Parents of children with physical and developmental disabilities have a wealth of resources both in the Lowcountry and the Upstate. We have highlighted several of these programs as a quick guide for your family. With everything from alternative education to equine therapy to baseball for kids and adults with disabilities, you’ll find plenty of activities and opportunities for therapy, entertainment, education and growth.
Family Connection, headquartered in Columbia, is dedicated to equipping families in South Carolina with the tools and resources for “support, development, health and education services for their children.” From the many workshops it offers, such as “Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities,” to their family resource portal, Family Connection is committed to “changing lives by making connections, raising awareness and promoting inclusion for those with disabilities and special health care needs.” Upcoming events such as behavior workshops and parent leadership training classes are easily found on the website’s calendar, and the family resource portal offers directories for health care providers, insurance information, educational opportunities and more. Visit Family Connection at www.familyconnectionsc.org or call 800-578-8750 – para Español: 888-808-7462.
Beautiful Gate Center provides a unique educational experience to children with developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Its aim is to serve the underserved, especially students who are not receiving adequate attention in their current environment. According to the BGC website, “Beautiful Gate Center is designed as a center-based, multidisciplinary therapeutic day treatment center, not a school, but is nevertheless focused on addressing the full range of learning objectives, including behavioral, social, communication, academic, coping, health and daily living skills.” Find more information, as well as comprehensive descriptions of its mission, vision and philosophy, at www.beautifulgatecenter.org. The Center also can be reached by calling 843-654-7464.
Created by Taylor Duncan, who, at the age of 4 was diagnosed with autism, Alternative Baseball offers the opportunity to play America’s pastime to anyone with autism or other disabilities who is at least 15. His love for the sport, coupled with the fact that he was not allowed to play it when he was young, drove Duncan to create his own league in 2016. Originally formed in Dallas, Georgia, Alternative Baseball now boasts 80 teams in 33 states and this year unveiled the Lowcountry’s own team, the Charleston Seagulls. Check out Alternative Baseball at www.alternativebaseball.org and see how you can get involved.
Project Rex, an affiliate of the Medical University of South Carolina, provides resources for children and adults. Participants will find groups dedicated to their age and ability, opportunities to be involved in various research projects, support resources, a participant-driven blog and even the Autism News Network, with content created by adults with autism. According to the program’s website, its goal “is to help individuals reach their highest potential by enhancing their social skills, their ability to understand emotions and their adaptability.” Run by a team of doctors and therapists, Project Rex serves children and young adults who have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, as well as those who have ADHD or other reasons for struggling socially. No diagnosis is required to receive services. Reach out to Project Rex at www.projectrex.org.
Founded in 1996 by two nurses at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Project SEARCH, a program offered in South Carolina at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, equips students with autism and other disabilities to become gainfully employed adults. Members of the medical and hospitality industries work hand-in-hand with local school districts to educate and train students by embedding them in the environments in which they hope to eventually find employment. There also is classroom time, when students work on their interpersonal relationships, communication and listening skills. For more information, visit www.projectsearch.us.
At Miracle Park, a custom-built field in Rock Hill designed with safety and accommodation in mind, kids as young as 5 with special needs will be able to experience the fun and challenges of playing baseball. In addition to Miracle Park Stadium, the facility includes a state-of-the-art inclusive playground. Other features, such as a retail space staffed by people with differing abilities, will open in later phases of the park’s development. Check out www.miracleparkrockhill.com for information on ways you can get involved in the park’s development.
Milestone Therapy, located in Charlotte, brings a variety of therapies right to your home. Occupational, physical and speech therapy, as well as sensory integration services, all can be accessed through Milestone, which accepts all forms of insurance, including Medicaid. A staff of more than 60 therapists service a wide area, including Lancaster, South Carolina, and Waxhaw every Monday. There are a number of useful forms available on Milestone’s website in both English and Spanish, along with a video library filled with helpful demonstrations of at-home therapeutic activities for your child. Explore all they have to offer at www.milestonetherapyinc.com/video-library/ or call 704-649-4509 for information.
Located in Lancaster, Horse ‘N’ Around provides equine-based therapy for children with physical and developmental disabilities. Along with equine assisted therapy and therapeutic riding, the center also offers various other activities designed to provide therapy for kids who may not be ideal candidates for riding horses. A member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horseman International, Horse ‘N’ Around has implemented all current CDC COVID-19 guidelines. Find Horse ‘N’ Around at www.horsenaroundtrc.org or by calling 704-641-2146.
Fort Mill Special Needs United is a Facebook community of parents dedicated to providing resources, event information, tips and connections to other parents and groups. The page describes itself as “a place for parents to share information about therapy, tutors, school and social events.” Discussions and posts range from members searching for medical providers to parents offering ideas for fun activities for kids with special needs. Find the community on Facebook @FortMillSpecialNeedsParentsUnited. Messages regarding the page and community also can be sent to [email protected].