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Special Needs Resources

Finding the necessary resources to help your kid succeed can be difficult, especially when that child has special needs.

Nancy Waring Weiss, MS CCC/SLP of Social Fitness Services in Oyster Bay, will join more than 50 elite special needs industry leaders to provide, under one roof, vital tools, information and advice for Long Island families who have children with autism, other developmental disabilities and/or learning disabilities at Long Island’s first ever free IBO/Mosaic Interactive Special Needs Resource Fair on Saturday, Feb. 1. Sharing her expertise in assessment and treatment of children and adults with social communication challenges as well as speech and language disorders, Weiss will be readily available throughout the event, taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Mosaic School for Autism, located at 1309 Wantagh Avenue in Wantagh, to offer guidance for special needs families in attendance while addressing their concerns and questions.

“Social Fitness Services is proud to be participating in this comprehensive resource fair, and delighted to help bring more attention and support to today’s special needs community," Weiss said. "It allows us the opportunity to meet with and share valuable information to families who have children with special needs, including sibling support programs, effective ways to communicate with their special needs child, and the latest research supporting the use of fitness/exercise for improving social skills.”

Beyond Weiss, this event will feature professionals and educators specializing in more than 45 areas that include: cognitive development, speech, music & art therapy, sports, finance, special education, guardianship law and social security benefits.

Representatives of PeerPals.org, based in Oyster Bay, will be on hand to showcase their service: getting preschoolers with disabilities together with kids who do not have disabilities for play dates.

“We consider this early intervention for bully prevention,” says Julie Keffer.

The nonprofit organization began six years ago with a mission of creating a community of inclusion for children with disabilities as they enter kindergarten. Keffer notes their tag line is “more than just a play date.” Participation gives children with disabilities a support system, and children without disabilities a chance to learn empathy. They have numerous volunteers who provide professional support while facilitating the group play dates, and being a part of it offers parents a chance to meet each other as well.

“Networking in the special needs world is super important,” she says.

In addition to taking advantage of the free counsel, families are encouraged to attend the fair with their children in order to personally sample and experience programs to identify those best suited to their child’s unique needs.

“IBO and The Mosaic Foundation appreciate Nancy Waring Weiss and the many other special needs industry leaders for their participation in this event and allowing us the ability to provide special needs families with a one-stop public forum for finding turnkey support,” says IBO President Tom Gibson, who has a 14-year-old son who is deaf. “In making their knowledge and expertise cohesively available under one umbrella, we ... help minimize the long, drawn out ‘trial and error’ process that so many families often endure.”

The Glen Cove father has been working for more than a decade to ensure that his son gets the services he needs to thrive, and is eager to share the knowledge he has gained from his personal struggles.

“The true goal of the fair is for people to see services that are out there that families may not have known existed; have people experience them, and to have a family day,” says Gibson. "It’s not just about the parents grabbing literature off of a table; they can talk to service providers while kids are right next to them doing an activity."

Gibson stresses the importance of the “experience” aspect of the fair. If parents can see immediately the impact that an art therapist or music therapist has on their child, for example, it will help them better determine whether that is a service worth exploring. At the fair, he says, there will be a music therapist working with individual children for 5-10 minutes and art therapist hosting small group sessions for a 30 minutes at a time.

In addition to those sessions, they will have individual interactive activities, including arts and crafts projects, children’s Zumba, yoga and games. Since the atmosphere is meant to be fun, not competitive, Gibson says, kids will get tickets for participating, and can then "buy" prizes with those tickets.

“A common complaint from special needs parents is that finding qualified experts can be difficult and time-consuming,” explained Gibson. “Our mission in hosting the Interactive Special Needs Resource Fair is to bring to the many families who have children with special needs a comprehensive, effective network of local, qualified professionals.”

Find out more about IBO and this event at www.meetibo.com/special.