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VOL. 10 NO. 4







Misdiagnosis is a regular part of pediatrics,

and kids with disabilities may be even more vulnerable to getting the wrong diagnosis— or no diagnosis at all. words Julissa Treviño


thrive DAL L AS-F O R T WO R T H


5 This Is a Drill 7 Cruise Control 7 High Tech, Low Stress 7 Keep It Cool





Inclusive water parks and splash pads where you can beat the summer heat

words Alexis Manrodt & Lisa Salinas


9 Mom Next Door: Danielle Natoni 12 Recharge and Retreat 12 Hot Shots 12 Sound Advice: School Rules 14 Mommy Diary: Luciana Malkomes




34 Life Goes On words Josh Schilling



23 5 Things To Do in July & August








PHOTOGRAPHY Nick Prendergast

25 Directory of Special Needs Resources

staff box Publisher/ Editor-in-Chief Joylyn Niebes

Creative Director Lauren Niebes


MANAGING EDITOR Carrie Steingruber ASSOCIATE EDITOR Alexis Manrodt





ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Diana Whitworth Nelson ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Maggie Marston, Nancy McDaniel, Kristen Niebes, Sandi Tijerina, ADVERTISING COORDINATOR Alexa Wilder





DFWThrive is published six times a year by Lauren Publications, Inc. Address: 4275 Kellway Circle, Ste. 146, Addison, TX, 75001. Phone: 972/447-9188. Fax: 972/447-0633. Online: DFWThrive is distributed free of charge, one copy per reader. Only DFWThrive authorized distributors may deliver or pick up the magazines. We reserve the right to edit, reject or comment editorially on all material contributed. We cannot be responsible for the return of any unsolicited material. DFWThrive is ©2018 by Lauren Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without express written permission prohibited.


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Your child’s care should be

nothing less than epic Epic Health Services is Texas’ leading pediatric care continuum provider The Epic Health Services family of companies provides a pediatric care continuum, including private duty skilled nursing, therapy, developmental services, and home medical solutions, including enteral nutrition, respiratory, and medical supplies to medically fragile children across the United States. By maintaining a focus on the highest quality care, extraordinary customer service, and compliance, Epic Health Services operates as the largest comprehensive pediatric care continuum provider, helping patients navigate through all stages of life and health. Contact us today, and let us take your family from “surviving” to “thriving!” HEALTH SERVICES: Full-service in-home care Private duty skilled nursing

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take note


This particular location had never used the alarm, so he suggested trying it out. It was chaos. Students ran into each other or tried to run out the door. The alarm was immediately turned off, and they began to practice drills without the alarm first. “Routine and practice will keep your child safe,” Santos explains. You can do this at home, says Judy Gaither, a licensed professional counselor at Enderly Place Counseling in Fort Worth who specializes in anxiety and depression. She recommends practicing drill procedures and coaching children with special needs on how to respond, first without an alarm, and then gradually increasing the volume, variably. You can also show them pictures or videos of drills being performed calmly. At school, find out what your district does to accommodate students during drills. Pro Tips “We are inclusive in our As a Dallas firefighter and drills, but they are altered as father to a son with autism and epilepsy, JR Santos trains needed for the individual,” says Garrett Jackson, assistant direcparents, teachers and first tor of special education for Frisco responders to handle children with disabilities during Independent School District. crisis situations. He shares For example, to communicate his safety tips with parents with nonverbal students, staff through a monthly email; members use picture cards. They this month he sent out an also provide earplugs for those emergency profile form to to open the door when it share important facts about who don’t respond well to the your child with caregivers, buzzed instead of waiting for a alarms and special items of comteachers, therapists, doctors fort like a stuffed toy or blanket. staff member, not understandand other family members. ing the security implications. In a crisis or drill, first Sign up for the newsletter by “[Kids with special needs] emailing responders may have no idea how are so trusting and they want to defuse a fearful child with a disto help so badly,” she says. ability. Parents can do their part by Wittich and a parent walked her through introducing their child to the security officers at the process many times, going into the office to school and the fire department personnel at the get someone to open the door when the buzzer local station—basically, anyone their child could sounded. It took an hour of repeated tries, but come in contact with during a drill or crisis situshe eventually understood that only the princiation, Gaither adds. This can help familiarize pal can say who comes into the school. the child with new faces and the first responders Other security measures are more disrupwith the child’s specific needs. tive. When faced with a screeching drill alarm, You can also put supplies in your child’s students with special needs can become agitated: backpack like an emergency preparedness form some shriek or shake their hands in the air, some with medical needs and your child’s typical become paralyzed with fear and others run. reactions to stressful situations, along with JR Santos witnessed some of these reactions reading materials, a favorite security item, a family photo book, and games to help him or when he recently visited a Plano classroom of her pass the time in a lockdown situation. students with varying diagnoses. Santos, an “Stability and distraction, even during a 18-year veteran of the Dallas Fire Department practice situation … can be soothing to chiland father to a son with autism and epilepsy, dren and familiar rather than the noise and travels to public and private schools and day habilitation centers to assist with lockdown drills. chaos of a drill,” Gaither says.

This Is a Drill

Preparing your kid for school safety measures WORDS MARIE VALDEN



developmental delays, I have worried about her safety. I worried that someone would tease her or push her around and that no one would understand her nonverbal responses. I put removable tattoos on her so that if she were lost she could be returned home. By the time she reached high school, I felt a little relief— until Dawn learned about active school shooters and became fearful that the “bad guy” would come to her school. There’s no tattoo for that. But there are drills, resource officers and other safety measures that schools have increasingly put in place to protect students—and yet these things can also be sources of confusion and fear to kids like my daughter. So how do we teach the most innocent of our students to deal with the added security measures they’re likely to encounter this fall? Even something as simple as a door buzzer can give a child difficulty, says Rachel Wittich, cofounder and principal of Wedgwood Academy in Fort Worth. She recalls one student who wanted


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Dylan takes on physical therapy with the poise of a princess.

Dylan, Age 5 Physical and Occupational Therapy Patient

Dylan, born with Down syndrome, dreams of being a princess. During her physical and occupational therapy at Children’s HealthSM , Dylan victoriously reaches key milestones and shines in her development. This princess truly deserves to live happily ever after. Every patient has a dream. Read more at

take note

Cruise Control


f your family vacations aren’t always smooth sailing, book an open-sea adventure with A U T I S M O N T H E S E A S ( A O T S ) . The company collaborates with major cruise lines like Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean to offer worry-free vacations to kids and adults with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other cognitive and developmental disabilities. AotS provides daily respite care, freeing up families to enjoy some much-needed R & R while their pint-size pirates take part in specialized activities led by trained AotS staff. The whole family is treated to reserved seating at shows and meals, priority boarding and even private performances and access to sports and swim areas. Four-day to weeklong cruises set sail from Galveston throughout the year; they sell out fast, so book your travel at least six months in advance. —Alexis Manrodt

DYLAN’S PARENTS KNEW THE DIFFERENCE CHILDREN’S HEALTHSM COULD MAKE. We know care isn’t one size fits all. That’s why we’re specifically trained in pediatrics, so kids like Dylan can pursue their dreams.

Autism on the Seas, $15—$29 per person per day, plus cruise price 203/604-0278;

High Tech, Low Stress

Step aside, Fitbit. New wearable technologies are making it easier than ever to track and treat your child’s anxiety. Vancouver-based Awake Labs is beta testing REVEAL, a wristband that tracks the physiological symptoms of anxiety to predict how and when your child will react in

Multidisciplinary Down Syndrome Clinic

More than 50 specialties from occupational and physical therapy to developmental screenings and parent education and support

potentially triggering situations. An accompanying app allows caregivers, therapists and educators to add notes about your child’s behavior, moods, social interactions and even Individualized Education Program goals. If you’re interested in taking part in the beta trials, email Your kid can get relief during an anxiety episode literally at the push of a button, thanks to TOUCHPOINTS.

Innovative technologies, groundbreaking research and life-changing treatments

Twin bands worn on each wrist send gentle vibrations (or, as scientists

call them, bilateral stimulation) to reduce stress in as little as 30 seconds. —A.M.

Photos courtesy of Blue Quail Clothing Co.; TouchPoints;

Awake Labs,; TouchPoints, from $160;


One Fort Worth clothing brand is bringing together style and safety, making it easy for your little ones to look and feel cool this season. Founded by mom Amanda Lundgren, B L U E Q U A I L C L O T H I N G C O . offers sun-protective children’s clothing made from a 100 percent nylon blend that’s rated UPF 50+, meaning it blocks 98 percent of UV radiation. (And unlike sunscreen, there’s no need to reapply!) Not to mention the pieces are quick-dry and stain-resistant. Silhouettes in the collections include unisex lightweight button ups with vent backs in sizes 12 months to 8 years. —Lisa Salinas

Learn more at

Blue Quail Clothing, from $40 Babies on the Boulevard, 6323 Camp Bowie Blvd., Suite 145, Fort Worth; 817/737-7171 Hip Hip Hooray, 6701 Snider Plaza, Dallas; 214/369-2788 Layette, 4250 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas; 214/520-7000 thrive

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Helping families sleep soundly At the Pediatric Sleep Institute, we understand that a sleep or neurological disorder of a child affects the entire family. Our team of board-certified specialists provide a comprehensive evaluation of Neurology and Sleep and Wake Disorders in children ages newborn to 18 years of age. For those requiring an over-night sleep study, we offer five child-friendly rooms equipped with a second bed for a caregiver to spend the night. Talk with your physician about a referral to the Pediatric Sleep Institute. We look forward to helping your family sleep soundly.

A Department of Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery

Phone Fax

(214) 778-3000 (972) 419-8190

At the Pediatric Sleep Institute, children with special needs such as developmental delays/intellectual disability, and neurodevelopmental disabilities are tested in a warm and caring atmosphere. Medical conditions which may require a sleep study include:

ADHD Asthma Cardiac disease Depression/Anxiety Diabetes Down syndrome GERD Hypertension Hypertrophy of tonsils Obesity Pulmonary artery hypertension Seizure disorder Sickle cell anemia

Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery is a licensed physician-owned hospital as defined by Federal Law. The hospital is affiliated with, but not controlled by Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries. Some of the physicians on the medical staff own a financial interest in the facility. Physicians on the medical staff who provide services operate as independent medical service providers.


real moms

Mom Next Door

In 2010, Natoni spun her passion for self-improvement into a second career. A longtime teacher in search of another stream of income, she discovered Beachbody, the multilevel marketing corporation behind P90X, Shakeology, WORDS NICOLE JORDAN et al. She saw PHOTOGRAPHY NICK PRENDERGAST an opportunity to help other women anielle Natoni of Frisco isn’t one to through health and fitness, sit idle, literally or otherwise. She’s and seized it. Now she trains constantly moving to make herself other fitness instructors, crebetter, always striving to be the best ates workout videos and helps version of herself possible. trainers build their online presence, “Complacency isn’t in my vocabulary,” says the among other activities. 39-year-old mom of two: Adrianna, 17, and Bianca, “I’ve been very fortunate,” says Natoni. who is 12 and has Tourette’s syndrome. “Feeling “I’ve grown my platform and found my voice.” comfortable is never going to be something I do.” She’s also been lucky in love, which was

Danielle Natoni



something she didn’t expect. She met Darren Natoni—a fellow Beachbody consultant and her other half in the Body Chemistry program—and married him in 2015. Darren quickly settled into the role of business partner and “bonus dad.” (Natoni co-parents with her ex-husband, Adrianna and Bianca’s father.) At a glance, things look picture perfect these days. But Natoni is candid about the difficulties she faced getting here. “I’ve been through it all,” she says. “Sometimes it’s easy to look at an attractive, fit woman and think it’s always been easy. But I’ve been at rock-bottom debt. I’ve gone through divorce. I’ve been the underdog.” She’s also been through the challenges of raising a child with special needs. Bianca was 7 when she began blinking uncontrollably and

“In order to raise empowering women, I have to be an empowered woman myself.”

ABOVE / Even as Danielle Natoni uses her fitness platform to empower women worldwide, her top priority is empowering her daughters: Adrianna, 17, and Bianca, 12, who has Tourette’s syndrome. thrive

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christian academy

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Ways ABA is Utilized at Beyond the Behavior • Functional Behavior Assessment • Naturalistic Teaching • Discrete Trial Teaching • Incidental Teaching • Task Analysis • Parent Training • Chaining • Shaping

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july/august 2018


shrugging her shoulders like clockwork. Natoni did her research and deduced the cause to be Tourette’s syndrome, but it was three years before a neurologist confirmed with an official diagnosis. “Hers is extremely mild compared to most people,” explains Natoni. With effort, Bianca is able to mostly contain her tics during the school day and when she’s doing something she loves, but they become pronounced when she’s tired. Still, despite her tics, Bianca is thriving in school and socially confident. She plays volleyball and was recently named a youth ambassador for Tourette Association of America. Last fall, she made an appearance on The Doctors talk show to tell her story. Odd as it may sound, Natoni sees the diagnosis as a blessing of sorts, something that will shape Bianca into a stronger, more compassionate person. Early on, Natoni made the decision to manage her daughter’s symptoms holistically. “It wasn’t a difficult decision,” she says. “We live a very holistic life to begin with. I believe most things tend to be bettered through food, movement and sleep.” The family limits processed, high-sugar foods and chemicals. Natoni says that when Bianca’s tics worsen, they’re usually able to pinpoint something in her diet that’s off. And activity isn’t just encouraged but required—the more Bianca moves, the milder her tics seem to be. Natoni is careful to state that she in no way seeks to deride traditional medicine or villainize those who choose it. But for Bianca’s specific case, she felt the natural choice was best. In fact, Natoni has always been passionate about health. Long before Beachbody was even in her vernacular, she was a dancer. She danced throughout school and competitively as an adult before becoming pregnant with Adrianna. Though dancing was sidelined when she became a mom at 22, she became more focused than ever on nutrition. She resolved not to become “that mom, who has a baby and becomes unhealthy,” and never looked back. At 39, she says that she’s aging in reverse, getting healthier as she gets older. And she says it without an ounce of arrogance. It’s a simple matter of fact. She shares her story daily through her businesses, speaking engagements and social media platforms. A book is in the works.

Ultimately, her goal is simple: to use her experiences to empower other women to take control of their health too and to learn how to put themselves first. “As females, we’re taught from a very young age that we’re our last priority, that, in order to be a wife or mother or businesswoman, we have to put ourselves on the back burner,” Natoni says. “What I’ve learned and want to teach other women is that when we put ourselves last, we give everyone around us our worst. But when we put ourselves first, we give everyone around us our best.” To ensure she’s giving her loved ones her best, Natoni prioritizes her marriage and “me time.” Naturally, working out is an outlet. But she also enjoys the rare reality TV binge or mani-pedi. Beyond fitness and nutrition, she and Darren seek to live well by abiding by a trio of family values: Always do the right thing. Take extreme ownership in all you do. And the only way to fail in life is to settle for less than you’re capable of achieving. For Natoni, doing her best is nonnegotiable—and not to be confused with doing it all. She’s of the camp that balance is as elusive as it seems and refuses to feel guilt when she can’t be all things to all people. Sometimes she’s a fully present parent, and sometimes she’s a fully present business owner. Trying to fill all roles at once, she’s learned, is just a recipe for disaster. “All we can do is our best in our role at the moment,” she says, referencing Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. “My life will never be in perfect balance.” As her girls get busier, family time is increasingly rare. But when it does happen, they enjoy a family game night. With Adrianna nearing college, Natoni has normal misgivings. But mostly she’s just excited to watch her daughter come into her own. However focused she is on empowering women across the globe, Natoni’s top priority is to empower the two young women living in her own home. “I want my girls to know that they can do and be anything they want to be,” she says. “In order to raise empowering women, I have to be an empowered woman myself. The only way to do that is to lead by example.”

“When we put ourselves first, we give everyone around us our best.”

Pediatric Home Health Speech, Occupational & Physical Therapy Serving Children Ages: 0–21

Terapia de Lenguaje, Ocupacional y Física

• Highly Experienced Clinical Team • Specialized Feeding Program • Achieving your child’s greatest potential • Ethical Practices Our therapists create a fun and nurturing therapy experience for children with special needs. Serving the greater DFW area



Se Habla Español


SPECIAL NEEDS SLEEPOVER AUGUST 17 Bring the family and enjoy the Museum at an evening designed just for you! Open to children ages 5-20 with sensory needs and their families. sensory activites optional 3D film calm rooms lots of fun science for all

Reserve your spot at or 214.756.5763. thrive

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Sound Advice School Rules

Fort Worth Camera, classes from $50 1600 Montgomery St., Fort Worth; 817/335-3456

Leave the kids with Dad and practice a hobby that will always come in handy. FORT WORTH CAMERA and DALLAS CENTER FOR PHOTOGRAPHY hold regular photography classes for all levels of expertise with themes from digital camera basics to nature photography and more. Sign up for FWC’s black and white photography lesson on July 12, during which you can even learn which phone apps to use for the

best black-and-white shots. And registration is open for DCP’s halfday, travel photography class on Sept. 29 (just in time for fall festivities and holiday outings) and an allday dog photography workshop in October. Check both organizations’ websites for all upcoming classes.

—Lisa Salinas

Rest & Retreat

Meet other moms in a scenic setting at the eighth annual Happy Mama retreat

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Your kids require special care—and so do you, Mom. H A P P Y M A M A R E T R E AT , an annual getaway just for moms of kids with special needs, gives you an excuse to relax, practice self-care and be in community with other women who understand your journey. The weekend includes painting, wine socials, hikes and spa treatments. During the conference part of the retreat, speakers like therapists and coaches give insights on how to cope with your emotions. Registration for next year’s retreat, held April 12–14 in Montreat, North Carolina, is now open, and prices increase Nov. 1. Scholarships to attend are available. For more information, email —L.S. Happy Mama Retreat, from $357 (travel cost not included); 828/585-7366;

july/august 2018

• Trust your instincts. You know your child better than anyone else does, and when your child is in the right environment, you’ll know it. • De-stress. The process can be stressful, but try to stay positive and take care of yourself and your child to avoid letting stress lead to a hurried decision. • Look for love. The classroom is a place where your child must feel loved and embraced in order to learn. • Ask around. Rely on your village. Often, finding the right school requires more than a quick internet search. Ask those you know for their recommendations. • Don’t settle. The right option for your child is out there—you just have to find it. Pam Boronski is a Realtor at Ebby Halliday and mother of two wonderful children.

Photos courtesy of Happy Mama Retreat, Dallas Center for Photography; Illustration by Mary Dunn

Dallas Center for Photography, classes from $65 4756 Algiers St., Dallas; 214/630-4909

Hot Shots

Last spring, my son Chad, then a sophomore, was resigned to the fact that he wouldn’t go to college. So we made the switch to a one-to-one (one student, one teacher) school, where Chad is not only thriving—he’s graduating early. I often talk with other moms who feel traditional schools aren’t meeting their child’s needs for one reason or another. But taking the steps to place your child in another environment can be difficult. To those moms, I offer the following tips to help you feel confident about finding the best school for your child:

Organic Cedar Raised Garden Beds for Children Air North Texas

Includes instructional book and seeds to start

Walking with your child on the way to school or while running errands gives you more quality time together and helps improve air quality. Learn more about helping our air at

Sizes vary from 4’ x 4’ and larger


stroll together breathe better

Visit our website to learn some of the benefits of gardening for children with special needs. ©

Serving the needs of learning-different students for more than 30 years

• Early childhood through high school • Small class sizes • Social emotional development • Speech and occupational therapy on-site

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• Summer camps

Offering a dual-track, multi-sensory instructional model for students with academic or social learning challenges of varying levels, Oak Hill Academy is dedicated to unveiling the gifts of each student, which might otherwise be hidden in a traditional classroom. OAK HILL ACADEMY | 9407 MIDWAY ROAD, DALLAS 75220   | 214-353-8804 | thrive


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A Tuesday in the Life of Luciana Malkomes

Luciana Malkomes is a Brazilian expat and former attorney who has been living in America for over a decade. She and her husband of 18 years, Marco, a station manager at Lufthansa German Airlines at DallasFort Worth Airport, reside in Arlington with their two children, 14-year-old Pedro and 6-year-old Gabriela, who has Down syndrome.

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:50AM Wake up 20 minutes before my alarm. I relax in bed for a bit and then head downstairs to turn off the house alarm. Our 17-month-old lab, Charlie, greets me. A few belly scratches, and then I let him into the backyard. 6:15AM I prepare my daughter’s lunch. Gabriela is hypersensitive to textures so she eats mostly pureed foods. It requires lots of creativity with her daily meals. I reheat some vegetable soup from the fridge and pack it in her lunchbox. Next, I mix her medication in with some yogurt for her breakfast. 6:27AM Time for everyone to get up. Charlie joins me upstairs in Gabriela’s room. It’s a team effort—I turn on the lights, and he jumps on the bed and licks her face. While Gabby begs for more sleep, I check the weather app to make sure I choose the right clothes for her. I help Gabby get dressed, which is more like a little morning wrestling. 6:40AM Charlie heads off to wake Pedro while I attend to Gabriela. It’s a long process in the morning, so I play episodes of Barney and Sesame Street (she loves Elmo) on her iPad. She won’t eat by herself so I feed her some yogurt. Next, I comb her hair, clean her glasses and help brush her teeth. 7:15AM Fried eggs are sizzling and toast is crisping. Marco quickly eats before heading out to drop off Gabby at school.

7:25AM I buckle Gabriela into the car. After a long session of goodbye kisses and hugs with me, her brother and our dog, she finally accepts that she has to go. 7:30AM Breakfast. Ten minutes later, Marco returns home and joins Pedro and me and my big cup of coffee on the couch to watch the morning news. 8:10AM Time for the boys to leave for school and work. I help Pedro load his saxophone into the car and hug both boys. 8:30AM I call my mom for our daily phone chat. She lives in Brazil, but we love to stay closely connected. 9AM My neighbor friend Amanda arrives, and we go jogging for an hour around the neighborhood. 10AM Back home. I’m starving, so I make an omelet and eat while responding to emails and browsing social media. 11AM I cook a huge pot of rich soup for Gabriela loaded with lots of fresh veggies, protein and grains. She’ll eat this for lunch and dinner all week so I make sure that she’ll get all of her nutrients. 11:23AM Vacuum the first floor. Charlie is always shedding—his fur gets everywhere! 12:35PM Shower and get ready. 1:20PM Fill up the car with gas and buy some groceries for tonight. 2:30PM Home. I put away the groceries and then take Charlie for a walk. I return just in time to grab some chips and fruit before driving to Gabriela’s school. Before I leave, I put Charlie in the backyard—even tired from a long walk, he will destroy the whole house if he’s left inside alone. 3:10PM Waiting in the carpool line, I listen to music by my favorite artists (and native Texans), MercyMe and Kari Jobe. 3:30PM Gabby is walked to the car and gets inside. On the short drive home, she tells me about her day. My sweet girl always brightens my day with her smiles and funny stories. 3:35PM Home for a few minutes. I take Gabby to the restroom and then grab more snacks, toys and magazines before we load back into the car to pick up Pedro. 3:55PM I pull into the school parking lot. Gabby and I talk and play in the car while we wait. About a half hour later, Pedro arrives and we head home. 4:42PM Backyard playtime with my kids and our dog. 5:15PM Pedro snacks on mandarin oranges while I blend fruits for Gabby. Next, I season salmon, boil rice and cook vegetables for dinner.

Photo courtesy of Luciana Malkomes

rm: M O M M Y

All About Luciana Favorite indulgence International trips—our family loves to travel, and my kids actually don’t mind long flights! Beverage of choice Coffee … or red wine Favorite app TripAdvisor Favorite movies Australia, Schindler's List, War Room Yearly destination Brazil Celebrity closet she’d like to raid Stacy London Biggest pet peeve Getting stuck in traffic Best purchase ever My Nikon camera Dream vacation Amalfi Coast Celebrity mom she admires My mom is a celebrity to me!

Photos courtesy of ©

6:15PM Bathtime for Gabriela. She’s joined in the bathroom by her toys, plus Charlie, who never misses bathtime. They even play fetch—he puts a ball in the tub and she throws it to him. It’s so funny! 6:55PM I feed Gabriela a bowl of soup, brush her teeth and take her to bed. A half hour later, she falls asleep. I head back to the kitchen to warm up dinner and see that Marco is home. 7:45PM Dinnertime. 8:20PM Wash the dishes and tidy the kitchen before watching the local news. 9:45PM Prayer time. 10PM I read some news articles on my phone, take Charlie for a walk and get ready for bed. I give Pedro a quick kiss and tell him good night. 11PM I slide into bed. Marco and I fall asleep talking. It’s been a long day but a blessed one, and I thank God for our health, happiness and love. Diaries are penned by moms (and dads) in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The authors volunteer to share a day of their choosing and are not paid or endorsed by Thrive. Send your diary to All submissions are subject to editing and may be cut for space. thrive

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Battling Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis is a regular part of pediatrics, and kids with disabilities may be even more vulnerable to getting the wrong diagnosis—or no diagnosis at all. WORDS JULISSA TREVIÑO

Photos © istock/photovideostock


arlier this year, 8-year-old Chance Luttrell injured his leg at school. The school called his mom and said he couldn’t put any weight on his leg, so she rushed Chance to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. “The doctor was talking to him, asking him how he got hurt. [Chance] would point at his leg, but we couldn’t tell where exactly it hurt,” says Tina Parrent of Plano, Chance’s aunt. “They felt around but just had to get information from my sister because Chance couldn’t tell them anything.” Chance has autism and is nonverbal. Because he couldn’t relay what had happened, there wasn’t much that the doctors could do. Without X-rays—he couldn’t sit still long enough for doctors to do X-rays—or a good understanding of his symptoms, doctors at the facility eventually let the family go, asking them to keep an eye on the situation to see how things went. “It is hard when they can’t tell you where it hurts,” Parrent says. It’s easy to see why kids usually dread medical exams: the cold, sterile feel of a doctor’s office; the uncertainty about pain or complications; and of course, the dreaded word “shot.” But for many children, trips to the doctor prove to be routine and mostly painless. On the other hand, children with a disability, special need or an undiagnosed condition have much muddier waters to navigate when it comes to medical care. That’s because disabilities, like Chance’s inability to verbally communicate, can get in the way of proper care and diagnosis. According to a 2015 article in The Atlantic, lack of communication is one of the more common reasons that children receive misdiagnoses.

The outlet reported that pediatricians are sued for misdiagnosis far more than any other specialist group. In fact, in a 2010 survey published in the journal Pediatrics, 54 percent of pediatricians admitted to making a misdiagnosis at least once or twice a month. “Children of all abilities have trouble communicating what’s going on. That includes teenagers,” says Dr. Dennis Z. Kuo, chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities and division chief of general pediatrics at the University at Buffalo. “We roll with it as that’s just normal in pediatrics.” Kids are simply not good at communicating their symptoms, agrees Dr. Sarah Matches, medical director of the pediatric clinic at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. “In general, children who are young have difficulty communicating anyway. [But] a communication problem in addition to special needs can make it much more difficult to assess and diagnose,” she says. That means kids with disabilities that impede speech or communication could be at greater risk for receiving a misdiagnosis or no diagnosis at all. Add to that behavior problems, like the inability to sit still for evaluations and imaging, and you have a population that’s more vulnerable when it comes to receiving the wrong medical care. A V U L N E R A B L E P O P U L AT I O N

It often starts with the initial diagnosis of a disability. According to a 2015 article published in the journal Autism, it can take years to reach a correct diagnosis of autism. As a result, kids are delayed in starting the treatment that they need. Other kids may be incorrectly diagnosed, for example, with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) thrive

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or epilepsy when the real problem is narcolepsy, a disorder that scientists say is often underdiagnosed in adolescents because it’s mistaken for a host of other conditions, including laziness. Even after a child’s special need has been correctly diagnosed, they may experience complications getting care for other complaints, whether it be the diagnosis of an additional disability or treatment for more routine health concerns like Chance’s hurt leg. There are no statistics we know of on the number of children with special needs who are misdiagnosed for unrelated health issues as a result of their disabilities. But that these children are more vulnerable to misdiagnosis by pediatricians—or a lack of diagnosis altogether—has

been true for Chance and his twin brother, Aiden, who also has autism and is nonverbal. When they’re experiencing health issues, the boys can’t describe how they’re feeling, what hurts or if they’ve noticed any changes. This fact has led to many issues and frustrations for Chance and Aiden’s caregivers, who don’t feel the boys get the medical care or diagnoses they need. “It gets discouraging to take them to see a doctor,” says Parrent, who is involved in their care and sometimes accompanies them on doctors’ visits. “They’re smart, but communication is just not there. They can’t say, ‘My stomach hurts,’ or ‘My head hurts.’” Parents bringing their child with special needs to the doctor because the child is in pain is

AN ADVOCATE’S PRIMER: What to do if you think your child has been misdiagnosed

If you’ve been in the fraught situation of seeking medical help for a health issue your child with special needs is experiencing and you think your child has been misdiagnosed by a pediatrician, there are steps that you can take. Dr. Dennis Z. Kuo, chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities and division chief of general pediatrics at the University at Buffalo, and Dr. Sarah Matches, medical director of the pediatric clinic at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, recommend the following: 1. Discuss concerns and questions openly with your pediatrician. Ask your pediatrician what evidence supports the diagnosis, like a test result or clinical assessment. “Parents should know why a diagnosis is correct, what supports the diagnosis and what the expected treatment course is,” Kuo says. “There may be clear answers that should be discussed openly.” 2. Document what’s happened before and after the doctor’s visit. What were the initial symptoms, and when did they start? What assessment or diagnosis was given? Have symptoms improved, changed or gotten worse since then? This allows you to not only see what’s changed over time but also provide documentation as proof for your pediatrician, Matches says. 3. If you’re not convinced the diagnosis is accurate, ask for a second opinion from another physician, preferably someone with experience treating children with special needs or a specialist in the area of your child’s diagnosis. “I encourage [parents to seek the help of] a physician who is familiar with the presenting symptoms and management of the current diagnosis,” Kuo says. 4. Avoid looking up things on the internet. “There’s a lot of incorrect and misleading information out there, and physicians are trained to be methodical, which is what every child needs,” Kuo says.

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one common scenario Matches has encountered. “That can be difficult. We don’t always get the responses from the patient to give us feedback,” she reveals. “In those situations, if the patient looks good, we may observe it for a while [without treatment].” In children with special needs, self-reporting symptoms is almost always near impossible, adds Dr. Frank McGehee, a pediatrician at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth. “In a ‘normal’ 12-year-old child, we’d have them fill out a questionnaire for symptoms,” he explains. But that doesn’t work for kids with disabilities who have difficulty expressing themselves. Matches says that when the health risks associated with a special need are greater, she may have a lower threshold for seeking further evaluation for a complaint, getting imaging or tests done sooner than she would with a typical child. But she’s careful not to jump to any quick diagnoses that would pose a problem if they proved incorrect. When she goes ahead with diagnoses in difficult clinical situations, the risks are usually minimal. For instance, diagnosing an ear infection without looking in a child’s ear because they couldn’t sit still means a one-time use of antibiotics, and this, in the long run, isn’t a danger, she says. “But if we have to do more tests”—like a CT scan or MRI that can expose a child to more risks— “that could have detrimental effects on the child,” she explains. P O O R T R E AT M E N T

As Prevention magazine reported last year, medical errors rarely have a positive effect; at best, they delay needed treatment. Such was the case with Catherine Freeman’s son Holt, who has autism and ADHD. Now 24, Holt was about 15 years old when he began scratching a lot. “I was trying to figure out what was going on,” says the Dallas mom, who noticed her son had skin irritations and took him to the doctor. Holt was nonverbal until about age 12, Freeman says, but throughout his teens, his vocabu-

lary was limited and he wasn’t a good storyteller. “So when a doctor asked, ‘When did the rash start?’ he could not answer that correctly. So he was [only] able to communicate what’s happening now,” she explains. The doctor recommended antifungal cream. But the rash kept spreading, and weeks later, Freeman noticed that it seemed to have spread to Holt’s groin. After trying a stronger cream that didn’t help, Holt was referred to a dermatologist. “The antifungal creams did nothing,” Freeman says. And for six years, Holt lived with outbreaks of a rash that caused discomfort and pain and made him avoid playing sports. “I can’t tell you how many family doctors we went through in the six years until we got a [correct] diagnosis,” she says. The diagnosis? Eczema, a mild, treatable condition—yet Holt went without proper treatment for years. In Holt’s case, the ineffective antifungal creams likely weren’t dangerous, but other unnecessary treatments that kids with special needs receive as a result of misdiagnosis can be. In the example of children with narcolepsy who are misdiagnosed with other disorders, treatment often includes antidepressant or antipsychotic medications—and that’s scary stuff. A PA R E N T ’ S P O W E R

McGehee says that parents aren’t helpless in situations in which their child’s disabilities are making a diagnosis difficult. When evaluating a child with special needs, pediatricians typically rely on lab tests, mood, behavior and parent input instead of just the child’s, McGehee says. (That’s also how pediatricians treat pre-verbal children, he explains.) Still, because mood and behavior are taken into account, Freeman thinks doctors, nurses and others in the medical profession need to be better equipped to work with children who have special needs. She recalls an incident when she and Holt visited the doctor after Holt had been experiencing stomach pain, and she had to explain how autism affected his behavior in the doctor’s office. “While they’re doing the exam [and the doctor is touching his stomach], he’s laughing,” she recalls. “He’s having an inappropriate response to something that’s serious. If I hadn’t said he has autism, she would have thought the kid was playing a joke.” Since some behavior caused by special needs can look like shyness or defiance, it may not be immediately obvious to a doctor or nurse that a child has a disability, especially if they’re in the office for the first time. Even for regular patients, doctors may start an exam before remembering a child’s specific needs. Parrent says in the years that Aiden and Chance have visited their pediatrician’s office for routine checkups, their mother has always had to explain that the boys have autism and are nonverbal. “Every time we go to the doctor, we have to explain that they’re picky eaters and that they can’t communicate,” Parrent says. “[The doctors] talk to the children like they’re going to … I wish there were more “They’re smart, but respond doctors who were specialized in treatcommunication ing kids with autism.” That’s why children with disabilities is just not there. They can’t say, need advocates—parents who are willing to let doctors know what’s normal ‘My stomach or not normal behavior for their child hurts,’ or and what’s changed over time. Par‘My head hurts.’” ents should ask questions if they don’t understand a diagnosis or how specific symptoms support the diagnosis. Matches says parents might also benefit from documenting a timeline of events, from when symptoms began occurring to when a child was diagnosed in the event they want to seek a second opinion. According to a national study published in the American Journal of Medicine in October 2015, about 15 percent of cases in which patients seek second opinions result in a change of diagnosis, and 37.4 percent result in a change of treatment. McGehee adds that learning to communicate, however possible, will lead to improved medical care and a better relationship between doctors and patients. He advises parents to watch for how their children best communicate and let doctors know. But one of the most important things parents can do, experts say, is to maintain a relationship with the same provider who can gauge what’s normal for their specific child. “The number one thing for parents is … to be consistent, to go to the same provider every time so that someone really knows the child and knows what the baseline is,” Matches says. “If I have a mom who comes in and I know her well, I’m much more likely to respond when she has a concern as compared to a parent that I’ve never seen before. Having a relationship is huge.” Communication is cumulative, adds McGehee. “If you see the same doctor over and over again, the child and doctor know each other. So if something changes, it becomes obvious,” he says. “Ideally you’re not seeing a patient for the first time.” In a familiar environment with a friendly face, parents may feel more comfortable asking questions or even challenging a doctor’s initial diagnosis. “It’s an extremely frustrating situation for [parents],” Matches acknowledges. “Knowing they have someone they can trust makes a big difference.”


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Splashing Times Inclusive water parks and splash pads where you can beat the heat WORDS ALEXIS MANRODT & LISA SALINAS


A retractable roof and climate controls make for a wet and wild time all year round at this 80,000-square-foot water park crammed with slides, a lazy river and a boogie board ride. Kids with sensory sensitivities will enjoy the air and water temps, which are kept at 85 and 82 degrees respectively. If the crowds get to be too much for your clan, retreat to the quieter 45-game arcade. Other perks: Chow down at the Hungry Wave Café—just wait 30 minutes before getting back in the water! Parents can even kick back at a full-service bar. Good to know: Designated Twilight Swim sessions and Family Fun Friday events allow you to take the kiddos after work. Cost: $29 general admission; $24 for kids under 48 inches; $9 for spectators; Grand Prairie residents receive $10 off admission 2970 Epic Place, Grand Prairie; 972/337-3131 20 t h r i v e

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Twice a summer, each Hawaiian Falls location opens up two hours early for Champions Day, a special swim time for guests with special needs. Additional staffers are on hand to assist families while lifeguards hang up their whistles and turn down the music for a morning of sensoryfriendly fun. Visit Roanoke on June 30 or all parks on Aug. 3 to take part. Other perks: All four parks offer free parking. Also available are life jackets (for free) and shaded cabanas (not for free). Good to know: Wave pools and lazy rivers feature zero-depth entry. Attractions with stairs have handrails, but it is up to you to decide if your child can take part. Cost: On Champions Day, admission is free for champions and $10 for companions (limit four).


The Six Flags water park offers plenty of fun for kids of all abilities. Though major attractions like rides and slides require climbing stairs, there are wheelchairaccessible ramps at the lazy river, Boogie Beach, Suntan Lagoon and portions of Hook’s Lagoon. Check in with Guest Relations, and a team member will help design an itinerary tailored to your child’s specific needs. Other perks: Most restrooms, restaurants and shops are wheelchair accessible, and the park offers accessible parking for cars and vans. Good to know: Trained service animals are welcome but must remain leashed and out of the pools. (Sorry, Fido.) Cost: $38.99 general admission; $33.99 for kids under 48 inches; free for age 2 and younger 1800 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington; 817/640-8900


Suit up for monthly Angel Swims all summer long. On July 21 and Aug. 11, the park opens 2 ½ hours early for kids with special needs and their families to splish-splash without the crowds. Play with spray features at the wheelchairfriendly Kiddie Playground, ride down one of the park’s three

slides or take shelter from the sun under shaded pavilions and umbrellas. Other perks: Parking is free, and life jackets are available free of charge. Good to know: While your family can snack on burgers and nachos at Haley’s Hunger Hut, the park permits you to bring in your own food and drinks. Cost: On Angel Swim days, allday admission is free for Angels and $4 for companions 5304 Main St., Rowlett; 972/412-6266

Spraygrounds & Splash Pads AL RUSCHHAUPT PARK MCKINNE Y

After working up a sweat on the adaptive swings, accessible play structures and rubber-surfaced sports fields, kiddos can cool off in the park’s splash pad. Featuring several fountains, the main attraction is the tunnel-like series of spray arches for kids to dart through on foot or wheel. Open daily. Other perks: There are also on-site concessions, picnic areas and restrooms. Good to know: The splash pad is adjacent to a woodsy walking trail, so beware of creepy crawlers— snakes are known to be neighbors. Cost: Free 2708 N. Brook Drive, McKinney; 972/547-2687

Photos courtesy of David Alvey and Hurricane Harbor

SUIT UP, SLAP ON THE SUNSCREEN and get ready for summer fun—just add water. There are plenty of water parks, pools and splash pads across North Texas that offer super-soaked adventures for all abilities, with amenities like heated water temps, wheelchair accessibility and even special needs–only swim times. The best part? Many are free.


The kidMania splash pad features dumping buckets, sprinklers, water jets and more playground structures that are perfect for sensory play. (And don’t worry about the fun getting too slippery—the splash pad has a flat, rubber surface.) Make a full morning of it and pack a picnic to enjoy under the shaded pavilion. Other perks: Littles can dry off and visit the rainbow-colored accessible playground with ramps for wheelchairs, adaptive swings and sensory-friendly games. Good to know: The park is open through Sept. 30 from 9am–9pm and closed every Wednesday for maintenance. Only rubber-soled shoes are allowed. Cost: Free 701 Angel Parkway, Allen; 214/509-4700


Photos courtesy of the City of Allen, Grapevine Parks and Recreation, the City of Frisco, and the City of Carrollton Parks and Recreation


This park’s splash pad is more natural than your average sprayground—think less jungle gym and more, well, jungle. Rocks line the curving creek-like design, which holds three wet play zones, 66 spray features and a waterfall. The unique, wheelchair-accessible shape means less crowding, so your kids can splash with room to move. Other perks: Nearby benches and tables allow for easy supervision. Good to know: Don’t forget to pack sunscreen—there’s little shade to be found. The splash pad is open daily through Aug. 31 and weekends in September. Cost: Free 310 Highland Village Road, Highland Village; 972/317-7430


A supersized dumping bucket is the most popular amenity at Dove Park’s partially shaded sprayground. Located between the accessible play-

ground, Casey’s Clubhouse and Dove Waterpark, the splash pad has vertical water features like buckets and misters installed on a flat, concrete surface. Other perks: Lifeguards monitor Dove Waterpark next door, which boasts slides, a diving board and zerodepth entry for kids of all abilities. Good to know: The sprayground is open until 8pm daily through September—perfect for working parents. Cost: Free to Dove Park; entry to Dove Waterpark is $3 for residents, $6 for nonresidents 1509 Hood Lane, Grapevine; 817/410-3450


Activate the larger-than-life water guns, geysers and more water features with the touch of a button. Kids can roll or run through spray archways or stand under tipping buckets. Leaflike structures at the center of the spray park offer shade. Other perks: The park also has shaded pavilions with picnic tables plus restrooms. Good to know: This ecoconscious spot uses recycled well water to power all features. Cost: Free 8000 McKinney Road, Frisco; 972/292-6500


Take in the Texas topography with cactus-like water structures, plus water cannons and colorful spray rings at the wheelchair accessible splash pad next to Glenville Pool. The splash pad and pool are open 1–8pm daily (closed on Tuesdays). Other perks: After toweling off, kids can explore the playground, swing set and sports fields. Mom can enjoy the shaded picnic areas and benches while little

ones have fun in the sun. Good to know: Restrooms (including a family option) and parking spots are by the pool. Cost: $2 for residents; $4 for nonresidents; free for age 3 and younger 500 S. Glenville Drive, Richardson; 972/671-0187


Colorful curvy tubes shoot water from above while groundlevel geysers let little ones splash to full effect. Wheelchair users can easily maneuver around the 4,000-square-foot spray area’s colorful concrete surface, but wood chips in the adjacent playground might limit mobility. Other perks: Pavilions, covered picnic tables and benches under large trees offer plenty of shade for Mom to stay cool without getting soaked. Good to know: Families of all abilities can explore much of the 31-acre park thanks to paved trails and walkways. Cost: Free 3010 Parr Lane, Grapevine; 817/410-3000


Multilevel platforms with water cannons, sprayers, bubblers and a 600-gallon dump bucket greet swimmers at the splash zone located inside the pool complex. The play structure is surrounded by a zerodepth entry pool, making it ideal for kids of all ages and abilities. Other perks: There is a concession stand, bathhouse, shaded areas and ample free parking. Good to know: Lift chairs are available for two pools and the lazy

river; call for more information. Cost: $5 for residents and $9 for nonresidents on weekdays; $6 for residents and $10 for nonresidents on weekends 1334 E. Rosemeade Parkway, Carrollton; 972/466-6399


Bask in the summer fun (without the sun!) at this indoor Plano spot. Two pools are set at 80 degrees—perfect for swimmers who are cold-water sensitive. The designated leisure pool is home to an easyaccess ramp and shallow depth area, while kidfriendly water aerobics classes are held in the fitness pool. Other perks: There are water slides, plus inclusive summer events like luaus and treasure hunts. Good to know: Open daily June 4–Aug. 10 and on weekends until Sept. 2 Cost: $3 for ages 3–15; $6 for age 16 and up 5801 W. Parker Road, Plano; 972/769-4404


The monthly AquaStars program lets kids with special needs splash around sans crowds. From 10am–noon on July 14 and Aug. 12, your swimmer will have access to the pool’s chair lift, accessible ramps, and water chair and wheelchairs. No reservation is required. Other perks: Lifeguards on-site mean that Mom can stay dry during the two-hour pool time. Good to know: AquaStars will be held at Heritage Aquatic Center in the fall. Cost: $2 for ages 4–17 and $3 for age 18 and older at West Irving Aquatic Center; $1 for participants and $1.50 for adult chaperones at Heritage Aquatic Center 3701 Conflans Road, Irving; 972/721-2325 thrive

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LEARNING DIFFERENT CHILD NOT REACHING THEIR TRUE POTENTIAL? Great Lakes Academy, an accredited, non-profit private school in Plano offers 3rd–12th grade students with average to above average intelligence, with various learning differences, ADHD or Asperger’s syndrome, a positive school experience.


6000 Custer Road • Building 7 • Plano 972-517-7498 ext. 103


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kid culture


things to do in


Special Needs Sleepover Roll out your sleeping bags inside the glittery Gems and Minerals Hall or beside the towering dinosaur fossils on Friday, August 17, inside the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The family overnight, designed for children ages 5–20 with sensory needs, includes sensory activities, a 3D film, a Dino Dance Party, calm rooms throughout the entire museum and extra help from trained therapists. $30 per adult chaperone (one for every two youths); Dallas, 214/756-5763 $45 per youth. Go online or call to register.

Summer Show Tunes The Starcatchers, North Texas Performing Arts’ drama program for children and adults with special needs, takes its latest show to the Fairview Youth Theatre. On Saturday, August 25, sit back with your family’s own aspiring thespians to hear the students perform songs from their favorite musicals. $10 per person.

Special Needs Swim Time

Fairview, 972/422-2575 northtexasperformingarts. org/starcatchers

All Abilities Playground

Photos courtesy of Perot Museum, iFLY World, City of McKinney, City of Garland, and North Texas Performing Arts

After breaking ground in spring 2017, the new All Abilities Playground at McKinney’s Bonnie Wenk Park will soon be open for summer playtime. The playground features artificial turf, wheelchair ramps to equipment, a wooden skywalk and many more play structures all designed for children with developmental delays, special sensory requirements or physical challenges to easily maneuver between them. Look online for the opening day announcement, expected in late July or August. McKinney, 972/547-7330;;

For more events tailored to you, check the SpecialNeeds Friendly option on our online calendar at calendar.


Skydiving Simulation When the summer heat has you begging for a cool breeze, you’ll find it in spades in the indoor wind tunnel at iFLY Fort Worth. Let your kids safely experience the sensation of skydiving when iFLY offers an All Abilities Night on Wednesday, July 11, exclusively for those with physical or cognitive challenges. $39.95 includes two one-minute flights assisted by specially trained instructors and a video to take home. Call to reserve your family’s spot.

Take advantage of the warm evening water on Saturday, August 4, when the Special Ones Network offers free admission for families of kids with special needs at Surf and Swim, the wave pool and splash pad at Garland’s Audubon Park. The nonprofit’s 10th annual swim time runs from 6:30–8:30pm after Surf and Swim closes to the public. Outside food and drinks are welcome, and free baked goods and lemonade will be available for snacking. Advance registration is requested but not required. FREE Garland, 972/979-5244;

Hurst, 817/818-4359; thrive

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Order one of our chef-inspired menu items marked with the SMG Chefs for Children badge and we will donate 5% of the proceeds to non-proďŹ ts in your community serving Special Needs Children.

SUNSET CINEMA Thursday, July 12, at 6 p.m. Celebrate the dog days of summer with fun for everyone in the family, including your furry friends. Enjoy a night of PAWsome activities including a screening of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.

Visit for the full schedule of events. Sponsored by Humphrey & Associates, Inc.

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directory ADD & ADHD

Attention Deficit Disorders Association (ADDA) Southern Region Mesquite, 972/467-9299; adda-sr. org. Designed to be a resource network to support individuals with ADHD and/or related conditions and to advocate for community resources. Support group meets every other month during the school year (the second Tuesday of the month in February, April, September and November) at the Mesquite ISD Professional Development Center. Email opal.harris@ for more information. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) Works to educate and empower others with information about ADD/ADHD by providing parents with tools and information to help their child reach his or her full potential. Farmers Branch support group meets the third Wednesday of each month from 6–7:30pm in the Farmers Branch Library Conference Room. Call 469/767-6866 for more information. Tarrant County support group meets the fourth Monday of each month from 7–9pm at the Avant-Garde Counseling and Coaching Center. Call 817/707-6264 for more information.


ADAPT of Texas Austin, 512/4420252; National grassroots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.


WE KNOW SHOPPING FOR RESOURCES PROBABLY ISN’T AT THE TOP OF YOUR DAY-OFF TO-DO LIST, so we’ve packed this handy directory with as many local support groups, recreational activities and respite programs in Dallas-Fort Worth as we could find. If you know of something we missed or have an idea for a new listing, send your recommendations to

Disability Rights Texas Dallas, 214/630-0916; Nonprofit organization that works on the state and community levels to protect and advocate for the legal rights of people with disabilities in Texas. The group provides legal services to people with many different

kinds of disabilities. Special Needs Assistance Partners (SNAP) Euless, 817/545-9456;

SUPPORT Advocates for people with cognitive disabilities. Creates and supports a variety of programs that assist individuals 17 and older living with intellectual and developmental disabilities in achieving and sustaining full lives. Texans Care for Children Statewide, 512/473-2274; txchildren. org. Nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the well-being of Texas children through advocacy, child-serving agencies, public outreach and other resources.


AUsome Moms Flower Mound; A nonprofit that provides support, social opportunities and education to Dallas-Fort Worth families with children on the autism spectrum. Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT-NT) Richland Hills, 817/919-2228; Provides resources, support, education and advocacy for families in the autism community. National Autism Association of North Texas Plano, 214/925-2722; Seeks to increase public awareness of autism and to support parents, individuals and professionals dealing with autism through advocating and providing resources and the latest information on therapies and biomedical treatment. Our Children’s Circle McKinney. Support group of parents, educators and community leaders that strives to provide resources for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. Find information on Facebook.


Gluten Intolerance Group of Greater Dallas Dallas, Nonprofit organization devoted to sharing and providing information to help those with gluten intolerance diseases, including celiac disease. Email president@

Photos courtesy of Easterseals

At a Glance ADD & ADHD . . . . . 25

Cerebral palsy . . . . . 26

Down syndrome . . . . 27

Fragile X . . . . . . . . . 28

Muscular dystrophy �� 28

Sibling classes . . . . . 31

Advocacy . . . . . . . . . 25

Child care . . . . . . . . . 26

Dyslexia . . . . . . . . . . 27

Asperger’s & Autism . . . . . . . . . 25

Cystic fibrosis . . . . . . 26

Epilepsy . . . . . . . . . . 27

Hearing impaired . . . . . . . . . . 28

Obsessivecompulsive . . . . . . . . 28

Tourette’s syndrome . . . . . . . . . 31

Developmental disabilities . . . . . . . . 26

Equestrian therapy . . . . . . . . . . 27

Helpline . . . . . . . . . . 28

Recreation . . . . . . . . 28

Vision impaired . . . . . 31

Mental illness . . . . . . 28

Respite care . . . . . . . 30

Celiac disease . . . . . 25


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Ability Connection Statewide, 800/999-1898; abilityconnection. org. Offers a variety of programs to ensure that people with all types of physical and intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to participate fully and equally in all aspects of society.


Achievement Center of Texas Garland, 972/414-7700; Nonprofit EMLER SWIM SCHOOL / page 29 day care and day habilitation center for children and adults with disabilities or other special needs. Also on the east side of Plano with 35 years of expeoffers arts exploration, educational assisrience serving children with special and medical tance and community inclusion. needs. Full-time, drop-in or respite care available. For more information, email colleenegBrighter Day Academy Dallas, 214/265-8585. or their Facebook page. Fully inclusive day care for nonaggressive children with special needs, infant to age 12. Medications and breathing treatments can be given on-site if necessary. Children accepted case by case.

BrightStar Care Multiple locations, 866/6187827; Offers in-home care for high-functioning children with special needs, including autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and more. Availability of services is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Calab, Inc. Multiple locations, Provides quality individualized child care that encourages independence in individuals with disabilities. Clubhouse for Special Needs, The Bedford, 817/285-0885; After-school programs, school holiday programs, summer programs and all-day programs for teens and young adults (ages 13–22) with special needs. Easterseals North Texas Child Development Center Carrollton, 972/394-8900; Provides a preschool program for children with autism ages 6 weeks–6 years and typically developing children to learn alongside one another. Emma’s House Irving, 972/839-1502; Provides functional, vocational and life skills to promote independence and self-sufficiency for teens and young adults with disabilities. After-school and summer programming is also available. KinderFrogs School at TCU Fort Worth, 817/257-6828; Early childhood program (ages 18 months–6 years) designed to accommodate children with Down syndrome and other developmental delays. The Kristine Project Plano, 469/212-4254. A private child care, preschool and respite service

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Mary’s House Dalworthington Gardens, 817/459-4494; Provides before- and after-school care (Monday–Friday), day habilitation, activities and therapeutic options for teens ages 13 and older and adults with disabilities. Mom’s Best Friend Carrollton, 972/446-0500; The nanny agency and babysitter service provides referrals for inhome care for children of all ages with special needs throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.


Blue Caboose Children’s Fund Dallas, 228/341-0403; Provides back-to-school assistance, a Christmas toy drive and a community parent network for the families of children with cystic fibrosis. The adults-only support group meets on the second Monday of each month (location varies; see Facebook page for details or email kiri@ Cystic Fibrosis Foundation National, 800/344-4823; Dallas, 214/871-2222; Fort Worth, 817/249-7744. Works to cure and control cystic fibrosis and to improve the quality of life for those with the disease.


Arc of Texas, The Statewide, 512/454-6694; Chapters in Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties provide services and support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Dallas FASD Support Group Richardson. Support group for parents of children and adults with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Meets the

Photos courtesy of Emler Swim School


Gluten Intolerance Group of North Texas North Richland Hills, 817/319-3282. Supports those living with gluten intolerance diseases by increasing awareness, providing up-to-date information and education, and hosting kids’ camps. Find information on Facebook.

Dallas Metrocare Services – MHMR Dallas, 214/743-1200; Provides an array of services to people with mental and developmental disabilities, including Early Childhood Intervention and the Center for Children with Autism programs. Denton County MHMR Center Denton, 940/381-5000; Provides services to individuals with mental and behavioral health care needs. Easterseals North Texas Fort Worth, 888/617-7171; Centers in Dallas, Carrollton, Fort Worth and Grapevine provide services including outpatient rehabilitation, personal assistance, autism programs and respite care for children and adults with disabilities and other special needs. Jewish Family Service Dallas, 972/437-9950; Offers a support group for parents and provides extensive services for children with special needs and their parents and siblings, including assessment of abilities and needs, diagnostic testing, counseling, play therapy, social skills groups and school consultation. MHMR of Tarrant County Fort Worth, 817/569-4300; Provides services to individuals with behavioral health care needs, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance abuse disorders.


Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas Richardson, 214/267-1374; Provides accurate and current information, resources and support for people with Down syndrome, their families and the community.

treatment of dyslexia. The Dallas branch provides information and resources concerning learning differences to parents, educators, professionals and anyone who wants to be more informed about dyslexia. The group meets from 7–8:30pm on the second Monday of each month (except July). Discussion topics change monthly; check the website for the meeting topic and location.

Epilepsy Foundation Texas Addison, 214/420-2737; Nonprofit organization that strives to improve the lives of children and adults with epilepsy.

Blue Sky Therapeutic Riding & Respite Krugerville, 469/450-9594; Provides a safe, happy and healthy therapeutic community that works to empower and propel citizens with special needs to their fullest potential through therapeutic horseback riding and respite, vocational and entrepreneurial opportunities.

ManeGait Therapeutic Horsemanship McKinney, 469/742-9611; Provides a fun, enriching and supportive environment for riders to reach their potential. Offers group, semiprivate or private lessons taught by certified riding instructors with the assistance of volunteer aides. As much as possible, riders participate in pre-mounted and post-mounted horse care.

International Dyslexia Association – Dallas Branch Dallas, 972/233-9107; dal.dyslexiaida. org. Nonprofit, scientific and educational organization dedicated to the study and

Concerning behavior can be a symptom of many neurological or psychological diagnoses, not bad parenting. As a mother of a child with Special Needs, I understand the unique challenges faced in every aspect of your lives and the ripple effect they have on the entire family.

(972) 208-8668 2100 Hedgcoxe Rd., Ste. 190, Plano 75025

Equest Dallas, 972/412-1099; Works with riders to develop independent skills that carry over to their everyday lives. Riders are encouraged to set individual goals ranging from holding the reins for one full circuit of the arena to more complex challenges, such as qualifying for and competing in the international arena.


New Hope Equine Assisted Therapy Argyle, 817/729-5315; Provides therapeutic horseback riding services for people with a wide variety of disabilities. Program is designed to bring hope, healing and happiness to riders through encouraging the horse and human connection. Riding Unlimited Ponder, 940/479-2016; Provides small-group and individual lessons for ages 4 to adult. Stu-

• Anxiety • Depression • Neuropsychological Disorders

Marcy L. Berry, MD

Born 2 Be Therapeutic Equestrian Center Aubrey, 940/595-8200; Dedicated to safe and affordable horseback riding and carriage driving for children with disabilities through small-group or private lessons. Riders have the opportunity to participate in the Texas Special Olympics and in exhibitions, including the Chisholm Challenge for Special Riders Horse Show held in Fort Worth each January.

Grace Lake Ministries, Inc. Anna, 972/8374621; God-centered therapeutic riding program with the goal of developing wholeness in the lives of the people served. Riders include anyone in need of hope and healing, including children and adults with disabilities or social challenges.

Impacting Dyslexia Education Awareness and Support (IDEAS) Plano, Promotes awareness and connects parents, caretakers and teachers with resources and information to aid children with dyslexia. Visit the Facebook page.

• Autism • ADD/ADHD • Learning Disorders


Down Syndrome Partnership of North Texas Fort Worth, 682/316-3121; Provides information, social and educational activities and events, and support for new parents, families and caregivers of those with Down syndrome.

Decoding Dyslexia Texas Statewide. Grassroots movement driven by Texas families concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia. The group aims to expand the public conversation about dyslexia and increase the awareness of dyslexia and the need for appropriate remediation services in all Texas schools. Visit the Facebook page.

Behavioral Concerns?


Dental Care for your Special Loved One Anna Willison, DDS

People with disabilities often need special care to maintain their dental health. Dr. Willison is a member of the Special Care Dentistry Association and is trained to provide her patients the attention and care they deserve. Our state-of-the-art office with trained staff is available to treat most of our patients. In-office sedation is available by a board certified anesthesiologist. Dr. Willison is also on medical staff at the Medical City Hospital in Dallas, where she can safely complete the necessary dental treatment under general anesthesia in the operating room.

Ads with © are © of Lauren Publications, Inc. 2018.

fourth Monday of every month (except December) from 7–8:30pm in the Activities Center at First Baptist Richardson; email dallasfasd@ for more information.

We recognize that caring for special needs patients takes compassion and understanding. We focus on meeting those needs, both for the patients and the care givers.

Dallas Center for Oral Health & Wellness Medical City Hospital Dallas, 7777 Forest Ln., Ste. A-309

972-566-6300 • thrive


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Stable Strides Farm Therapeutic Riding Flower Mound, 940/595-3600; Children and adults ages 2 and older with physical or cognitive disabilities learn to become effective, competitive riders. Students are encouraged to ride independently as soon and as safely as possible. Riders participate in the Special Olympics and other competitions and shows.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Dallas, 214/341-7133; NAMI Texas, 512/693-2000; Provides support and education to families and friends of people with serious mental illness.


FACES of North Texas Families advocating, connecting, educating and supporting is the parent-led outreach initiative of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. FACES provides mentoring, support and advocacy to families living with muscular dystrophy. Visit the Facebook page.

Unbridled Horse Therapy Flower Mound, 817/319-7778; Aims to effectively intercede and encourage unrealized potential for those with special needs and disabilities through the connection between horse and rider and the use of physical, speech and behavioral therapy. Email for more information.

Aqua-Tots Swim School Multiple locations, Offers the basic survival swim program and a beginning stroke development class for children with special needs. Arlington TOPS Soccer Arlington, 817/2290629. Free soccer program for ages 5–25 with special or adaptive needs. Fall league includes Saturday games and two groups (ages 5–12 and 13 and up). Each player receives a uniform and end-of-season trophy. Visit the Facebook page.


Texas Fragile X Association Dallas, 972/7578939; An association made up of families and professionals who provide resources and education on Fragile X issues. The association organizes family activities and education events throughout the year.

ASI Gymnastics Multiple locations, Offers Gymmie Kids, a recreational gymnastics program designed to enhance motor skills, provide social interaction and build the self-esteem of children with special needs.


7711; Nonprofit foundation dedicated to giving the gifts of hearing and speech to children and adults with hearing loss through surgical treatment, hearing technologies, rehabilitation and educational support to those in financial need. Deaf-Blind Multihandicapped Association of Texas (DBMAT) Dallas, The mission of DBMAT is to promote and improve the quality of life for all Texans who are deaf-blind multihandicapped. DBMAT provides deaf-blind multihandicapped individuals and their families access to other members, training opportunities, social events and resources.


2-1-1 Texas: Finding Help in Texas Statewide, 211; Free, anonymous and confidential information and referral line answered by nationally certified specialists 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When callers dial 211, they are connected to information centers in their region.


Mental Health America of Greater Dallas Dallas, 214/871-2420; Works to stop the stigma around mental illness and build awareness of mental health issues while providing resources from providers in the community. Offers multiple support groups at varying times. 28 t h r i v e

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Angel League Baseball Program Rockwall, 972/722-6001; Baseball program for boys and girls with physical or mental disabilities ages 4–15 and adult league for individuals with mental disabilities ages 16–60. Seasons last nine weeks and start in March and September. Aqua-Fit Swim & Fitness Family Wellness Center Plano, 972/578-7946; Offers swimming lessons for adults and children with special needs on Saturday and Monday.

Victory Therapy Center Roanoke, 682/8311323; Cares for the physical, mental and emotional needs of children, adults, veterans, first responders and their families through the healing power of horses.

Dallas Hearing Foundation Dallas, 972/424-

Nonprofit organization that provides a weekly program to teach children (5–18 years) and young adults (19–30 years) on the autism spectrum the game of tennis while improving their gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination and social skills. Sessions are held in the fall (mid September–mid November), spring (February– early April) and summer (June–mid July).

CAMP SUMMIT / page 28


OCD and Anxiety Support Group DFW Bedford, Support group for families and friends of individuals with OCD and other anxiety disorders. Meets on the second and fourth Thursday of each month (except on holidays) from 6:30– 8pm at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford. OCD Support Group Richardson, 214/9061692. Professionally-led support group serving the Dallas/Richardson/Plano area for parents of children with OCD, adults with OCD, family members/friends of people with OCD and teens with OCD. Meetings are held the second Monday of each month (except December) from 7:45–9pm at the Methodist Richardson Medical Center – Bush/Renner Campus, second floor, Education Room B. Email for more information. OCD Texas Statewide, Nonprofit support and advocacy organization that brings together people with OCD, their families and researchers across Texas. Visit the website for local contacts.


ACEing Autism Dallas Richardson, 214/9019010;

Bachman Recreation Center Dallas, 214/6706266; Provides an accessible facility for all individuals age 6 and older with disabilities. Buddy League Garland, 972/414-9280; Provides recreational opportunities for children with special needs, allowing children with disabilities to learn baseball with their typical peers, or “buddies.”

Buddy Sports at Cross Timbers YMCA Flower Mound, 972/539-9622; Specialized program for athletes ages 5–20 with learning and physical disabilities. Athletes meet once a week on Sunday afternoon to have fun, exercise and be part of a team in an understanding atmosphere. The sport changes every 6–7 weeks; sports include basketball, baseball, soccer and field hockey. Camp Summit Paradise, 972/484-8900; Camp for children and adults with disabilities ages 6–99. Traditional camp activities are adapted to each individual, provided in 100 percent barrier-free facilities, and implemented by trained, caring staff. Challenge Air for Kids & Friends Dallas, 214/351-3353; Offers motivational and inspirational aviation experiences to children and youth with physical challenges. Cheer Academy Arlington, 817/823-7522; Cheerleaders 5 and older learn basic cheer steps as well as tumbling moves as part of the academy’s special needs team. Contact

Photo courtesy of Camp Summit

dents can participate in therapeutic horsemanship classes, hippotherapy, exhibition and drill teams, Special Olympics equestrian events, and shows like the Chisholm Challenge for Special Riders Horse Show.

Coppell TOPS Soccer League Coppell, 972/304-0886; Program by the Coppell Youth Soccer Association for boys and girls ages 4–19 with mental and physical disabilities. Teams organized according to physical size and ability play eight noncompetitive games throughout the season. Crull Fitness Richardson, 972/497-9900; Personal and group training for children and adults with various physical and cognitive disabilities through the Champions Challenge program. Dallas Jr. Wheelchair Mavericks Basketball Dallas, 214/670-6266; In this wheelchair league, kids are divided into three groups: two varsity teams, a prep team and a futures team with more one-on-one instruction. For more info, contact Jodi Commers at Dallas Sled Stars Farmers Branch, 682/556-1277; The Dallas Stars Foundation supports this sled hockey league that caters to athletes with limited mobility, amputees and typical athletes with leg and hip injuries. The youth league runs September through March. Contact Dana’s Studio of Dance Keller, 817/745-3262; Kids 9 and up join instructor Lücke Alexandre for a special needs hip-hop class on Monday from 6:30–7:30pm. Emler Swim School Multiple locations, 817/552-7946; Teaches the lifesaving skill of swimming to children with special needs in a fun, positive environment. Encore School of Dance Saginaw, 817/232-9393; Offers No Boundaries, a coed class for dancers with special needs of all ages and abilities. Sign up online or at the studio. Especially Needed McKinney, 214/499-3439; Builds a strong sense of unity for individuals with special needs by offering family-friendly events throughout the year. Express Cheer Frisco, Offers a cheerleading team for children with special needs that meets on Monday evening from 5–6pm. The Feast Dallas, 214/521-3111; Worship service at Highland Park United Methodist Church that is a welcome place for those with special needs, their families and friends, and all who have a heart for special needs. The Feast takes place on Sunday at 5pm. Irving Parks and Recreation Special Olympics Program Irving, 972/721-8090; Athletes 12 and up can take part in basketball, volleyball and bowling training programs adapted to meet the needs of individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. Practice is Tuesday from 5:30–7pm. Email Emory Caballero at ecaballero@ Jumpstreet Multiple locations, Hosts a semiprivate event on the first Saturday of the month for children with special needs and their siblings. Keller ATA Martial Arts Keller, 817/337-9493; Offers classes on Tuesday and Thursday for children with special needs and participates in tournaments that offer divisions for special abilities competitors. Instructors have experience working with students with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other conditions. Metroplex Adaptive Water Sports (MAWS) Dallas, 214/803-9955; Nonprofit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for persons with all types of disabilities to experience water sports. Miracle League of DFW Arlington, 817/733-6076; miracleleaguedfw. com. Provides an opportunity for children with physical or mental challenges to play baseball. Miracle League of Frisco Frisco, 214/295-6411; friscomiracleleague. org. Offers a variety of sports for children ages 5–19 with special needs, with attainable goals set and assistance provided by a buddy or volunteer. Miracle League of Irving Irving, 972/986-8898; Provides children and adults with disabilities the opportunity to play baseball, regardless of their ability level. The spring season runs March– May, and the fall season runs September–November. thrive

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directory Miracle League of Southlake Southlake, 817/300-1094; Baseball league for ages 5 and up with all abilities and special needs, including high-functioning autism, vision impairment and limited mobility. Games last two innings and each player is assigned a typical buddy. Email The Palaestra Farmers Branch, 972/620-9922; The developmental gymnastics program offers private lessons and group integration classes for tumblers 3 and older with all mental disabilities and most physical disabilities (children who use wheelchairs might be limited). RISE Adaptive Sports Irving, 469/762-5075; Promotes independence for individuals with physical disabilities through sports, recreation and other outdoor events and programs.


Soaring Eagle Center DeSoto, 972/223-1873; Serves adults with developmental disabilities and their families through Special Olympics, social activities, educational classes and a day program. Adults with special needs work at Soaring Eagle Thrift Store to gain life skills.

and further the development of social, communication, motor and cognitive skills.

Southwest Wheelchair Athletic Association (SWAA) Multiple locations, Provides wheelchair sled hockey, fencing, track and other sports for people with disabilities.

Wet Zone Waterpark Angel Swim Rowlett, 972/412-6266; Open swim for members of the community with special needs and their families during summer months.

Special Abilities of North Texas Lewisville, 972/317-1515; Supports adults with disabilities through programs and events, including a health and fitness program, creative arts program, and opportunities to visit local attractions and sporting events.

YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas Multiple locations, 214/880-9622; Puts Christian values into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Various club locations offer camps, swimming lessons and sports programs for kids with special needs.

Special Needs Gymnastics Multiple locations, 806/438-3227; Coaches work individually and in groups with students of all ages and skill levels who have disabilities to help athletes achieve success. Special Olympics Texas Statewide, 512/835-9873; Provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Special Strong Dallas-Fort Worth area, 972/836-8463; Specialized health and fitness services, including private training and boot camps for children and adults with special needs. Spirit Xtreme Southlake, 817/251-8984; Spirit Xtreme’s Rejoice team is open to boys and girls 5–18 with all disabilities to learn cheer steps and boost their self-confidence through dance performances. Contact Starcatchers multiple locations, 972/422-2575; Provides youth and adults with opportunities to shine through drama, music, dance and visual art. Opportunities range from large theater productions to intimate art classes 30 t h r i v e

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Texas Cutez Lewisville, 469/233-2882; Serves children with special needs of all ages and abilities as they learn and make friends on a cheerleading team.


Adventure Kids Playcare Multiple locations, Offers hourly dropin child care that is inclusive to children with special needs. Reservations are required. APT G: A Place to Go Allen, 214/385-8850; Free monthly respite night for children with special needs in grades six and up. Held the third Saturday of each month (September–May) from 7–9:30pm. Register online by the Wednesday before. Breakaway – Special Needs Ministry Fort Worth, 817/546-0876; Free respite night for children with special needs (all ages) and siblings (ages infant to 12 years) on the third Friday of the month throughout the year (excluding June, July and December). Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Bryan’s Buddies Grapevine, 817/481-2559; Monthly respite care for children with special needs and their siblings held at First United Methodist Church. Bryan’s House Dallas, 214/559-3946; Provides respite care, child care and

support services for children affected by HIV/ AIDS and their families as well as children with other special health needs. Friday Night Fun and Night Vision at Lake Pointe Church Rockwall, 469/698-2310; lpkids. com/rockwall. Friday Night Fun is a monthly parents’ night out for children with special needs (6 months–13 years) and their siblings from 6–9pm on the third Friday of the month. Night Vision is for older students with special needs one Friday a month from 7–9pm. Non-church members accepted when space is available. Email to register. SOAR, the special needs ministry, offers other programs for children and adults with special needs. Friday NITE Friends Plano, 972/618-3450; Respite program for families with special needs and medically fragile children (ages birth–15 years) and their siblings (up to 12 years) on Friday evenings from 6–10pm. Gary’s Angels Plano, 214/291-8024; Sensory activities, a quiet room and Sunday school activities for children with special needs and their siblings at St. Andrew UMC during services at 9:30 and 10:50am. Harvey’s Kids Carrollton, 972/492-2432; hcumc. org. Arts and crafts, food and other activities for children with special needs and their siblings every second Saturday of the month from 5–8pm. Reservations required. Kids’ Night Out Plano, 972/941-7272; plano. gov/408/Adapted-Recreation. Respite night for children ages 1–11 and teens ages 12–15 with special needs and their siblings meets at Liberty Recreation Center from 5:45–8:45pm on the second Friday of each month (except June and July). Reservations required. Loving Hands Ministry Coppell, 972/462-0471; Respite care for children with special needs up to age 16 and their siblings up to age 10 one Saturday a month from 5:30–

Photo courtesy of Mathew Lewis

Sacred Ground Dance Flower Mound, 806/2417226; Offers hip-hop classes every Wednesday from 5:30–6:15pm for kids 7–18 with special needs, along with a buddy program that pairs kids with typical dancers.


8:30pm. A registered nurse will be on hand to offer support while the children engage in various activities. Night Lights Dallas, 214/706-9535; Children with special needs ages 6 months–21 years and their siblings ages 6 months–13 years enjoy arts and crafts, computer games, live entertainment and more at this free respite night from 6–10pm every first, second and third Friday of the month (except January and July) at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church and every first Friday of the month at White Rock United Methodist Church. Free respite care for Spanish-speaking families on the third Friday of every month at the Christ Foundry United Methodist Mission. Registration required. Night OWLS Dallas, 214/523-2284; Respite program for children ages 3 months–13 years with identified special needs and their siblings from 6–10pm on the first and third Friday night of each month at Highland Park United Methodist Church and the second Friday night of each month at Munger Place Church. Parents’ Night Out Allen, 972/727-8241; Respite program with music, games, movies and snacks for children with special needs in kindergarten through sixth grade and their siblings one Saturday a month during the school year at First Baptist Church Allen. Respite Care at Irving Bible Church Irving, 972/560-4613; Respite night one Saturday a month for children, teens and adults with special needs from 5:30–8pm. Reservations required.


Cook Children’s Sib2Sib Program Fort Worth, 682/885-5872; Free program for siblings of patients with a chronic illness or a life-changing injury. Workshops use crafts and games to encourage open communication. A group for ages 5–7 and a group for ages 8–12 meet every other month; there are occasional field trips and camps for ages 13–20. FEAT-North Texas Sibshops Richland Hills, 817/919-2228; Sibshops held annually at the FEAT-NT Resource Center and Library. Library books on sibling issues, autism and a range of other disabilities and related topics available for parents and children to check out. HEROES Sibshops Richardson, 817/925-9434; Program for the siblings of children with disabilities to participate in fun and exciting activities in a safe environment. Workshops take place one Saturday a month (excluding June, July and August).


North Texas Tourette Syndrome Support Group Irving, 281/2388096; Serves North Texas families with Tourette’s syndrome and its associated disorders. Visit the website and contact the group leader for meeting times.


a resourceful guide for your special needs A One-Of-A-Kind Camp Camp Summit is for children and adults with disabilities where the emphasis is on the campers’ abilities rather than their disabilities. Traditional camp activities are adapted to each individual and are provided in our barrier-free facilities and implemented by trained, caring staff. Campers are grouped by age, providing the opportunity to make friends within peer groups while experiencing new adventures. Camp Summit 270 Private Rd. 3475, Paradise, TX 76073 972-484-8900 •

Language Works/Rainbow Kidz Language Works/Rainbow Kidz provides low-cost, high-therapeutic interventions and therapies both one-on-one and in small groups using the principles of ABA and the analysis of verbal behavior. We offer individual therapy, social skills classes, recreational classes, handwriting, sibling classes, Saturday classes and summer/holiday break classes at affordable prices. Andrea Gamble M.Ed., BCBA 2155 Marsh Ln. Ste. 132, Carrollton, TX 75006 940-595-4381 • Enrolling now… “SUMMER CAMP” Join us for a fun-filled adventure that begins with IMAGINATION and ends with FAMILY. Summer Day Camp is a fun opportunity for social skills and friendship development. ABA therapy for children ages 18 mos–10 yrs. • ABA Therapy • Indoor Motor Lab • Social Skills

Tourette Syndrome Association of Texas Richmond, 281/238-8096; Raises funds to directly assist Texas families and children in crisis, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Marigold Learning Academy ABA Therapy Center 401 W. Washington St., Rockwall, TX 75087 972-722-3892 •


No Limits, Just Possibilities

American Foundation for the Blind Dallas, 214/352-7222; Provides information and referrals to blind and visually impaired persons and their families. Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind Dallas, 214/821-2375; Nonprofit organization that focuses on improving and enhancing the lives and opportunities for individuals with visual impairments in North Texas. Texas Workforce Commission Dallas, 800/628-5115; Works with Texans who are blind or visually impaired to help them get high-quality jobs and live independently. Prevent Blindness Texas Dallas, 214/528-5521; preventblindnesstexas. org. Dedicated to preventing blindness and preserving sight for all Texans through vision screenings, education and free voucher programs. Know of a listing or special-needs resource that we missed? We’d love to hear from you by emailing us at

Notre Dame School educates students with intellectual disabilities and facilitates their integration into society. As the only school in Dallas exclusively serving this student population, Notre Dame is a unique educational resource with 150 students ages 6–22. If you would like more information or would like to schedule a tour, please contact Cindy Reynolds at Notre Dame School of Dallas 2018 Allen St., Dallas, TX 75204 214-720-3911 To advertise in the Services section, call 972-447-9188 or email


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Child Care & School Directory Feeling overwhelmed by local child care and school options? It’s tough to find the right people to care for your child when you’re not around, so we've compiled a handy guide to make that important decision easier.

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Achievement, Balance, Community, LLC Multiple Flower Mound locations 972/410-5297


Our program focuses on individual intensive therapy in a social environment. We provide ABA and other therapy services. See ad on pages 33 and back cover.

3rd–12th grades


Great Lakes Academy is an accredited nonprofit private school located in Plano, Texas, that offers students with average to above-average intelligence, diagnosed with various learning differences, anxiety, ADHD and/or Asperger’s syndrome, a positive school experience. Small class size, challenging curriculum. See ad on page 22.



Marigold is an accredited program offering ABA therapy, early intervention, indoor motor lab, social skills, parent training and an exciting summer program. See ad on page 31.


Notre Dame School educates students with developmental disabilities and facilitates their integration into society. For over 50 years this mission statement has guided the Notre Dame School as it has served as a unique educational resource in Dallas. See ad on page 31.


Offering dual-track, multisensory instructional model for students with academic or social learning challenges of varying levels, Oak Hill Academy is dedicated to unveiling the "magnificent mind" and gifts of each student, which might otherwise be hidden in a traditional classroom. See ad on page 13.


Christian school for children with learning differences, recognizing the unique learning style of each individual. Redemptive, innovative and multisensory. Job skills program offered as elective for 11th and 12th grade students. See ad on page 10.


We are a home-school alternative for individuals with developmental disabilities. We focus on flexible thinking skills, executive function and concept building in a unique setting with typical peers. We also offer extracurricular activities with speech and ABA supports on campus. See ad on page 22.


Great Lakes Academy 6000 Custer Rd., Building 7, Plano 75023 972/517-7498

Marigold Learning Academy ABA Therapy Center 401 W. Washington St., Rockwall 75087 972/722-3892

Notre Dame School of Dallas 2018 Allen St., Dallas 75204 214/720-3911


Oak Hill Academy 9407 Midway Rd., Dallas 75220 214/353-8804

PK–12th grades

St. Timothy Christian Academy 6801 W. Park Blvd., Plano 75093 972/820-5460

K–12th grades

Teach Me Academy 2020 E. Hebron Pkwy., Carrollton 75007 972/295-9319

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nt me ow roll You d Kn ngs Shoul i h T

En tal





June 11th through August 24th

830 Parker Square Rd. Flower Mound, TX 75028 972-410-5297

Plano 6105 Windcom Ct. Ste. #400 Plano, TX 75093 Frisco 8501 Wade Blvd. Ste. #330 Frisco, TX 75034 972-312-8733

Our summer camp program is an inclusive program with a responsive, developmentally appropriate approach to child growth and learning. We provide individualized attention to support each child’s emerging communication and learning skills. We work on communication, sensory integration, social relatedness, gross and fine motor development, play and self-help skills.

The Behavior Exchange’s 10-week Summer Camp is full of learning, laughter and possibilities. All sorts of fun activities are planned that encourage communication, school readiness, social skills and group participation. Our industry-leading approach combines a proprietary curriculum with proven ABA-therapy techniques. The result is our ability to highly tailor programs for each child that raises the bar on expectations. We’re committed to ensuring children acquire real skills that make a difference in their lives this summer and beyond. Call us and enroll today! What Could Be, Can Be! Ask about our fall session. (COVERED BY INSURANCE IN MOST CASES)

Camp Summit is a one-of-a-kind camp for children and adults with disabilities where the emphasis is on the campers’ abilities rather than their disabilities. Traditional camp activities are adapted to each individual and are provided in our barrier-free facilities and implemented by trained, caring staff. Our campers are grouped by age, providing the opportunity to make friends within peer groups while having fun and experiencing new adventures. 270 Private Rd. 3475 Paradise, TX 76073 972-484-8900

Camp Summit is located just north of DFW on 460 beautiful acres of land. We are accredited by the American Camp Association and licensed as a Youth Camp in the State of Texas.


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life goes on My Wife, My Life

am not sure where to even begin to describe my wife, Jackie. Wow, has life been turned upside down since we said our vows and started our journey together. I knew coming into this marriage that it would be a little rocky and hard at times. Jackie already had a son, Nicholas, who had autism, intellectual disability, seizure disorder and cerebral palsy and was nonverbal. The fact that Jackie, a single mother who was cautious about letting people into her and Nick’s life, allowed me to enter and start our family together made me feel blessed. It wouldn’t be too hard, right? So we began our life as a unique family, from any traditional viewpoint, and it has been an amazing roller coaster of a ride. I’ll be honest, speaking for adult males living with ADD, we must give credit and praise to our counterparts who live with our ADD daily as well. Then throw in three kids (two of whom have significant disabilities), three dogs, five therapists, six attendants and eight nurses—it sure does put the FUN back in dysfunctional. Blessed are we that we are still together in our marriage. The reported divorce rate among families that have children with disabilities is incredibly high. We have persevered, and we press on. Sure, there are things that are not fun or that downright stink in our family. I work two jobs so I am rarely

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july/august 2018


home—and that stinks. Jackie handles the house, manages the therapy and nursing schedules, and does the pickups and drop-offs, frustrated and rightfully so. I sleep downstairs on the couch most nights. This is probably the hardest part of our marriage. I do the latenight watch with Nick and his nurses, and she does the early morning care for Ethan and his routines and procedures. We do not want to bother each other during the little sleep we do get in order to function the next day.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to run away with her, even just for a week, and leave this all behind for a short while. I mean, I have not even given this woman a honeymoon since we were married years ago. To be able to stop and focus on her and her alone would be a blessing to us both. Yet, here she is, and we stand together, going through the day-to-day routines and fights and successes and miracles that our boys are going through, and we are together. I am the loud, emotional fighter for the boys, their

ABOVE // Jackie Schilling, featured in the Winter 2013 issue of this magazine with her two sons with special needs. Before Josh started this column, he contacted us to tell the editors about his wife and why she deserved to be featured as our Mom Next Door. Photography by Jill Broussard.

needs and their rights. They do not have voices to fight for themselves, so I triple mine to make sure that they are heard and that their needs are met. It is exhausting but needed. Jackie is right there by my side the entire time. I worry; she stays focused. I look to the future (whether it be one week, one year or 10 years from now) and our plan for the boys; she attends to the here and now and makes sure things are functioning correctly and going smoothly. I raise my voice, cry and scream if needed; she remains calm and looks at the big picture. When I am in the heat of a moment, passionately fighting for the boys, she often reminds me, “Josh, this did not happen to us. It happened to our boys.” We are along for the ride, being parents to our fabulous three children and blessed that the Lord gave them to us. The Lord has blessed us in many ways—sometimes hidden, but nevertheless we are blessed. We balance each other out, we ground each other, and we love each other. Jackie never wants to be in front of the crowd; she sits by and supports me and the kids in everything we do. To me, this makes her stronger and more wonderful and freaking amazing. We may not be traditional, we may let our freak flag fly a little too high, but we do it as a family, and we take the day head on. All along Jackie is in the midst, supporting every single one of us. She is amazing, she is beautiful, she is my wife and so blessed am I.

Early Intervention Program 2–5 yrs old

Bridge Program

Transition Program

(preschool-aged) 4–6 yrs old

(school-aged) 7–10 yrs old

Maintenance Program (school-aged) 8–13 yrs old



PLAY THERAPY • • • • • •




PARENTING/BEHAVIOR SOLUTIONS—PARENT TRAINING AND COACHING We serve children whose diagnoses may include Autism, ADHD, ADD, OCD and ODD LOCATIONS IN FLOWER MOUND, GRAPEVINE & TROPHY CLUB Office: (972) 410-5297 | Fax: (972) 410-5270 |

Thrive July/August 2018  
Thrive July/August 2018