How does a family find disability services or programs for individuals with special needs if they have just moved into a new city?

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Answered by: Dawn, An Expert in the Grants and Assistance Category
The first place to start when trying to get acclimated to a new environment is to start talking to people. Schools, nurses, grocery store clerks, the dad at the playground, may all be surprisingly in-tune with the challenge you are having in pin-pointing an agency or organization that can provide services for your child or family member with special needs.

Additionally, the local Chamber of Commerce or city welcome center should have information on local disability service providers and information on how they can be contacted. You will be surprised by the number of people who have been impacted by a disability. Regardless of the type or origin, from a baby with down syndrome at birth to a car accident that paralyzes a young man, the same challenges are faced; how do these individuals find a way to make a life for themselves in a world filled with stairs that are impossible to climb in a wheel chair, or the stares of people in the convenience store as you try to calm your autistic child who is overwhelmed by the noise of the soda machine.

Finding a network of families is important. If you are just starting out on this roller coaster, the earlier a child with a developmental disability or a physical challenge is introduced to this world, the sooner they become accepted. Yes, it takes more work, and there will always be those who gawk or ask inappropriate questions, but children see the world as a fairly blank slate and what is put on that slate is directly related to the loving adults who surround them. Their teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, mentors, social workers, doctors, nurses, and care-givers must be able to advocate for your loved one.

Finding the resources that can provide services may seem impossible, but break out of your comfort zone and fight for the freedom your family member deserves. Find them the resources locally, online, or in the next town that let them grow, not just physically or mentally, but also as a human spirit that has love to give and deserves it back. A search on the internet for Autism Speaks can connect you to an entire network of national and local chapters. A phone call to a Home Nursing organization could connect you with itinerant therapists or respite care. Another road to follow is to contact the medical establishments in your area.

All people have medical needs and there are doctors treating individuals with special needs for common colds or conducting annual check-ups. Due to HIPPA regulations, no names of patients can be released, but a nurse or administrator at a hospital or medical office should be able to indicate if the medical professionals in their establishment have experience with the type of disability of your loved one or be able to point you in the right direction.

Finally, if you find the trail of disability services to be extremely difficult to follow or even find, contact any local non-profit that provides services for families with special needs, even if it is financial services. Those that work in non-profits do it because they believe in their mission and they are often connected to other non-profits that provide other types of services and can help you find your way.

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