers” how to ride a bike. This program is held in partnership with Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro, Autism Unbound, and Family Support Network of Central Carolina conduct the program.
- iCan House – iCan House is a 501 c3 nonprofit organization registered in Winston-Salem, which educates, supports, and enhances the lives of those with social challenges and their families. They do so by teaching social and life skills using our own unique, interactive and engaging curriculum. They currently offer more than 8 programs and using this positive approach, they help members learn life, social, and independence skills. By doing so, their members also develop a sense of belonging and purpose.
- Koppertop– The mission of Kopper Top is to empower, enable and enhance the quality of life for individuals with special needs using animal-assisted recreational therapy activities. Our therapy services offer educational experiences designed to increase self-confidence and improve quality of life.
- Miracle League Baseball in High Point– The Miracle League provides opportunities to all children with special needs to play baseball regardless of their abilities. The mission is the increase community awareness and support, provide sustaining funding, and construct and maintain special facilities that meet the unique needs of players and their families.
- MOJI Coffee – Located in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina, this is a non-profit organization established to provide meaningful, fulfilling employment to members of our community with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. You can read our TMoM blog about MOJI here.
- NC Division of Services for Deaf or Hard of Hearing– The Department of Health and Human Services manages the delivery of health- and human-related services for all North Carolinians, especially our most vulnerable citizens – children, elderly, disabled and low-income families. The Department works closely with health care professionals, community leaders and advocacy groups; local, state and federal entities; and many other stakeholders to make this happen.
- Rethinking Guardianship– Are you considering a guardianship option for your child(ren)? Head on over to the Rethinking Guardianship website for FAQ, a ‘know your options’ brochure, and more
- Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center – Riverwood provides quality, professional equine assisted activities and farm-based learning opportunities for both children and adults with special needs. Their vision is to facilitate healing, acceptance and growth for those with special needs through a partnership with equines and the natural world.
- Salvage Gardens– Salvage Garden is an organization that provides resources, education, and support for families living with difference or disability, including a multi-sensory worship experience designed to include people of all abilities. First Christian partners with Salvage Garden by providing office space and teaming up for special events and services.
- Sandhills Center– Sandhills Center is a Local Management Entity-Managed Care Organization (LME-MCO) serving people in nine counties in central North Carolina. We have a robust network of providers who offer treatment and support for mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is the goal of Sandhills Center to make treatment options available to those who need them, to enrich and support our Provider Network, and to contribute to the overall well-being of the communities we serve.
- Smart Start of Forsyth County – This is a public/private partnership corporation that works to ensure that children, birth to five years of age, are prepared for success in school and life.
- Special Olympics Greensboro– The Special Olympics of Greensboro hosts more than 500 athletes who train and compete year-round in 16 different Olympic-type sports. Due to the large number of eligible athletes in Guilford County, there is also a High Point program.
- The Centers for Exceptional Children – provides a critical combination of support services, programs and facilities dedicated to one thing: helping children and their families thrive.
- UNCG Beyond Academics– The University of North Carolina at Greensboro supports students with intellectual and developmental disabilities through a Comprehensive Transition Program while enrolled in Integrative Community Studies, a four-year certificate program of study that emphasizes higher education, self-determination, community inclusion, career development, and independent living. Students completing requirements for graduation receive a certificate in Integrative Community Studies, awarded by The Office of the Provost at UNCG. Beyond Academics is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit partner of the university that provides support and services for enrolled students.
- Up in the “AIR”(Adaptive Inclusive Recreation) at Keeley Park in McLeansville
- We Rock the Spectrum Sensory Gym (Coming Soon)– We Rock the Spectrum provides children with a fun and motivational environment to help them in the areas of strength, movement, sensory processing, communication, positive behavior modification, social interactions, and self-care skills.
- Winston-Salem Youth Hockey Association – The goal is to give athletes with physical and developmental disabilities the opportunity to play the sport of ice hockey in an environment that is adapted to their level of play. The season lasts from October through March at the Winston Salem Annex.
ADDITIONAL TMOM RESOURCES:
- Special Needs Directory – Includes local services and other supportive programs that benefit children with special needs and their families.
- Support Group Directory – list of groups that meet for different topics including many special needs groups
- Summer Camp Directory – you will see a specific section under each city for children & teens with Special Needs.
- Parenting and Family Blogs – TMoM blogs written by parents and local groups for families with special needs
- Education for Special Needs – sub-category on TMoM website which includes blogs relevant to families and students with special needs
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