Web-Based Resources for Special Needs Kids
By Tracey Dowdy
Being a parent is arguably the hardest job you’ll ever have. If you are the parent or caregiver for a child with special needs, you often face challenges beyond that of other parents, though you are equally passionate about your child’s success.
You’re on the clock 24 hours a day, so it’s important to have resources that are available at any time. Navigating everything out there on the Internet can be overwhelming but these websites can offer plenty of support.
Possibilities: Caring for a child with special needs may present significant financial challenges. The Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) Center and the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) have worked together to create parent centers across the country to provide critical financial resources for parents and caregivers of children from birth to 26 years of age and help with understanding rights and responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Doodle: If you need to coordinate a meeting with your child’s occupational therapist, speech therapist, or teacher, then you know how long that email chain can get. Doodle takes the often frustrating task of group scheduling and streamlines it for you. Select the times you’re available, add your email address and the email addresses of the individuals you want to attend and Doodle will send you an overview of who is available for each date and time. Schedule the appointment and have it synced to your Google, iCal, Cloud or other calendar. Available online or as an app (iOS, Android).
PACER Center: For over 30 years, the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights has focused on parents helping parents, as well as providing support and resources for families with children and adolescents with disabilities, including assistance and advice for early intervention and advocacy. They offer workshops, publications and online resources, as well as assistance in transitioning adolescents into adulthood. They’re also an excellent resource for those looking to integrate assistive technology into their lives.
Zoho Invoice: Keeping track of your expenses connected to therapists, materials and interventions is vitally important for parents and caregivers. Materials and therapeutic resources can be costly but without documentation you could be out of pocket a significant amount of money at the end of the year. Zoho Invoice allows you to track and record your expenses, automatically send reminders and even send thank you notes.
Lotsa Helping Hands: Sometimes we’re too busy to ask for help or assume others are too busy, and sometimes others assume we’ve got it covered and don’t need help. Lotsa Helping Hands gives friends and family members a place to sign up for everything from babysitting to meal prep or even pick up from school or a ride to a doctor’s appointment. Volunteers get a reminder email so there’s no confusion and parents get the respite they often desperately need.
Family Resource Center on Disabilities provides training and support to families of children with disabilities. Caregivers have access to webinars and workshops on topics as varied as “Navigating the IEP Process” to “Skills for Parent Advocacy”, Volunteer Advocacy Programs and information on the Disability Pride Parade and much more. The website offers a Spanish translation as well.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.