For Sarah, a single mom to a typically-developing daughter and a son with Asperger’s, Special Kids Special Families (SKSF) has been a life-saver. Because her son cannot attend traditional daycare, Sarah relies on respite care simply to be able to work. Her son is able to attend Zach’s Place, a program of SKSF, and Sarah is able to work and provide for her family.
|SKSF provides important services for
special-needs individuals and their families.
Stories like Sarah’s are what make SKSF a vital part of the community. Founded in 1999 by two mothers of special-needs children, SKSF has since grown to play an integral role in the community. In 2013, SKSF served 265 individuals. With a variety of programs to meet the individual needs of families, SKSF exists to promote, strengthen, and support individuals with disabilities and their families.
BEC assisted SKSF by remodeling and then leasing a portion of the Berwick office building for SKSF to use as their adult services facility; we enjoy sharing the same building with such a great organization. As one of SKSF’s community partners, we encourage you to learn more about this important organization below.
A Helping Hand
One of the primary programs offered by SKSF, Zach’s Place is a day respite care that typically serves 15 to 22 children between the ages of two and 21 each day. Respite care is exactly that - a break or respite from providing care for another. Families are able to drop off their child, knowing that the child is in capable hands, so that they can run errands, attend appointments, or simply take a break. “We had a mom who came into Zach’s Place one morning looking very exhausted. When she returned looking refreshed, she explained that she had visited a day spa, taken a bubble bath and read a book,” SKSF Development Manager Gregg Doan explained. “When she returned, she was ready to be a mommy again. This type of break is absolutely necessary for our parents to continue being great parents.”
|Zach's place serves
15-22 children every day.
While at Zach’s Place, the children are not only looked after, but the well-trained staff also strives to help the children reach their full potential. “For those who are able, we try to get out in the community and participate in enriching activities. We also have a mix of both fun and educational activities for all of the kids, whether or not they’re able to be out in the community.” Gregg said.
The staff at SKSF is currently looking to expand the program. “Zach’s Place is one of two centers in Colorado that is licensed to provide childcare for children with disabilities,” Gregg explained. “We are currently in the initial phases of expanding the program to be able to serve more families.”
Unique Families, Unique Programs
In addition to children, SKSF also serves adults through its adult services programs. There are three main program branches of the adult services: Host Home, Joey’s Place and I-CAN. Host Home is essentially an adult foster care program. “We work with families that take in special-needs adults who have nowhere else to go,” Gregg explained. “This program is great, because these individuals are able to be a part of the community while living in the host home.”
Joey’s Place is for those individuals who stay in-house due to medical issues or other physical limitations. Although they don’t venture out into the community, they do take part in a variety of activities that teach them about other cultures, plants, arts and more.
|Adults in the SKSF program enjoy time in the community.|
Those who are in the I-CAN program are able to get out into the community and volunteer. They often volunteer at Silver Key. “It’s important to realize that people with special needs have dreams too, and the I-CAN program is one way of helping them realize those dreams,” Gregg said. “Volunteering helps them to experience integration with others while also helping them to find purpose.”
Participants in both Joey’s Place and I-CAN are exposed to a wide range of programs. “We’ve held a variety of different classes from art, to dancing and yoga,” Gregg said. “Last winter, we hosted a dance presentation by local dance company Ballet Emmanuel, and they [program participants] just loved it,” he added. “One non-verbal young man in a wheel chair just about jumped out of his chair in response to the movement. Others who have a very hard time sitting still were in awe and calm. It was a very neat experience.”
Further, SKSF offers a program called SIBSHOPS for siblings of children with disabilities. “It’s often the case that these siblings don’t receive as much attention as the special-needs children,” Gregg explained. “Once a month, these siblings get together with one another as a means of support and also to celebrate what it’s like to be a sibling to a child with special needs."
|SKSF hosts fun nights and themed parties.|
To complement such great programs, SKSF also hosts teen nights and social fun nights at the adult center. Fun events like karaoke and seasonally-themed parties are just a few examples. “We have a youth group that has been volunteering at these events for the past couple of months, and it’s been great to see typically-developing kids form relationships with the special-needs kids,” Gregg said. “It’s one way of de-mystifying what life is like on both sides; the typically-developing learn about the special-needs kids, and vice-versa,” he added. “These fun nights are also another opportunity for parents to have time for refreshment. They can drop off their kiddo from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night, go out for dinner, and then return to pick up their child.”
Education & Advocacy
SKSF is a multi-layered organization; in addition to serving those with special needs, it also aims to educate the local community. One way SKSF accomplishes this is through its KOSCOVE Kids program. Named after Koscove Metal, who generously donated life-size puppets with disabilities to the program, SKSF uses the puppets to help de-mystify what it’s like to live with a disability. For example, one puppet is in a wheel chair and has spina bifida. Many people don’t realize that for those in a wheel chair, the chair is actually an extension of that person.
“In the same way that you wouldn’t want somebody you’ve never met to walk up to you and touch your arm, a person in a wheel chair may not appreciate you leaning on or touching their wheel chair,” Gregg explained. “Another misconception is that all people with a disability want your help. In the same way that you’d ask another adult if it’s OK to help out with something, you should also extend those with a disability the same courtesy. Many of them are actually quite independent individuals.”
How to Help
|Donations enable SKSF's multifaceted programs
to continue helping those who need them most.
If you are interested in the work that SKSF does in the community and you want to help, there are many ways to get involved. Those interested in volunteering should contact Christy Haggard at (719) 447-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to monetary donations, SKSF also relies heavily on in-kind donations. “It’s amazing how much donated items such as office supplies, puzzles and crayons help out. They really help us to keep money in our programs,” Gregg said. “Each program has a wish list posted on the website for anyone who wants to donate to a specific program. We are very privileged to be able to serve the community in the way we do.”
Interested in SKSF and want to learn more? You can find program specifics, as well as information on how to get involved at www.sksfcolorado.org.