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Here we bring to you information on various topics of mental illness and disability. We often include links to other websites or contact information for other resources. However, we do not express or promote the views other organizations may have. If interested in our mission, click here.

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A Month of Mondays

Posted by on Feb 3, 2016 in From Our Team- Blog | Comments Off on A Month of Mondays

Christy Holland, MA Executive Director

Christy Holland, MA
Executive Director

Typically, the new calendar year is the time for resolutions and fresh starts. Sometime around now and the end of February dejection can hit when the “New Year Fervor” wears down. We may become disheartened that the reality of 2016 is not much different from how we felt in 2015. In January we’re catching up on everything we put off in December until “after the new year.” My former husband calls January a Month of Mondays. By this, he’s referring to the fact that there’s not that much to look forward to in the near future. To some extent, we experience let down after the hustle and bustle of the various end of year holidays. To boot, the weather is often bleak or challenging and after two feet of snow, hibernation sounds like a better idea than getting ahead on goals!

As support persons to those with Special Needs, these dynamics are even more severe. Each day holds unforeseen hurdles. Planning is in our sights, but just out of our reach. It seems nearly impossible to find time to:

  • Hire a lawyer to create a will or Special Needs Trust
  • Find a trustee who understands your family and will partner with
    family members to support your loved one with Special Needs.
  • Meet with a financial advisor to find out creative ways to fund a
    trust for your loved one.
  • Set up Care Management services with professionals you can trust to
    locate resources and/or cover some responsibilities to ease your

With all of the doctor appointments, meetings, family needs, running of the household, and possibly even fitting in a personal obligation or two… you never quite get around to these important Planning To-Do items.

So, if you are at all like me and finding yourself a bit dejected over the list of things you said you were going to do “in the new year”… If you are feeling a little overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done on a daily basis – let alone these Planning To-Do items that must get done… Or if it seems that there is just not time to reach out and even if there was, you’re a bit stumped as to where to start… it may help to talk it through with someone outside of your immediate circle who is central in the field of Special Needs. Maybe it would help to give us a call.

PLAN of PA was started by families who feel very similar to yours. We exist to provide support, planning and direction for you and your family. Our core services are Care Management and Administration of Special Needs Trusts, but we are connected to a whole host of legal professionals, financial advisors, and social service providers who can support you to do what needs to get done.

Happy Groundhog Day 2016!

The good news is that we have just made it through the “Month of Mondays. In addition, the snow is slowly melting and I just found out that Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow – indicating that Spring will come early this year! Maybe you should give us a call and let us know what’s on your mind in terms of planning for the future of your loved one with Special Needs. We want to help you sort it through and create a PLAN that works for you and your family!

Traveling With Special Needs

Posted by on Mar 10, 2014 in From Our Team- Blog | Comments Off on Traveling With Special Needs

Traveling with any child is an adventure in and of itself. Couple that with a child that requires more specialized accommodations and care. With a bit more preparation your special needs son or daughter, with the right steps in place, you can still have a successful flight. Here’s How:

Accept your reality: Whether a child has special needs or not, a lot of times parents will find themselves frustrated simply because their children are not doing what they want (or expect) them to do. The reality is that with kids, things aren’t always going to happen just as you would like them to and the sooner that you accept that fact, the more prepared you’ll be for whatever surprises or minor conveniences that may happen along the way.

Thoroughly pack and plan: If you’re headed to a hotel or resort, call ahead and speak with a manager about what kind of accommodations your child will require from a wheelchair ramp, to bathroom rails, to even special kinds of meals that may need to be prepared. Also, make sure to get acquainted with the employees so that you will feel more comfortable with any “on call” requests that may occur.

Be patient: For those consummate “schedulers” try and step back a bit while traveling with a special needs child. Allow others to step up and support you in meeting your child’s needs. Add an extra 15-30 minutes for all activities that occur in an unfamiliar setting, they may need a bit more attention and reassurance in order for them to feel safe, so allot time a bit of additional time for that too.

Sit in a corner table in the back: Your child may use an electric wheelchair or one of those electric mobility scooters or you may carry them in, but when you’re eating at a restaurant, request for a corner table in the back. This is not for the sake of the other people eating around you so much as your own peace of mind. This allows your child more freedom to just be! They can mess up the table as they eat, make loud sounds and you do not feel obligated to reposition their mobility devices out of the way of so much “traffic”.

Don’t be self-conscious: Anytime people see something that they are not used to, they tend to react in a myriad of ways. They may stare. They may point. Their own children may yell out things that they see. Remember not to take it too personally nor allow anyone to have you so focused on the fact that your child has “needs”, that you lose sight of just how “special” they are.

Understanding Colin, Behavior is Communication

Posted by on Jan 30, 2014 in From Our Team- Blog | Comments Off on Understanding Colin, Behavior is Communication

Understanding Colin, Behavior is Communication

Contributed by: A Total Approach

Though cautious, his mother’s voice spoke of pain and anxiety for her child. “His behaviors rule our house, we lock our doors, he destroys everything”. Her love for her child palpable, seeking a hope to find a place of peace for him and their family.

We started seeing Colin for a summer program of three hours daily. He received a multidisciplinary approach of occupational, speech-language therapy, DIR/Floortime services and Tomatis Sound Therapy. At first Colin were eased into accepting this new place with new therapists surrounding him. Through using Floortime principles, we gained his acceptance and trust. Some days the therapists had to work through bites and scratches, yet the unwavering approach of accepting him as he is, respecting his need to lash out, giving him the space to simply be, settled Colin over the course of the summer. We followed his interest and gently scaffolded different layers of success in small enough increments, and Colin started feeling safe. We focused on empowering him, letting him know that his thoughts and ideas matter. Colin needed to disorganize a room to gain the essence of all that is present in a room. Colin’s idea of being
purposeful was being destructive, because he could not plan a next sequence to achieve constructive play.

Through using Tomatis Sound Therapy, we were able to gradually calm his nervous system. His vocabulary increased, his engagement in activity lengthened and his need for destruction decreased. Colin needed us to hear his voice. He needed people to look beyond his extreme behaviors and to find him. He was lost in his own pervasive needs. When Colin experienced illness in his body, his pain was so severe that he would scream out for long periods of time. We had to reassure his mother that we would never consider him unfit for therapy, that Colin will always be accepted here.

In August of that summer, an inscription in the therapist log: “Mom told me today: “I didn’t know”….and said this several times. I asked her what she meant by “I didn’t know” and she said “I did not know that Colin was going to make all of these changes”. She further stated that they have brought him to many places and never seen changes like this before.

Colin speaks for many others. He needed to be understood, accepted and embraced by relationships in his life. The journey is far from over, but Colin has found a place of peace upon which he can now grow and become all he was meant to be.

Inside Autism Spectrum Disorder

Posted by on Jan 30, 2014 in From Our Team- Blog | Comments Off on Inside Autism Spectrum Disorder

Contributor: Abby Connor, MS, NCC, LPC
Outpatient Supervisor,
Southwest Philadelphia Autism Center of Excellence

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities characterized by social impairments, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. The severity of symptoms varies widely across three core areas and affects each individual in different ways. ASD includes
autistic disorder, Rett Syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, and Asperger syndrome. According to estimates from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, ASD affects 1 in 88 children in America.

Symptoms often first present between 12 and 18 months. Parents may notice their child showing unusual behaviors or not meeting developmental milestones. Pediatricians should also screen for developmental milestones during routine well visits from birth to 36 months. If a question arises regarding the child’s development, a referral should be
made to a specialist in developmental evaluations and early intervention.

There is no known single cause for autism; however it is believed that genetics and environment play a role. Some babies are thought to have a genetic vulnerability to autism that then can be triggered by something in the external environment, either while still in the womb or after birth. Despite controversy on the subject, no reliable study has
shown a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Research studies have identified rare gene changes and mutations, as well as irregularities in several areas of the brain that are associated with the disorder.

While there is no cure for autism, intensive early intervention can bring substantial improvement in symptoms. There is a wide range of treatment available that can be tailored to meet the individual’s needs. Some treatment options include behavioral, educational, social skills therapies and family counseling.

There remain many unknowns regarding autism, but what we do know is that people on the autism spectrum can and do lead productive, meaningful and fulfilling lives when given appropriate support and opportunities.

Long Distance Caregivers

Posted by on Nov 7, 2013 in From Our Team- Blog | Comments Off on Long Distance Caregivers

Long Distance Caregivers

There are many questions and issues that can arise when trying to give care to an aging loved one from far away. The National Institute on aging has many resources to help with the transition and continuing care. They created an information packet filled with questions from other long distance care givers and helpful tips (Click Here).  Check out their website: