POSTS WITH TAG: special needs

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    A boy who was told that he would never walk or talk has beaten the odds yet again: he's been accepted into college. Noah Van Vooren, a senior high school student with Down syndrome, had applied to Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin and was eagerly awaiting a response.

    So when the letter came in the mail, he was more than eager to open it. It took a couple of seconds to sink in, but once he read that he'd been accepted, he immediately embraced his dad and declared: "Dad, you rock! I love you." Then he promptly tore off his sweatshirt and triumphantly flexed. Check out how amazingly excited he is:

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    Thirty years ago, two young tots met through their moms. They had one important thing in common: Both have Down syndrome. But they found a lot more that drew them together, and over the years, they fell in love. Now Austin Wayne Underwood and Jessica Smith are getting married this summer. The Texas couple is planning a Western-themed wedding, complete with custom-made cowboy boots. Yee-haw!

    Jessica and Austin met when their mothers bonded over trying to mainstream their kids wherever they could. And it was thanks to their moms that Austin and Jessica are now getting to do what so many of us dream of and take for granted: get married!

    But they can't do it alone. Couples with mental and developmental disabilities need a strong support network to help them with some very specific challenges. Here are 8 things that can help a special needs marriage like Jessica and Austin's flourish.

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    It was the Disability Day of Mourning to honor and remember disabled people killed by their parents or caregivers. Vigils were held around the country for people to gather for this purpose. I had been to last year’s vigil and decided to go again this year, but this year I was going to bring my kids. At first, the idea of taking my kids, at least one of whom is autistic, to an event where people would be talking about parents killing their autistic children seemed wildly inappropriate.

    But then I thought about Jack and how he is working to figure himself out and learning about self advocacy and the fact that he is excited to hear about autistic adults. I decided that it was, in fact, a really good idea to take him.

    I prepared all three of my kids for what would happen at the vigil and what they could expect.

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    When it comes to finding the right schools for kids with challenges like autism, often it's not bullying by other kids that we have to worry about; it's bullying by adults who just don't understand how these special conditions affect kids. One mom made that heart-sinking discovery when she enrolled her son with autism in a small, private Catholic school.

    "We couldn't think of a better place for our son," Diane Lang writes in a heartbreaking blog post, "How Do We Determine the Worth of a Child?" Lang believed the school's Christian values and supportive community would provide exactly the environment her son needed, "where kindness and compassion were paramount." Over time, though, it all fell apart.

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    Disney World and Disneyland are destinations for millions of families every year, but these days, it's become so difficult for some to enjoy the parks that they're skipping them altogether. The reason: Disney has done away with the "guest assistance cards" that parents of children with special needs have relied on for years to be able to make much-anticipated trips to the theme parks. The GAC (or GAP) program had been known for providing accommodations for children and teens with physical, cognitive, developmental, or behavioral challenges.

    But after certain wealthy parents reportedly abused the system by hiring disabled "family members" to come on vacation, so they could get special perks, Disney axed its GAC program. Now, its successor, the Disability Access Service, or DAS, is under fire, as the subject of a lawsuit filed in California last week.

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    When it comes to being a mom of a child with autism, one big frustration is dealing with other people. You know who I mean -- people who just. Don't. Get it. Some mean well but are simply ignorant, while others are clearly suffering from Compassion Deficit Disorder. Either way, it's still appalling what comes out of their mouths sometimes. We wish everyone would just think before sharing their two cents. Here's a few of the worst things moms of kids with autism have ever heard.

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    Most moms worry about the effect advertising has on their kids. But Katie Driscoll's chief worry wasn't that commercials were trying to convince her 4-year-old daughter to buy stuff she doesn't need. It's that Grace, who has Down syndrome, would never see people like her in advertising.

    But thanks to Katie and her friend Steve English, the father of another child with a disability, that's changing. The two are the founders of Changing the Face of Beauty, a campaign to get more children with disabilities into advertising campaigns. By taking photos of kids with disabilities and sending them to companies, they are slowly but surely changing the face of advertising. The Stir spoke with Katie about her daughter, her beautiful photography, and of course how she is changing the face of beauty.

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    The latest statistics show that one in 68 children in America has autism. But as the world shifts into gear for Autism Awareness Month -- or as some call it, Autism Acceptance Month -- we can't help but be reminded that despite the growing number of children being diagnosed with the spectrum disorder, the way these kids are treated is changing too.

    Parents may not know what "causes" autism, but more parents than ever have become vocal advocates for their children. And so it seems fitting that as we don blue clothing and plaster everything in sight with puzzle pieces, we also look at some quotes that celebrate the children and adults with what Autism Speaks terms the "fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S." as well as the parents who are at their side every step of the way.

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    April marks National Autism Awareness Month, and starting today, we're shedding light on the 1 in 88 American children who are on the spectrum.

    And while not everyone is directly affected by it, no one is alone in the journey. Autism is a concern for all of us.

    If your child has just been diagnosed with autism and you're not sure where to start, we have the sources for you. And whether you're looking for medical information, camaraderie, expert advice, autism-specific toys, best vacation plans for traveling with a child with autism, or just a shoulder to cry on, we have that resource as well. From national organizations to parent-written blogs to scholarship opportunities and even resources for siblings, we've put together a list of the 50 best autism resources on the Internet:

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    Doesn't it seem like it's always moms who come up with these amazing, problem-solving inventions? Debby Elnatan was struggling to help her son, Rotem, who has cerebral palsy and can't walk on his own. She wanted him to experience walking and using his legs, but hunching over to hold him while they walked together is physically demanding. So Elnatan invented the Upsee, a harness that lifts a child and allows them to walk in tandem with a parent. It's an amazing invention -- you have to see how this works!

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