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VOL. 10 NO. 2







Museums can be scary places for children


with autism and sensory disorders. But sensory-friendly events are making art— and its benefits—more accessible.

5 To the Limit 6 On Board 6 It’s Showtime 6 Cut the Ribbon



words Julissa Treviño

8 child care options for kids with special needs

words Alexandra Mitchell Mortenson


23 5 Things To Do in March & April


staff box Joylyn Niebes

Creative Director Lauren Niebes


MANAGING EDITOR Carrie Steingruber ASSOCIATE EDITOR Alexis Manrodt



















24 Directory of Special Needs Resources

Publisher/ Editor-in-Chief


9 Mom Next Door: Erika Slater 12 TreeHouse 12 Sound Advice: Beating the Bullies 12 Veg Out 14 Mommy Diary: Vanessa Sturgeon


30 Life Goes On words Josh Schilling

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


Correction: In our January/February 2018 issue, on page 12, we did not include a photo credit for the image of Kate Cassidy and her children. The photo was taken by Carley Minniear of Captured By Carley.



ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Nikki Garrett, Nancy McDaniel, Kristen Niebes, Sandi Tijerina, Laura Vardell, Kerensa Vest


ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Diana Whitworth Nelson



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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9 5


take note


“Following boundaries is like learning to ride a bike,” Moussa says. “It takes practice and repetition: Your child may fall off several times, and you have to be patient and loving.” CORRECT

When boundaries are breached, Erp believes in “finding their currency of the moment”—in other words, discerning which toy or activity your child cares about the most, then taking it away. “Currently, Braden’s currency is his iPad,” she says. “If he ignores what I ask, then I take away that currency momentarily.” Moussa believes in using “currency” as a reward too. “Use a token system and reinforcers (favorite outing, favorite toys, favorite entertainment) to reward your child for following the rules and doing chores,” she says. But, don’t assume he or she will immediately pick up on the nuances of a changed routine. “If there is a change in routine, let your child know in advance and remind your child of the behavior expectations,” Moussa advises. Dallas mom Jeanmarie Beno, whose son Joseph, now 21, has autism, set the same expectations for her typical children as she did for Joseph. “The rules, consequences Wisdom and punishments were the same COMMUNICATE for him as they were for his of the Crowd Setting boundaries is crucial for siblings,” Beno says. She believes When managing your child’s a happy and healthy relationthis consistency played a big part behavior gets overwhelming, ship with your child, says Nagla in Joseph’s ability to learn good Dallas mom Jeanmarie Beno Moussa, president of Moussa behavior over time. says that there is nothing Autism Consulting. more helpful than having a solid group you can rely on. “A lack of boundaries and THINK SMALL structure might cause your child If your child’s problems persist “I belong to many Facebook more stress and feelings of being communities and have despite clear expectations and received a tremendous out of control,” she says. “Make repetition, Nadia Suckarieh, a amount of wonderful the rules and boundaries as behavior analyst at Hope Center information and support,” concrete as possible, use simple for Autism in Fort Worth, says to Beno says. language and no more than two keep trying—and think small. These resources can or three steps at a time.” “If parents try to target all especially make a difference Moussa explains that the behavior issues, they will get when it comes to setting breaking down a request such overwhelmed and it can be a frusboundaries for your child, as “Don’t yell” by repeatedly trating experience for them and as other parents can share explaining why it’s important their children,” Suckarieh explains. their secrets. not to yell goes a long way “Look at what is doable or most For parents of children toward rectifying the behavior. important to their family and with autism, Beno For Erp, being intentional lifestyle, and start with small goals. recommends AUsome Moms ( See our about how she communicated Once the child masters a small directory on page 24 for other boundaries meant getting acgoal, parents can build on this and communities full of parents customed to the language that teach them the next step.” who can share their wisdom. developed between her and Erp’s relationship with Braden. Phrases like “That’s Braden is proof that starting too bad,” for example, reinsmall works. force her position that something is the way it is “It can still get overwhelming,” she says. “But so it’s inappropriate to protest. Repeating these if you keep trucking and embrace your suckey phrases is essential—and Moussa agrees. cesses, you will find your groove.”

to the limit

how to set behavior boundaries— and enforce them WORDS TYLER HICKS



s a young teenager, Jennifer Erp’s son Braden loved to ride the train at the mall. But when the train malfunctioned one day, Erp was reminded of the challenges of setting appropriate boundaries for a child with developmental disabilities—like her son, who has autism. “Braden started screaming right there in the middle of the mall, and no matter what I said, he wouldn’t stop,” the Plano mom recalls. “For the next 30 minutes, I just stood there while he screamed and screamed.” Erp admits she is still honing how she communicates boundaries to her son, now 18. Until recently, Erp would let his tantrums happen, refusing to leave restaurants or events whenever Braden threw a fit. “When children exhibit challenging behavior, there is something occurring in the environment that reinforces those behaviors,” says Kristi Cortez, a behavior analyst at the University of North Texas’ Kristin Farmer Autism Center. This could be a pattern of behavior they see in their siblings or on TV, or simply a behavior that is going uncorrected—like Braden’s tantrums. “Once they figure out what is reinforcing those behaviors, parents can begin to set boundaries and teach them another way to communicate what they need or want,” Cortez explains.


march/april 2018 5

take note


ALL EARS In a bit of music to our ears, Dallas Children’s Theater is working to become more inclusive by rolling out professionaldevices (ALDs) for all shows in Baker Theater. The move comes on the heels of the 2014 introduction of sensoryfriendly programming. Purchased with the

Earlier this year, Delta Air Lines made headlines

policy, you’ll need to provide documentation

after announcing more stringent vetting of

outlining your child’s need for the animal and

service and emotional support animals. While

proof of its training and vaccinations at least 48

federal law permits service animals to travel

hours prior to flying. Forms must be completed

in-cabin with their owners (provided they don’t

by a licensed vet, and emotional support ani-

pose a threat to others’ health and safety),

mals require an additional form filled out by a

a 150 percent increase in service animals on

mental health professional. Recently—after a

neckloop telecoil coupler

Delta flights has resulted in a spike of disrup-

woman attempted to board with her pet pea-

or used with personal

tions, including a dog attack last year. To pre-

cock—United Airlines announced it’s following

headphones. ALDs are

vent abuses of the system, Delta is imposing

suit. Others are likely to follow. To ensure your

available in the box office

new rules for traveling with service and sup-

family is covered, check your carrier’s website

30 minutes before the

port animals effective March 1. Under the new

for specific documentation requirements.

My Possibilities 3601 Mapleshade Ln., Plano; 469/241-9100

Cut the Ribbon

support of The Crystal Charity Ball, devices can be paired with earbuds (provided), connected to hearing aids via a

shows start. Dallas Children’s Theater 5938 Skillman St., Dallas; 214/978-0110

Phase one of the My Possibilities Campus for Higher Learning opens late April, allowing the Plano organization to serve hundreds more a week. Launched in 2006, My Possibilities provides adults with cognitive disabilities—aka HIPsters (Hugely Important People)—socialization opportunities, vocational training and independent living skills. Modeled after a college campus, the new facility is the first of its kind, designed specifically for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The three-year, $25 million project was made possible by the generosity of local business and community members—and it’s just the beginning. The organization plans to break ground on Building 2 later this year. To learn more and pledge your support, visit 6 thrive

march/april 2018

Photos courtesy of © Murphy; My Possibilities

on board

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t least five days a week, Erika Slater takes her body to the brink, running, riding and swimming in preparation for whatever race she has lined up next. Since 2002, she’s completed numerous halfmarathons and sprint triathlons and achieved her goal of completing five half distance triathlons before turning 40 last year. (She finished six.) “Training is my meditation time,” says the Coppell mom of three: Paige, 11; Hunter, 9; and Peyton, 6. “I come back fresh and reenergized. It gives me the endorphins I need.” To Slater, training is much more than a coping mechanism. She views it as an analogy to Hunter’s journey with autoimmune disease and autism. If he can persist so can she. “Everything takes extra effort for him,” Slater says. “He has to fight through every day to try to retain some type of normalcy, just like I have to push during a race.” Hunter was 9 pounds, 12 ounces at birth and healthy in every way. His pediatrician

called him “perfect.” But on Thanksgiving 2010 during a family trip to Wisconsin, things took a turn. At first, it seemed innocuous enough. Doctors diagnosed Hunter, 17 months at the time, and his sister Paige with an infection, assumed to be strep throat. While Paige improved, Hunter’s fever persisted and he developed a full-body rash. Thinking it was an allergic reaction to antibiotics, the doctor prescribed prednisone. But Slater’s intuition—as a mom and a speech-language pathologist—told her something was amiss. Following a horrific flight home with Hunter screaming in discomfort the final 30 minutes, the toddler woke up with an eyeblinking tic. This is when Slater and her husband, Peter, began to search for answers.

The first neurologist they saw threw out possible diagnoses of ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, sensory integration dysfunction and autism. “I remember screaming in my head, ‘Autism? He definitely doesn’t have autism!’” Slater says. “He never lost his language.” But he developed issues with his fine motor skills and social skills, and his sensory integration regressed. He began to walk on his toes, express sensitivity to loud noises and flap his arms. After his three-year checkup, he was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), which falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “I knew what they were going to say, but it never quite prepared me,” Slater says. “You receive this diagnosis, and then you’re left to

“Grief is a big part of receiving that diagnosis, and it never leaves you.”

ABOVE / As Erika Slater trains for half-marathons and half distance triathlons, her son Hunter, 9, who has autoimmune disease, is her inspiration to keep going. thrive

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pick up the pieces. Why us? Why, when It’s a delicate balance for Slater, who’s had someone does everything right and follows to train herself to take the “therapist hat” off every baby book, does this happen?” when she’s with Hunter. While Slater ensured that Hunter received Long before having children of her own, every behaviorshe had a heart al intervention for children available, there with special was still the needs. Her matter of his desire to “make medical issues. a difference” From recurring drove her to strep throat and pursue a career ear infections in speech-lanto wheat gluten guage patholintolerance ogy, in which and vitiligo, she’s helped autoimmune families for reactions waged more than 15 war on the years. ABOVE / Erika Slater and her husband, Peter, rely on boy’s body. Becoming teamwork to meet the needs of Paige, 11; Hunter, 9; Finally, the parent of and Peyton, 6. when Hunter a child with was 5, Dr. special needs, Benjamin Greenberg, a neuroimmunolohowever, was a game-changer. Today, she’s gist at the University of Texas Southwestern “a completely different therapist”—and perMedical Center, diagnosed him with autoimson, for that matter. From feeling the sucker mune encephalitis, a neuropsychiatric disorpunch of a diagnosis to enduring judgmental der in which the immune system attacks the glares at the grocery store, she knows what brain. For Slater, it was like crossing the finit’s like to be on the receiving end. ish line at a race. She finally had an answer. “I’ve always been a compassionate perIn the years since, Hunter’s care has son,” she says. “But now, in my mind, everyincluded behavioral therapy, hippotherapy, body gets the benefit of the doubt. I wish occupational therapy and a strict gluten-, people would give everybody a little grace.” dairy- and artificial color-free diet. To manWanting to do even more, in 2015 Slater age the autoimmune disease, he takes daily co-founded Competing for Recovery, a supplements and receives quarterly immune nonprofit that connects area families and treatments at Children’s Health. Cognitively, raises awareness of autoimmune diseases. he’s thriving. Though there are occasional In its three years, the organization’s tentsetbacks, he’s in school full time and on grade pole event, an annual 5K run in Coppell, level with an average IQ. has raised more than $30,000 for the UT “I feel like, with Hunter, recovery [from Southwestern research group CONQUER autism and autoimmune encephalitis disease] is (Collaboration On Neuroimmunology: possible,” Slater says. “Some people raise their Question, Understand, Educate, Restore) and eyebrows when I say that, but the definition of Children’s Alopecia Project. recovery is ‘to regain something that has been “Watching those people cross the finlost or stolen.’ I feel like normalcy was stolen ish line that first year, my heart healed in so from us. We have a new normal now. Every day many ways,” says Slater. “It’s so rewarding. It we compete with autoimmune disease.” helps kids accept one another and helps parFor Slater and her husband, the director ents who are lost.” of customer strategy for Metro PCS, this new When other parents reach out for words normal involves long days and a lot of teamof comfort, Slater returns to the race analwork. The couple prioritizes date night and ogy, urging them to continue putting one recently started taking an annual trip. Most foot in front of the other, even when they’re important, each one gives the other space to running on empty. cope in his or her own way. “Grief is a big part of receiving that diag“We’ve both accepted the fact that grievnosis, and it never leaves you,” she says. “It ing takes time and know what the other just comes in waves. You have to persevere— needs,” she says. “We try to help one another not just for your child but for your marriage, get that mental break.” insurance battles and doctors’ appointments. Time is a rare commodity for Slater, who In the beginning, everything I did focused works part time for a home-health agency. on trying to figure out why. Now that I’ve But with her husband’s help and a flexible stopped trying to get that why, it’s clearer for work schedule, she’s able to meet Hunter’s me. The why is not going to change how life needs, as well as those of Paige and Peyton. is. This is the new normal.” t

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rm: H E L P Sound Advice Beating the Bullies

You change your A/C filters often, purchase hypoallergenic pillows and dust your home religiously. Making adjustments like these is more than just spring cleaning—it’s essential to your child’s overall health and well-being. TreeHouse takes healthy and clean in-home living a step further. The Austin-based store, which opened its newest location in Plano in January, provides eco-friendly products and services to make your home sustainable, beautiful and, above all, healthy.

TreeHouse services include insulation and air sealing to block pollutants, and its products help you clean sans chemicals—for example, the nontoxic and hypoallergenic Nellie’s All-Natural Laundry Soda will get out all the stains on that soccer uniform without leaving chemical traces behind. For times when you need to get out of the house for a while, head to a Saturday Paint & Sip event with your girlfriends to enjoy art making and sustainably-sourced wines. —Lisa Salinas

veg out

Tips To Minimize Your Stress: 1. Engage with other parents and talk to your child’s teacher, school counselor or school administrators early on to share your feelings, address concerns and understand situations. 2. Take action as soon as possible. This can help you overcome feelings of helplessness and regain a feeling of power. 3. Get help from a mental health professional to provide you and your child with coping strategies during difficult situations. Being a strong advocate for your child will set a positive example of how to deal with obstacles. Engage in self-care. Practice and model coping strategies. Listen and avoid criticizing. Be a touchstone for your child. Dr. Colleen Logan is program coordinator for the MS in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling program at Walden University’s School of Counseling. She is a Dallas-based counselor and parent.

If all those hours of meal prepping and recipe research have you feeling like you have too much on your plate, try Cuisine for Healing, a food service that delivers healthy meals right to your door. The local nonprofit specializes in making nutritious meals for people fighting life-threatening diseases but also offers delicious food for busy moms and people with strict dietary requirements. With the promise to serve only organic and locally grown or caught foods, Cuisine for Healing dishes are free of hormones, antibiotics and artificial ingredients—meaning your family will be eating the healthiest meals on the market. Visit the website to view their weekly lineup of rotating meal plans. Main dishes (like tacos, pasta and barbecue) are priced at around $11 each, with soups, salads and desserts available at an additional cost. —Alexis Manrodt Cuisine for Healing // 1450 Eighth Ave., Fort Worth; 817/921-2377 // 12 t h r i v e

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Photos courtesy of TreeHouse; Cuisine for Healing; Illustration by Mary Dunn

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Bullying is an issue with which many parents today are faced— and sadly, children with differences tend to be targeted. While you are your child’s biggest fan, greatest advocate and first role model, it’s normal to become stressed and have feelings of helplessness when you are unable to ensure that others treat your child with dignity and respect. How you handle stress and sadness can have an impact not only on your own mental and physical health but on your child’s as well.


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m a r c h / a p r i l 2 0 1 8 13


A Day in the Life of

VANESSA STURGEON Vanessa Sturgeon is a Realtor with eXp Realty, an agentowned cloud brokerage firm. She and her husband, Ryan, a crew supervisor and journeyman lineman for Oncor, are parents to 6-year-old Jack, who has stereotypic movement disorder, extreme ADHD, manic depression/bipolar disorder and extreme sensory/movement disorder, and 3-year-old Rhys.

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:30AM The alarm clock goes off, signaling a series of alarms scheduled every 10 minutes until I muster the ability to get out of my bed. “My” being a loose term since Ryan and I often share the bed with our two boys and our two elderly cocker spaniels. 6AM After leaving the six inches of mattress I call “my” bed, I pack the boys’ lunches for the day. For Jack, it’s peanut butter and honey sandwiches—one of three acceptable meal options for him. Just for fun, I throw in a string cheese and some Triscuits in hopes that today he is willing to try something new. 6:20AM Backpacks are packed, clothes are laid out and breakfast is served. It’s another solo morning as Ryan has been on call and in the field for the last 12 hours. We text a quick “Miss you, Daddy” selfie, and the boys indulge in 10 minutes of coveted iPad time before we load into the car. Jack takes his medications, and there is a difference in his ability to focus in a matter of minutes. 7:27AM I drop off Jack at kindergarten. While Rhys throws his daily tantrum over being denied access to the school’s playground, Jack exits our SUV without tumbling out or forgetting his backpack—a huge success! Jack is considered high functioning, but he struggles with coordination. We’re hopeful that with the aid of occupational therapy he can have more control over his body movements and strength, but his extreme ADHD demands massive effort from him to sit still and stay

on task (and more importantly, maintain a good attitude). I’m thankful that his school friends are so inclusive and that they’ll grow up knowing all the little quirks that make our Jack who he is. 7:40AM Time to drop off Rhys at preschool. The silver lining of Jack starting school at 7:30 sharp is that I can spend some extra time with Rhys. Today I surprise him with a quick stop at the local donut shop. 8AM Back home. I multitask listening to the morning news, checking email and making my to-do list for the day. 8:30AM I receive an email from clients requesting to see a property in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town. In this market, inventory moves fast. I rearrange my schedule and research the listing history and run market analysis reports before the showing. 11AM My clients love the home and want to move forward. There is only one chance to make an attractive bid so we prepare a strong and strategic offer. 11:30AM After postponing my morning workout, I catch up with an intense personal training session. I don’t drink coffee so I rely on the adrenaline from these workouts to power me through the day. 2PM Lunch today is a networking event with real estate professionals. I’m always impressed with the work ethic and passion of people in this industry. While I’m a firm believer in “running your own race,” it’s nice to have such inspirational colleagues. 4PM I pop into Sprouts and pick up rotisserie chicken for dinner. Since Jack has a limited diet, I pick up a can of cranberry sauce. It’s my secret weapon to ensure he eats the chicken—cranberry sauce is his favorite condiment aside from ketchup. 4:45PM After stopping by the house to unload groceries, I pick up Jack from his after-school program and Rhys from daycare. We make the most out of afternoon traffic and exchange stories from the day. Rhys is singing “Shark Finger Family” while Jack shares that he earned yet another purple on his behavioral chart and was rewarded with a coveted trip to his classroom’s treasure chest. 6:30PM I make work phone calls, draft emails and update client files while I prepare dinner for the boys. I clean out the boys’ lunchboxes to find the string cheese and Triscuits uneaten as expected. This reminds me to confirm his eating evaluation for his sensory/occupational therapy with Cook Children’s in Grapevine next week. 7:30PM Missing Ryan as we wrap up the day. His absence means a little

Photo Courtesy of Amy Thomas

rm: M O M M Y

Having Spina Bifida doesn’t stop us from just being kids. We Are Living #beyondlimits!

All About Vanessa

Yearly destination Mexico or North Carolina beaches Restaurant she frequents with the family Texas Roadhouse or Red Robin (both are loud and kids can be messy) Beverage of choice Just a large cup of Chick-fil-A ice, but you can twist my arm for a glass of pinot grigio Words she lives by Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

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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.

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less routine in our bedtime. I get the boys bathed and into pajamas. Jack takes his hygiene to the next level with deodorant, a spritz (or five) of daddy’s cologne, flossing and lotion. 8:30 PM Rhys is demanding to be read Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site for the 20th night in a row. After I read this beloved book and perform a semidecent rendition of John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy,” they fall asleep. 9:00 PM Back to work. With an offer on the table, there is no time to miss an email. While reviewing my calendar for the week, I get a response from the agent. Some more negotiations are needed. My clients are night owls so I immediately share the details and we iron out a counteroffer. 11:00 PM A new offer is submitted. I have a good feeling that we’ll have two very happy couples in the morning. I feel positive about the day I’ve had and review my calendar one last time before heading off to my six inches of mattress for the night. t

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Art for All Museums can be scary places for children with autism and sensory disorders. But sensory-friendly events are making art— and its benefits—more accessible.

ine-year-old Pablo Mosquera Garcia didn’t get much out of going to art museums. Cultural venues like art museums and theaters are at the heart of many communities—offering an educational experience, a place for people to come together and a connection to the creative world. But not for kids like Pablo, who has high-functioning autism as well as sensory issues. “When we went to museums before, he would behave nicely but just because he had to do it, not paying attention at all to the surroundings of the museum, paintings, sculptures,” says Keller resident Margarita Garcia, Pablo’s mom. “He won’t pay attention in a crowded room, he won’t pay attention to verbal directions if there are too many surrounding noises, and he won’t participate in art activities if there are a lot of people around him.” For children with autism or sensory processing disorder (SPD), venues like art museums are usually inaccessible. Children with SPD—many children with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, also have sensory issues—tend to be very sensitive to touch, smell, sound, sight and other senses; this can affect the way they respond to their environments. Naturally, the museum environment is full of sensory stimuli. That’s the whole point. ABOVE A scene from Sensory Friendly Family Day at the Dallas Arboretum in November 2017.

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Photo Courtesy of Michael Modecki



In the right environment, viewing and making art can be a perfect outlet for children with sensory issues because it is expressive and sometimes tactile. But the typical art experience is not tailored to kids with ASD or SPD—the buildings are crowded and intimidating, the pieces are not always made to be touched, and art making with strange and messy materials can cause overstimulation. Tina Fletcher, associate professor of occupational therapy at Texas Woman’s University, is trying to change that. She believes that if the art experience could be repackaged, children with ASD and SPD could reap the benefits too—and communal spaces that are inaccessible to kids like Pablo can truly become shared spaces for all. WIGGLE ROOM

Fletcher’s research has found that noise, crowds and unpredictability are among the biggest challenges for children with sensory issues at museums and other cultural venues. This means that if a family attempts to go to an art museum or concert, they might not get to stay for long. “That’s what we usually see; their time at the venue is cut short. And they have to really overplan,” Fletcher says. Or, as in Pablo’s case, a child simply may not gain much from the experience because of distractions. One of Fletcher’s studies found that these sensory-avoiding or -seeking behaviors can interfere with a child’s ability to benefit from museum visits. While most museums and other facilities can’t be completely transformed into sensoryfriendly environments—sometimes these spaces require special lighting or include sounds as part of the art, for example—they can add special programming to accommodate children with sensory issues, Fletcher says. Take the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Once a month, the museum facilitates a sensory-friendly program that allows kids to experience the collection by focusing on a theme and discussing the work with museum staff. Then, they actually get to make art in a studio setting. Pablo has been attending the Amon Carter’s Sensory Saturdays for a year with his family, and Garcia says she’s noticed a huge improvement in Pablo’s interaction with art. “He participates in the art activities, making comments and answering questions about the theme of the day,” she says. “Now visiting the museums is not a challenging matter for us. Pablo knows that he does not have to touch but just look, and that he can ask any question he wants about the art and [someone will] answer him, and he loves that.” Jessica Kennedy, the Amon Carter’s public programs manager, says children with SPD often don’t get the chance to be in large spaces like museums, and programs like Sensory Saturdays help accommodate them in a way that’s important. “Large spaces can be intimidating just because of the number of people that are around,”

Kennedy says. “Sometimes kids can’t control their motions or they’re not aware of their closeness to the artwork or other people. We’re trying to make sure that this is a space for them.” When touring the artwork, museum staff will often talk about sights, smells and other sensations that are evoked by a piece to help kids connect an abstract idea with real life—if a painting portrays a field, for example, the kids are asked to think of the smell of grass. And in the studio, kids explore textures like crumpled aluminum foil or draw something based on the artwork they’re looking at. Kennedy says it’s not uncommon for Sensory Saturdays to be a child’s first experience with art or a museum. “Being able to bring their child to a place that they never thought was possible is huge,” she says. With the help of Fletcher and her students, the Dallas Museum of Art has hosted more than 300 attendees at each of its Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, a sensory-friendly event held three to four times a year. Fletcher says the events are an opportunity for the entire family to have a fun time together—something they may not get to do too often because of the restrictions caused by sensory struggles. She’s heard from parents who feel judged by others for their kids screaming or not following the rules at museums and other venues, but special events like the one at the DMA, which happens in the morning before the museum opens to the public, provide them a safe space. Even at an event tailored to their needs, kids with SPD and ASD can become overwhelmed and overstimulated. But instead of feeling forced to leave, families can retreat to the sensory room Fletcher sets up at the event. The makeshift respite area calms kids using techniques like forward and backward movement on a glider and mild pressure from a weighted blanket, among other tools. “What we found that kids really like are boxes that are big enough to crawl into, like a fort. We give them a little flashlight and a weighted blanket, and we have a couple of glider swings, and that’s really all it takes to calm kids down,” Fletcher says. Social stories and a descriptive picture schedule for the day’s event can also be a big help. “If children understand what’s happening during an event, they tend to last longer, do better and have a better time,” she explains.


At the DMA events, kids participate in sensoryfriendly activities and art projects that use the principles of art therapy, a type of psychotherapy involving painting, drawing or modeling that can serve as a remedial activity for people with a wide range of disorders and conditions—from kids with autism who have limited communication skills to adults dealing with trauma. It’s a challenge to quantify the impact of art making on children with autism and SPD, but according to the Monarch Center for Autism in Cleveland, Ohio, there is enough art therapy literature to show that it is an effective, scientifically proven ASD treatment option. Among other benefits, it helps people with ASD learn calming, coping and relaxation strategies. One common goal in art therapy, especially for children with sensory issues, is to increase tolerance of the senses. When overstimulated, children with autism can become frustrated or avoidant in an effort to distract themselves from unpleasant stimuli. Art therapy works to slowly allow participants to explore textures, smells and other senses in a way they might otherwise avoid. “If a kiddo has issues with touch or clay, we can get them used to the feeling of using other materials first,” says Sharon Hartman, a Fort Worth art therapist who works with the DMA. “Maybe they’ve never been in a situation where they’ve been able to stick their hands in bins of colored rice. It might be a sensation they’ve never had, and they realize, ‘Oh this isn’t so bad.’ It’s a good way for them to explore the senses.” In the long run, art gives them a language to help express what they’re not able to verbally, Hartman says. “It’s a great processing tool. They learn a lot about themselves and their own abilities. They feel pride, too. It increases a lot of social skills and their own abilities.” In group settings especially, art making helps them learn to share, ask for help, talk about which senses they like and don’t like, and practice having discussions. While the DMA doesn’t offer formalized therapy at their sensoryfriendly celebrations, the art activities there can have a similar impact. One of Fletcher’s own studies found that for kids with learning disabilities, art making is an extension of their self-identity and creativity. “Even kids with social challenges follow a normal trajectory regarding art making,” says Fletcher, who was also a school therapist for nearly 30 years.

Art gives them a language to help express what they’re not able to verbally.


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Another way to ensure facilities and events are sensory friendly is by simply doing a walkthrough and deciding what can be anticipated and what can’t, Fletcher says. The Dallas Zoo is a good example. “The education staff at 18 t h r i v e

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the zoo and I walk the zoo and try to anticipate traffic flow, crowding, unpredictable things like animals that are really loud or smell bad and, if we can’t fix it, create a story for the children to help them prepare contingencies and provide them with suggestions for what they can do if these things happen,” she says. “A good example [of a social story] would be on being a good citizen at the zoo.” Now, the Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden also have annual sensoryfriendly events. At the Arboretum, Fletcher designed the event to lead kids and parents to the least-used part of the venue for a scavenger hunt, where it’s less crowded, and created a sensory haven near the front of the venue. None of these strategies interferes with other people’s experiences, Fletcher says. But this kind of work has been traditionally challenging for museums and other venues without training or knowledge of sensory issues. “How do you know if the child who’s trying to touch this van Gogh painting is a child with autism or an intellectual disability or just a child with bad behavior? How do you respond if the parents aren’t doing enough?” she says. Fletcher says she’d also love to approach Six Flags and the State Fair, where she says sensory overload happens often, as well as provide venues with guidelines so they can implement strategies on their own. “It would be great if cultural arts venues implemented some of these supports for families all the time instead of only during events,” she says. Still, she’s focused on helping more venues add sensory-friendly events and make practical changes to accommodate sensitive audiences. It’s a start—and for families who attend, her efforts have already produced results. Garcia believes Sensory Saturdays at the Amon Carter have given Pablo long-term benefits. He has a more self-confident demeanor, and he’s willing to participate in discussions and self-expression. And now, he also loves to paint. t


Let your kiddo experience art at one of these upcoming sensory-friendly events: AMON CARTER MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth; 817/783-1933; The museum hosts Sensory Saturdays for families with children ages 5–12 on the autism spectrum or with sensory processing disorders. Families explore artworks in the galleries and get creative during a hands-on art-making experience. Every second Saturday of the month from 10:30am–noon. Free, but registration is required. Call 817/9895013 or email DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART 1717 N. Harwood St., Dallas; 214/922-1200; Sensory Scouts is a monthly workshop for teens and tweens with autism and sensory processing disorders that allows participants to explore works of art through gallery discussions, sensory explorations and art making. Every third Sunday of the month from 1–2:30pm. Three to four times a year, Autism Awareness Family Celebrations are hosted before museum hours for children with autism and sensory processing disorders and their families to enjoy art together in a fun, low-pressure environment. In addition to discussions about artwork, children enjoy an interactive performance with a music therapist and art making with an art therapist or relax in a sensory room. The next event is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, 9–11am. DMA programs are free, but reservations are required. Call 214/9221324 or email NASHER SCULPTURE CENTER 2001 Flora St., Dallas; 214/242-5100; Sensory-Friendly Family Fun is a brand-new event for kids with sensory processing disorders and their families, in partnership with Texas Woman’s University. Scavenger hunts, art making and activity tables all explore the theme: It’s a Material World! Saturday, April 28, 9–11am. Free, but reservations requested. D A L L A S C H I L D R E N ’ S T H E AT E R 5938 Skillman St., Dallas; 214/740-0051; Sensory-friendly performances are offered throughout the year. The next performance is Yana Wana’s Legend of the Bluebonnet on Saturday, March 24, at 1:30pm. Tickets are $5 per person. Visit for more information. ABOVE Texas Woman’s University students lead activities at the Dallas Arboretum’s Sensory Friendly Family Day.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Modecki

Emily Wiskera, manager of access programs at the DMA, says that the success of the Autism Awareness Family Celebrations was what led to the creation of Sensory Scouts, a once-a-month program designed for teens and tweens. “An important part of our belief is that the museum should be accessible to everyone. Especially for children with autism or sensory processing disorders, we think of the museum as an informal learning environment,” Wiskera says. For Shannon Martin’s two daughters, 14-year-old Rachel and 9-year-old Jasmine, who both have learning disorders, the DMA’s sensory-friendly events have proven to be useful learning tools. “It’s helpful that they take a particular gallery or painting and talk about it, and the children are allowed more wiggle space,” Martin says. “[The museum takes] that information, and they devise an activity that brings that theme alive in art. They’re layering the information, and it’s critical for sensory-disordered children.” Martin says Rachel has autism and is a tactile learner, while Jasmine has dyslexia and is a tactile and auditory learner. She says Sensory Scouts has been a gateway for learning through art in a place that allows them to be curious. “The biggest challenge has always been with Jasmine because her main source for learning is tactile and auditory, and she often doesn’t have the same respect for how the rules work,” Martin says. “So she would always want to touch the art.” The rules and social stories— in addition to a set time for art making—have helped curb Jasmine’s urge to touch art that’s off limits. “We don’t correct behavior so much as eliminate behavior triggers,” Fletcher says.

Ways ABA is Utilized at Beyond the Behavior


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Linking your ability to learning! Diagnostic neuro-educational evaluations for all ages to identify learning profiles, learning differences & disabilities, ADHD, Autism; Speech-Language services Academic coaching, Dyslexia tutoring Educational consultations Aptitude testing for college & career

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• 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



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8 child care options for kids with special needs WORDS ALEXANDRA MITCHELL MORTENSON

COME JANUARY OF EACH YEAR, FORT WORTH mom Angela Darby starts to stress about where she will send her 14-year-old son, Jordon, who has autism spectrum disorder and is nonverbal, for child care over the summer. (Their names have been changed at her request.) Until a few years ago, Medicaid paid for an agency to provide in-home summertime care for Jordon while Darby worked as an administrative assistant for the federal government. Darby was left with few options when Medicaid cut off this funding: The single mom had to work, and both her mom and Jordon’s older brother were unable to watch Jordon for extended periods of time. So Darby started to sift through local child care options for a facility that would provide her son with the individual care he needs. Since Jordon only speaks in two-word phrases, he can easily be misunderstood and can become frustrated, a difficult situation for inexperienced caregivers. Through trial and error, Darby has found that some programs are better than others. “In some places, he just wasn’t getting the care he needs,” she explains. “No one was trained to deal with his behavior. He would get upset, and nobody could help him.” This year she will be sending her son to the same facility she used last summer, which allows her to view Jordon’s day through a video camera and monitor whether staff is watching him. Darby’s struggle is a familiar one for parents whose kids have disabilities or need round-the-clock medical management. While the rare child care facility will accept a child with serious medical needs or behavioral challenges on a case-by-case basis, parents’ best bet is finding a program developed specifically to help kids and young adults with special needs flourish. To help you out, we’ve curated a list of local child care options designed to do just that. 20 t h r i v e

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this six-classroom preschool that creates an integrated learning environment. Overview: The Special Needs Hours: Monday–Friday Day Care program at the 8am–2:30pm Achievement Center of Texas A Typical Day: Students begin provides both before- and their day by greeting their after-school care for up to teachers and having a snack 14 children with special before heading to social circle needs such as autism time. They follow up with fun Ages: spectrum disorder, activities like obstacle courses seizure disorders and and handwriting practice that years cerebral palsy. help to build gross and fine Hours: Monday– motor skills. Two days a week, kids Friday 7:30–8:30am and meet with on-staff therapists to 3:30–6pm practice occupational therapy, A Typical Day: Before school, physical therapy, motor therapy kids wait on their buses, eat or speech therapy. breakfast or a small snack, Good To Know: Because the and work on arts and crafts school is located inside the projects. After school, Moody Family YMCA, students students play on the outdoor get rec time in the facility’s playground, practice life skills large, open field and can take like baking and visit the library advantage of additional onand multi-sensory lab for up to site opportunities like adaptive 30 activities that use four of swimming lessons. The YMCA the five senses, ranging from offers after-school care bubble tubes to foam pits. from 2:30–5:30pm at Ages: Good To Know: The day care an additional cost. can accommodate children Cost: Monthly tuition is in wheelchairs and has full $1,100; siblings r​ eceive changing rooms with lifts. a 30%​discount.​ Cost: $200 per week; some 6000 Preston Road, Dallas, scholarship opportunities available. 214/373-7473 2950 North Shiloh Road, Garland, 972/414-7700






Overview: Up to 60 kids a day—both typically developing and with special needs—attend

Overview: Serving both neurotypical children and kiddos with special needs such as autism, cerebral palsy, respiratory disorders and speech delays, Bryan’s



Overview: KinderFrogs is a one-stop shop that provides child care and early intervention services for 36 children with special needs including Down syndrome, chromosomal disorders and cri-du-chat syndrome. Hours: Monday–Friday 8:30am–3pm, though students can arrive as early as 7:30am A Typical Day: Kids learn in one of three classrooms divided by age, exercise in the gym and on the playground, and visit the therapy room for speech, occupational, physical and music therapy. Good To Know: KinderFrogs serves as a laboratory school for TCU, allowing students in the College of Education to observe classrooms, Ages: help out as classroom aides and conduct educational research. Cost: Annual tuition is $17,780; scholarships available to some families. 2805 Stadium Drive, Fort Worth, 817/257-6828






Overview: Known for its learning gym full of sensory equipment, It’s A Sensory World! also offers before-school, after-school and full-day care for 12 preschoolers ages 2–5, as well as private school classes for 32 children ages 5–16. ISW Academy serves children with sensory processing disorder, autism, cerebral palsy and other special needs, as well as kids without a formal diagnosis who struggle in a typical school environment. Hours: The full-day program is Monday–Friday 8:30am– 2:30pm; the half-day program is Monday–Friday 8:30–11:30am or 11:30am–2:30pm. Beforeschool care is 7:30–8:30am; after-school care is 2:30–5:30pm.   A Typical Day: After circle time, preschoolers head to the large sensory Ages: gym, which includes two trampolines, a rock wall, a slide and years rie 12 therapy swings. r s by p ro g Throughout the day, littles can look forward to library time, art, music and playtime on the outdoor playground.   Good To Know: Staff coordinates with kids’ outside therapists to make sure they’re reaching individual goals.   Cost: Full-day preschool is $12,100 per year; half-day preschool is $4,600 per year; before- and after-school care available at an additional cost; scholarship opportunities available for some families. 13617 Neutron Road, Farmers Branch, 972/239-8100 t



Overview: Like Angela Darby, Darlene Hollingsworth couldn’t find suitable care options for her son who has Down syndrome. She founded The Clubhouse For Special Needs over a decade ago as an after-school day care, but it’s since expanded to a fullday program and now serves more than 60 young adults with special needs. Hours: The afterschool program Ages: is Monday–Friday 3:30–6:30pm; the years full-day program is Monday–Friday 7:30am–6:30pm. A Typical Day: Young adults can do what they want to do, when they want to do it. And there’s plenty to choose


Overview: Yet another parent who took matters into her own hands: Emma’s House opened in 2012 after the founder struggled to find child care for her 14-year-old daughter, Emma, who has an intellectual disability. The small program provides after-school care and vacation-time care for young adults with autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome and other special needs. Hours: After-school care is Monday–Friday 3:30–6:30pm; vacation-time care is on weekdays with no school from 7:30am–6pm. A Typical Day: The 1,800-square-foot facility has a cafe Ages: area, an electronics room, a game years room and a quiet room. Supervised by counselors and volunteers, young adults spend their time snacking, reading books, hanging out on the computer and listening to music. Good To Know: Due to the program’s small size, Emma’s House is unable to accommodate young adults in wheelchairs or with certain behavioral challenges. Cost: $400 per week; the facility works with agencies to provide funding in specific cases. 920 Bluebonnet Drive, Ste. 101, Irving, 972/839-1502

art and learn in the academic area of each classroom. Good To Know: Easterseals also provides outpatient rehabilitation such as occupational therapy, speech-language therapy and physical therapy. Cost: Tuition varies by family; the program accepts insurance to help cover cost of care. Ages: 4443 N. Josey Lane, Suite 100, Carrollton, 972/394-8900


Overview: Easterseals provides child care for up to 60 children with autism spectrum disorder or a similar diagnosis. The program uses an incidental teaching model, in which the environment is designed to nurture kids’ interests and prompt them to communicate their needs so that they’re ready for kindergarten. Hours: Monday–Friday 7:30am– 5:30pm. A Typical Day: Board-certified behavioral analysts, program coordinators and junior instructors work in four classrooms divided by age. Kids play on a new outdoor playground, make



from—activities in the Westernthemed facility include meals in the Rusty Nail Café; pool, air hockey and video games in the Workout Corral; and puzzles and table games in the Parlor. Good To Know: The Clubhouse has plans to triple its square footage by building an additional facility—including a gymnasium—in the near future. Cost: $400 per month; $120 per week; $12 per hour. Scholarship opportunities are available. 1308 Harwood Road, Bedford, 817/285-0885


House provides weekly child care for ages 6 weeks–5 years and vacation-time child care for ages 5–14 during school breaks. There are 70 kids in the weekly program with an additional 90 children during school vacations. Hours: Monday–Friday 7am–6pm A Typical Day: A typical day involves family-style meals (to help kids practice serving Ages: themselves), large group time (varies by program) with activities like music, small group time for art and STEM projects and choice time during which students get to decide what they’d like to do. Good To Know: In addition to providing child care, Bryan’s House operates as a full socialservice agency with a case manager assigned to each family to help them navigate education and health care. Cost: Tuition is $125 per week, but case managers will work with families to see if they qualify for funding from additional sources. 3610 Pipestone Road, Dallas, 214/559-3946


m a r c h / a p r i l 2 0 1 8 21



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kid culture



things to do in

march & april

Touch-a-Truck Sensory Hour

Denton, 940/595-4001

Encourage your child’s obsession with all things that go when Explorium Denton Children's Museum hosts its fourth annual Touch-a-Truck on Saturday, March 3, outside Denton ISD’s C.H. Collins Stadium. Emergency, racing, construction and farm vehicles will be on display but with no running engines, sirens or honking allowed from 9–10am. The fleet of trucks, plus food trucks and kids’ activities, continue through 1pm. $2 suggested donation per person.

Rally in the Fort Make the most of Autism Awareness Month by meeting new friends at the Hope Center for Autism’s fifth annual family-friendly day. The nonprofit offers up performances, a sensoryfocused craft for kids and local services from 2–4pm on Sunday, April 8, at Coyote Drive-In. FREE

SensoryFriendly Family Fun Two hours before the Nasher Sculpture Center opens its garden

Fort Worth, 817/560-1139

Miracle Eggstravaganza Photos courtesy of Rachel Nalls; Glenn Wood; VisitDallas; Gus Chavarria; Rego Visual Arts and Love For Kids, Inc.


After their baseball game on Sunday, March 25, meet the Miracle League of Southlake athletes on the outfield for more fun: the city’s second annual egg hunt with sweet treats and balloon artist twisting from 1–3pm for children with special needs. Bring your Easter baskets to Texas Rangers Miracle League Field, designed with flat, synthetic turf, at Bicentennial Park. Free admission. Photos with the Easter Bunny include a free 4-by-6 print per family.   Southlake, 817/748-8019;

and galleries to the public on Wednesday, April 18, the center welcomes kids with sensory processing challenges (and their siblings) for this first-ever event. Scavenger hunts, art making and activity tables with local partners (including the Dallas Arboretum, zoo, library) each expand on the day’s theme, It’s a Material

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

Superheroes Day On Saturday, April 14, go horseback riding and hang out with some of your favorite superheroes at Love for Kids’ annual All Kids Count, a resource fair and picnic for children with special needs or chronic illnesses. The family fun day from 11am–2pm at Circle R Ranch includes a petting zoo, bounce houses and carnival games, all for free. Register online to secure your family’s spot and choose your event T-shirt sizes. Flower Mound, 214/426-5683;

World!, and occupational therapy students from Texas Woman's University staff the sensory quiet room downstairs. Free admission; registration is requested. Dallas, 214/242-5100 thrive

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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 DallasFort Worth as we could find. If you know of something we missed or have an idea for a new listing, send your recommendations to

AT A GLANCE 24 add & adhd 24 asperger’s & autism 24 celiac disease 24 cerebral palsy 24 child care 25 cystic fibrosis 25 developmental disabilities 25 down syndrome 25 dyslexia 25 epilepsy 25 equestrian therapy 25 fragile x 26 hearing impaired 26 helpline 26 mental illness 26 muscular dystrophy 26 obsessive compulsive 26 recreation 28 respite care 28 sibling classes 28 tourette’s syndrome 28 vision impaired 28 vocational training


Attention Deficit Disorders As-

sociation (ADDA) Southern Region Mesquite, 972/467-9299; 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. 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.


AUsome Moms Flower Mound; A nonprofit that provides support, social opportunities and education to Dallas-Fort Worth families with children on the autism spectrum. Autism Speaks Nationwide, 888/2884762; The nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Offers resources, support and advocacy for families in the autism community while increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advancing research into causes and better treatments for autism spectrum disorders. Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT-NT) Richland

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Hills, 817/919-2228; Provides resources, support, education and advocacy for families in the autism community.

children with special needs, including autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and more. Availability of services is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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.

Calab, Inc. Multiple locations, Provides quality individualized child care that encourages independence in individuals with disabilities.

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


Ability Connection Statewide, 800/999-1898; 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 day care and day habilitation center for children and adults with disabilities or other special needs. Also offers arts exploration, educational assistance and community inclusion. Brighter Day Academy Dallas, 214/265-8585. Fully inclusive day care for nonaggressive children with special needs ages 0–12. Medications and breathing treatments can be given on-site if necessary. Children accepted case by case.

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; northtexas. Provides a preschool program for children with autism ages 6 weeks–6 years and typically developing children to learn alongside each other. Emma’s House. Irving, 972/8391502; Provides functional, vocational and life skills to promote independence and self-sufficiency for teens and young adults with disabilities. Afterschool and summer programming is also available. KinderFrogs School at TCU Fort Worth, 817/257-6828; kinderfrogs. 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; thekristineproject. A private child care, preschool and respite service on the east side of Plano with 35 years of experience serving children with special and medical needs. Full-time, drop-in or respite care available. Email colleeneggert@


BrightStar Care Multiple locations, 866/618-7827; Offers in-home care for high-functioning

Mary’s House Dalworthington Gardens, 817/4594494; 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 in-home care for children of all ages with special needs throughout the DallasFort Worth area.


Blue Caboose Children’s Fund Dallas, 228/341-0403; Provides back-toschool assistance, a Christmas toy drive and a community parent network for the families of children with cystic fibrosis. The adultsonly support group meets on the second Monday of each month (location varies; see Facebook page for details or email


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

Photos courtesy of Down Syndrome Partnership of North Texas; RISE Adaptive Sports

Dallas Metrocare Services – MHMR Dallas, 214/331-0109; 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; dentonmhmr. org. Provides services to individuals with mental and behavioral health care needs. Easterseals North Texas Fort Worth, 888/617-7171; easterseals. com/northtexas. 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 test-

ing, counseling, play therapy, social skills groups and school consultation.

or social challenges.

ManeGait Therapeutic MHMR of TarHorsemanrant County Fort ship McKinney, Worth, 817/569-4300; 469/742-9611; vides services to indiProvides a fun, viduals with behavioral enriching and health care needs, supportive intellectual and develenvironment for RISE ADAPTIVE SPORTS / Wheelchair skate, one of the world’s opmental disabilities, riders to reach fastest-growing wheelchair sports, is one of many RISE programs for and substance their potential. athletes with disabilities (page 26). abuse disorders. Offers group, semiprivate or private lessons DOWN taught by certified riding instructors check the website for the meeting SYNDROME with the assistance of volunteer aides. topic and location. Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas As much as possible, riders participate Richardson, 214/267-1374; downin pre-mounted and post-mounted EPILEPSY Provides horse care. Epilepsy Foundation Texas accurate and current information, Addison, 214/420-2737; resources and support for people New Hope Equine Assisted Nonprofit organization that strives with Down syndrome, their families Therapy Argyle, 817/729-5315; to improve the lives of children and and the community. Provides adults with epilepsy. therapeutic horseback riding services Down Syndrome Partnership of for people with a wide variety of North Texas Fort Worth, 682/316disabilities. Program is designed to EQUESTRIAN THERAPY 3121; Provides informabring hope, healing and happiness Blue Sky Therapeutic Riding & tion, social and educational activities to riders through encouraging the Respite Krugerville, 469/450-9594; and events and support for new horse and human connection. Provides a safe, parents, families and caregivers of happy and healthy therapeutic comthose with Down syndrome. Riding Unlimited Ponder, 940/479munity that works to empower and 2016; Provides propel citizens with special needs small-group and individual lessons DYSLEXIA to their fullest potential through for ages 4 to adult. Students can parDecoding Dyslexia Texas Statetherapeutic horseback riding and ticipate in therapeutic horsemanship wide. Grass-roots movement driven respite, vocational and entrepreneurclasses, hippotherapy, exhibition by Texas families concerned with ial opportunities. and drill teams, Special Olympics the limited access to educational equestrian events, and shows like interventions for dyslexia. The group Born 2 Be Therapeutic Equesthe Chisholm Challenge for Special aims to expand the public conversatrian Center Aubrey, 940/595-8200; Riders Horse Show. tion about dyslexia and increase Dedicated to safe the awareness of dyslexia and the need for appropriate remediation services in all Texas schools. Visit the Facebook page. 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. International Dyslexia Association – Dallas Branch Dallas, 972/233-9107; Nonprofit, scientific and educational organization dedicated to the study and 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;

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. 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. Grace Lake Ministries, Inc. Anna, 972/837-4621; gracelakeministries. org. 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

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 shelly@unbridledhorseherapy. com for more information. Victory Therapy Center Roanoke, 682/831-1323; Cares for the physical, mental and emotional needs of children, adults, veterans, first responders and their families through the healing power of horses.


Texas Fragile X Association Dallas, 972/757-8939; 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. thrive

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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 established providers in the community. Offers multiple support groups at varying times. 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. Muscular Dystrophy Association Nationwide, 800/572-1717; Offices and clinics in Dallas and Fort Worth provide medical services and research into muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular diseases.


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, 214/906-1692. 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 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; Nonprofit organization that provides a weekly program to teach children (5–18 years) and young adults (19–30 years) on the autism spec26 t h r i v e

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trum 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). Angel League Baseball Program Rockwall, 972/722-6001; angelleague. org. 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.

cognitive disabilities through the Champions Challenge program. Emler Swim School Multiple locations, 817/5527946; emlerswimschool. com. Teaches the lifesaving skill of swimming to children with special needs in a fun, positive environment. 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 Aqua-Fit Swim & Fitness SPECIAL OLYMPICS TEXAS / page 28 a cheerleading team Family Wellness Center for children with special Plano, 972/578-7946; needs that meets on Monday evening from 5–6pm. Offers swimming lessons for adults and children with special needs on Saturday The Feast Dallas, 214/521-3111; Worand Monday. ship service at Highland Park United Methodist Aqua-Tots Swim School Multiple locations, aquaChurch that is a welcome place for those with Offers the basic survival swim program special needs, their families and friends, and all and a beginning stroke development class for who have a heart for special needs. The Feast takes children with special needs. place on Sunday at 5pm. ASI Gymnastics Multiple locations, asigymnastics. com. 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. Bachman Recreation Center Dallas, 214/6706266; Provides an accessible facility for all individuals age 6 and older with disabilities. Best Buddies Statewide, 214/242-9908; Provides opportunities for one-toone friendships, integrating people with disabilities into their communities. 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 5–15 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, 214/3513353; Offers motivational and inspirational aviation experiences to children and youth with physical challenges. Crull Fitness Richardson, 972/497-9900; Personal and group training for children and adults with various physical and

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 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; Provides an opportunity for children with physical or mental challenges to play baseball. Miracle League of Frisco Frisco, 214/295-6411; 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 with disabilities ages 3–12 and up the opportunity to play baseball, regardless of their ability levels. The spring season runs March–May, and the fall season runs September–November. 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 young adults with developmental disabilities and their families through Special Olympics, social activities, educational classes and a day program. Young adults with

Photo courtesy of Special Olympics Texas


Dallas Hearing Foundation Dallas, 972/424-7711; 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.



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 •

“LEARN THE MARIGOLD WAY” RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY MLA is a private school for children with autism and related disabilities. We provide one-to-one and small group ABA therapy for children ages 18 months–10 years in a school-based program. • ABA Therapy • Indoor Gym • Social Skills • After-School Tutoring Marigold Learning Academy 401 W. Washington St., Rockwall, TX 75087 972-722-3892 •

Language Works/Rainbow Kidz

No Limits, Just Possibilities

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.

Notre Dame School educates students with developmental 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 160 students ages 8–22. We are now accepting applications for the 2018–2019 school year. Please contact Cindy Reynolds at

Andrea Gamble M.Ed., BCBA 2155 Marsh Ln. Ste. 132, Carrollton, TX 75006 972-306-3189 •

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

Eat, Talk, Play With Us This Summer There is no reason for your child to fall behind this summer! We can build on the progress that your child has made with his or her SLP at school this year. • Speech-Language Therapy • Feeding Disorder Therapy • Speech & Feeding Evaluations Frisco Feeding & Speech Therapy 4645 Wyndham Ln., Ste. 210 Frisco, TX 75033 469-630-2328 •

Speech-Language Assessments – Hearing Assessments – Speech-Language Therapy We provide evaluation and therapy services to assist children and adults with: • Speech sound disorders • Childhood apraxia of speech • Voice and fluency • Receptive and expressive language • Feeding and swallowing   • Hearing and aural habilitation Now accepting new patients at our Denton clinic. Make an appointment today! TWU Speech, Language & Hearing Clinic 940-898-2285 •

To advertise in the Services section, call 972-447-9188 or email

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directory Southwest Wheelchair Athletic Association (SWAA) Multiple locations, Provides wheelchair sled hockey, fencing, track and other sports for people with disabilities. 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. 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 these 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, 972/8368463; Specialized health and fitness services, including private training and boot camps for children and adults with special needs. 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 that further the development of social, communication, motor and cognitive skills. Texas Cutez Lewisville, 469/233-2882; texascutez. com. Serves children with special needs of all ages and abilities as they learn and make friends on a cheerleading team. TOPS Soccer Arlington, 817/229-0629. 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.  Wet Zone Waterpark Angel Swim Rowlett, 972/412-6266; parksandrec. Open swim for members of the community with special needs and their families during summer months. YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas Multiple locations, 214/8809622; 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.


EQUEST / page 25

Adventure Kids Playcare Multiple locations, Offers hourly drop-in child care that is inclusive to children with special needs. 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. 28 t h r i v e

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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. Nonchurch members accepted when space is available. Email emilyc@ 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 evening from 6–10pm. Gary’s Angels Plano, 214/291-8024; standrewumc. org. 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 5:30–8:30pm. A registered nurse will be on hand to offer support while the children engage in various activities. Night Lights Dallas, 214/7069535; 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; night-owls. 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; fbcallen. org. Respite program with music, games, movies and snacks for children with special needs in first to sixth grades 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 lifechanging injury. Workshops use crafts and games to encourage open communication. A group for ages 5–7 and a group for ages 8–12 meets every other month; there are occasional field trips and camps for ages 13–20. FEAT-North Texas Sibshops Richland Hills, 817/919-2228; Sibshop 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, 281/238-8096; dallas-northtexas. Serves North Texas families with Tourette’s syndrome and its associated disorders. Visit the website and contact the group leader for meeting times.


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, 214/8212375; Nonprofit organization that focuses on improving and enhancing the lives and opportunities for individuals with visual impairments in North Texas.


Pieces of Me Leadership and Inclusion Academy Irving, 469/769-2211; Works to train individuals with special needs and disabilities to be prepared to enter the workforce or start their own small business. Transitional planning services as well as career and entrepreneurship training is provided for young adults ages 13–22.


Photo courtesy of Equest/Julie Sharp

special needs work at Soaring Eagle Thrift Store to gain life skills.




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 family invites yours to a 10-week Summer Camp full of learning, laughter and possibilities. ENROLL YOUR CHILD TODAY WHILE SPACES ARE AVAILABLE! 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. So enroll today! (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



than, our 8-yearold, had his threeyear reevaluation and annual ARD meeting recently. Yes, he still qualifies for special education services and all the therapies and supports that come with his individualized plan. This meeting was different though. This time they evaluated him for a suspected intellectual disability. It was something that I feared was coming, something I prayed he would not qualify for. But as he got older, I had been watching the gap between Ethan and other children get wider. He was not meeting developmental milestones, not able to do what other, typical children do. I was telling myself that an intellectual disability was not a big deal. I have worked with thousands of individuals with intellectual disabilities within school districts and through my work at HEROES. Our older son, Nick, has an intellectual disability along with a cluster of other things. I was good going into the meeting with the evaluation team, but when it came time for the licensed specialist in school psychology (LSSP) to review the cognitive and achievement portion,

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my stomach turned upside down. I knew what was coming. I heard the words, and tears started flowing. It’s just a label, right? But as a father, hearing that your second son has a cognitive disability just crushes you. It was like an eraser in my mind—as soon as I heard those words, the hopes and dreams I had for him were being wiped away. The milestones for a healthy, typical boy and then a young man will not happen now. I will never know what it is like to cheer on my son as he plays on a sports team. I may never hear either of my sons say the word “Dad.” It hurts my heart pretty good. In the meeting, I snapped back to reality as the LSSP went into some robotic verbiage. “Were you not expecting this? You know, he is still the same boy.” Yes, I know he is the same boy. But

at that time, I did not need the clinical crap. It was, and is, OK to be upset. The most difficult thing to swallow is that no evaluation will capture the true abilities of Ethan or anyone with physical and medical disabilities like his. Not one of the standardized assessments can truly gauge the capabilities of a person who cannot speak or has neuropathy and fine motor issues. An assessment is just a tool, and it has its flaws. Yet, we still do rely on these assessments. They can identify some positive things. They can show areas of strength and areas where you can support your child. They can show you what is important to focus on—and what is OK to let go. I may not be on the sidelines watching my sons play a sport, but I will always be their biggest fan and cheerleader in whatever they

It’s just a label, right? But hearing that your second son has a cognitive disability just crushes you.

choose to do and whatever they participate in. I am blessed to be the father of a wonderful daughter. I get to be a dance dad and watch her perform and be the best she can be. I am lucky to be able to hear her say “Daddy” and “I love you.” I do know the boys love me too—when Nick leans in (it’s not a real hug, because he hates them, but he leans his head just slightly on mine), and when Ethan cuddles and rubs his little hand on my cheek—I know the love is there. So yes, I have two children with severe medical issues and cognitive disabilities. But labels are not what make the person. Everyone runs his or her own race. Some people may go down different paths and around different obstacles, and it may take them a little longer, but we are all aiming for the same finish line. A label means nothing. It is just something that will secure services for your children in the future—a future you fear, but a future that cannot be undone. My family is wonderful, fantastic and perfect, whatever the assessments and labels say. Love what has been graciously provided, love the ones you are with, as they are, and remember that a label is a tag inside your shirt.




KERA Kids has a world of teacher-tested, kid-approved content, online and on the air. Go for the shows, videos and games. Go because fun and learning go hand-in-hand. Go to enrich their education, with the same member-supported organization that probably helped support yours. Go Public.


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 March/April 2018  
Thrive March/April 2018