Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Special Needs City Guide:
A Glimpse at Area Support

by Carrie Bishop

April 01, 2012

Indianapolis does a lot of things well. Pork tenderloin. Super Bowl. Summertime. This city - and surrounding communities - also do well at supporting families with special needs. The following list highlights organizations working to make life better for these Indiana families. Itís just a sample of the support offered in Central Indiana, but a starting point nonetheless of organizations where families with special needs can find real help with quality-of-life issues.

Noble of Indiana. Noble of Indiana provides First Steps early intervention therapies for babies and toddlers with developmental delays, summer camps for school-age kids of all abilities, and support for families that encompasses respite, Sibshops, and the Central Indiana Autism Support Group.

About Special Kids. About Special Kids is a godsend to many families raising a child with special needs. Families and professionals utilize this organization to better understand complicated topics like health insurance, special education, community resources, and medical homes.

Arc of Indiana. The Arc is an advocacy association for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families. It provides information and referral on programs, services, and the rights of people with developmental disabilities. The Arc also offers the Arc Master Trust, which includes two trust programs designed to help families take care of the financial future of their loved one with special needs.

Carmel Dadís Club. The Carmel Dadís Club offers a Special Sports Program for school-aged kids in Central Indiana who have mental or physical challenges. Participants meet each Saturday throughout the school year to play a rotating sports schedule that includes T-ball, soccer, basketball, bowling, tennis and volleyball. The kids also have a chance to take part in an annual soap box derby.

Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation. Carmelís recreation center is known for its fun and thoughtful adaptive programming that includes sports, fitness, arts, culture, special events, social enrichment, and private therapies. ďWe served over 800 individuals with disabilities in the past year within these programs,Ē said Brooke Taflinger, inclusion supervisor with Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation. She notes the organization also assists children with disabilities in the Extended School Enrichment by making sure all of the needs are being met for each child enrolled in the school program.

Easter Seals Crossroads. Easter Seals Crossroads offers autism services, childrenís medical rehabilitation services, deaf community services, assistive technology services, employment programs and more. The organization works to help people with special needs address lifeís challenges and achieve personal goals.

Family and Social Services Administration. The FSSA is a healthcare and social service funding agency. Its five care divisions administer services to over one million Hoosiers according to the stateís Web site. The five divisions of the FSSA include the Division of Family Resources, Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning, Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services, Divisions of Mental Health and Addiction, and Division of Aging. These are the agencies that manage Medicaid programs, First Steps, and more. Nonprofits like Family Voices and About Special Kids are able to help parents make sense of and navigate these systems.

Family Voices Indiana. As the stateís family-to-family health information center, Family Voices Indiana provides information, education, training, outreach, and peer support to families of children with special healthcare needs. Jennifer Akers, project coordinator for the not-for-profit, said the organization is staffed by parents of kids with special needs who are trained at navigating the healthcare maze of insurance, Medicaid waivers, medical homes, and most anything that touches their childís healthcare needs.

First Steps. First Steps provides early intervention services to children birth to 3-years-old who have developmental delays or are diagnosed with a condition that will likely result in a developmental delay. The program utilizes local education, health and social services to make sure infants and toddlers receive the early interventions they need.

Special Olympics Indiana. Kids with intellectual disabilities can get involved year-round in sports training and athletic competition. It costs nothing to participate and athletes gain so much. Nearly 11,000 athletes across Indiana participate in one or more of the over 20 Olympic-type sports offered.

YMCA. Families can find fun adaptive programming through area YMCA branches. The Baxter branch is known for offering a variety of programs like WAVES adapted aquatics classes and martial arts, but YMCAs in general work to make all camps and Kids Night Out events inclusive to kids of all abilities.

Westside Special Needs Network. The Speedway United Methodist Church (UMC) Special Needs Ministry and Westside Special Needs Network parent support group meets every other Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Speedway UMC also offers a BLAST youth group for kids 12 and older who have special needs. Among other services, Speedway UMC provides respite care for children with disabilities at church during Sunday School and the 10:45 a.m. worship service.