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Special Needs Guide

01/02/2015 12:47PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Gallery: Special Needs Directory [8 Images] Click any image to expand.

As the mother of a 20-year-old severely autistic son, I have found Brenden’s special needs to become not only a blessing but a doorway to a whole other world where love shines through the most difficult of times.  His “disability” has given our family the ability to look at life through a beautiful kaleidoscope.  What may look distorted and confusing to most people has enabled me to look at life with a new perspective. I have heard so many comments, from “I’m so sorry” to “that must be so difficult,” and while yes, daily living can be exhausting and overwhelming, I can honestly say I am never sorry for my beautiful son and what he teaches my family and me every day. His grace, unconditional love, and infectious smile just light up the room.  
Because the number of special needs children and adult cases is increasing at such a rapid rate with no cure in sight, several schools have implemented classrooms strictly suited to accommodate these children.  There has also been a growing number of agencies, support groups, and developmental and behavior therapy centers to help provide provision and education, help children, families, and friends manage daily living effectively and productively, and add structure and stability in the home.  Not only are these resources a necessity, they provide a place where children and families can create long-lasting relationships and teach peer interaction using fun and exciting activities for the children, family and friends.
There are several ways to get involved in the special needs community here On the Coast.  Check out some of your resources….

Educational and Support Groups

The Arc
For more than 60 years, The Arc has been on the frontline in making change happen for people diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and a range of diagnoses across the spectrum of intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc is the nation's leading advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families and is the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, preserving and protecting their fundamental rights through advocacy and action in support of legislation for civil rights, education, employment, health care, housing, and more.

Autism Society of the Emerald Coast
The Autism Society of the Emerald Coast serves as the leading voice and resource of the local autism community. It is the area’s leader in raising community awareness while providing support for individuals with autism and their families through outreach opportunities, educational programming, and inclusion opportunities within schools and the community.

FSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) 
FSU CARD is dedicated to providing individuals with autism or related disabilities, their families, and professionals who work with them free consultation, resources, and educational support to build knowledge, confidence, infrastructure, and sustainability within the community.

The Autism Society of America
The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy.

Autism Pensacola, Inc. 
Autism Pensacola began serving Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in Northwest Florida in 2002. This non-profit association of parents, professionals and concerned community members is dedicated to supporting, advocating, educating, networking and providing hope for people along the Gulf Coast affected by autism and related disorders of communication and behavior.

Florida Diagnostic Learning & Resources System
This agency provides support to educators and parents, has a very good resource library, and provides expertise in technology. First Saturday Series on the first Saturday of each month provides training for parents. Parents are welcome to attend teacher trainings on a space available basis. 
Florida State University-SDRC
Florida State University is committed to providing a quality education to all qualified students and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability. The Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) was established to serve as an advocate for FSU students with disabilities and ensure that reasonable accommodations are provided. As a primary advocate for students with disabilities, the SDRC works with faculty and staff to provide accommodations for the unique needs of students both in and out of the classroom.

The Will Lawyer, P.A. A resource for the preparation of special needs trusts.  850.650.7299

Daycare Facilities and Schools

The Emerald Coast Autism Center  Reaching Kids, Supporting Families
The Emerald Coast Autism Center (ECAC) is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to educating and improving the lives of young children with autism in Okaloosa and Walton counties and surrounding areas. All instruction and activities at the ECAC are conducted in a manner consistent with the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Hamma & Bampa’s TLC Rec Center
A family-owned and operated business, Hamma & Bampa’s believes in developing the whole child which includes mental, intellectual, language, emotional and social development. By allowing your child to explore and express their creativity and individuality, it is their goal to arm your child with the tools needed to build successful relationships and succeed in their academic endeavors.  (850) 362-6755

Infinite Grace Academy
Infinite Grace Academy in Ft. Walton Beach is a school for children on the autism.  It was founded by Karen Reid, a board-certified behavioral analyst, and Lynn Lambert, a speech-language pathologist with a Certificate of Clinical Competence and a teaching certificate in Special Education for Grades K-12. (850) 864-2273

Lance C. Richbourg School 
Richbourg School in Crestview is a day school that provides a nurturing environment to special needs students ages 3-22. Richbourg offers students academic, social and life skills through a variety of avenues. Students learn to transition into adulthood and future environments through job skills and vocational instruction, community-based instruction, on- and off-campus work experiences, school-based enterprise, volunteering, transportation training and other activities. (850) 689-5089 

Special Services at Rocky Bayou Christian School
Understanding that students have many learning designs, Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville provides multiple programs to ensure academic success for all students.   Programs include Early Intervention Development which serves children with developmental delays, Intermediate Intervention Development which serves children with cognitive challenges such as mental retardation, Down syndrome, autism and severe perceptual deficits, the Victor’s program for junior high school students which continues their learning through a mixture of academic and vocational training, and Special Services Intensive classes which are a part of a remediation program for junior high and high school students who are academically two or more years behind their peers.

Silver Sands School
Silver Sands School has been named a top Title I school in the state of Florida by the East Coast Technical Assistance Center (ECTAC).  It provides safe and challenging educational opportunities which enable students, staff and the community to acquire the knowledge, skills and values required for responsible citizenship, personal development and lifelong learning.  As a Special Day School, it provides educational services to students who, because of their mental functioning levels, require services beyond those offered by other special educational programs in regular schools.

Psychiatric and Therapy Services

Beyond Expectations
Beyond Expectations is owned and operated by Karen Reid, a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Mental Health Counselor. It has been in operation since January 2009 and is currently providing ABA therapy for clients in the Ft. Walton Beach, Navarre, Crestview, and Destin areas. Services, including speech therapy, are provided to clients in a variety of settings including in home, at school, or at the Ft. Walton Beach and Crestview clinics.

Brilliant Minds Medical and Behavioral Solutions Unlimited
This is a non-profit organization whose mission is to devise and implement individualized, evidence-based behavioral treatments and educational resources for children diagnosed with autism, ADHD, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.  It is a premiere agency where children with neurodevelopmental disabilities are taught how to communicate, play, socialize, and function through the most effective language-based programs and behavior reduction programs developed by a staff of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA).

Bridgeway Center
Helping Kids with Behavioral Issues
The clinical service programs at Bridgeway Center continue to thrive with research-proven therapeutic practices and community outreach.

BTEC Behavioral Therapy, Inc. 
Located in Pensacola, BTEC provides one-on-one behavioral therapy based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methodologies to children affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The certified behavior analysts at BTEC are committed to teaching functional skills in a nurturing, therapeutic environment aimed at developing and improving the quality of life for clients and their families. BTEC focuses on verbal behavior, reduction of problem behaviors, acquisition of appropriate social skills, classroom readiness skills, and empowering parents to become active participants in their child's development.

Capstone Adaptive Learning & Therapy Centers, Inc. 
Since 1953, Capstone has been a provider of quality care programs for persons with developmental disabilities in Northwest Florida. Its mission is to enhance the quality of life for infants, children, youth and adults of all abilities and to encourage acceptance and inclusion within our communities.  Capstone strives to fulfill needs in the community by providing well-planned and well-executed programs, care, and facilities.

Development and Behavior Solutions
Development and Behavior Solutions is an ABA therapy clinic located in Fort Walton Beach. It provides ABA therapy for children and adolescents with autism and other learning or developmental challenges in clinic, at home, or other natural environment settings.  The staff consists of experienced BCBAs, BCABAs, and highly-trained therapists.

Emerald Coast Speech Services
Emerald Coast Speech Services, located in the center of Niceville, is a family-owned practice serving Okaloosa and Walton Counties. As licensed and certified speech-language pathologists, they take a personal approach in effectively improving your child's speech and language. They specialize in the evaluation and treatment of speech, language and swallowing disorders and offer a discount for private pay.

Emerald Coast Wellness Center
The Emerald Coast Wellness Center is a behavioral health clinic located in Crestview. Its experienced team of doctors and staff is dedicated to providing compassionate care and the best treatment in a welcoming atmosphere.

Grace Rides is a group of people who have followed the call of their hearts to love and serve others by using the stuff of their daily horsey lives to bless “future horse lovers” who have special needs.  They focus primarily on Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) blended with Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL).  The rhythmic nature of the horse’s gait and the animal’s body heat provide a natural vehicle for physical therapy...loosening tight muscles, helping to strengthen the rider’s muscle tone and encouraging digestion and circulation. Under the direction of trainers and therapist guides, other physical benefits can include improvements in balance, posture, coordination, reflexes, fine and gross motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.

Gulf Coast Hearing Centers Inc. 
Gulf Coast Hearing Centers Inc. in Panama City aims to provide the best possible hearing care based upon individual needs.  They provide a comprehensive array of services related to evaluation, rehabilitation and prevention of hearing impairment to include comprehensive hearing evaluations, specialized diagnostic testing, and industrial hearing screenings. Comprehensive hearing evaluations are free, and they carry several brands of hearing aids featuring the latest in digital technology plus a 30-day trial on all purchases. Most importantly they provide patients with support and education.

Hyperbaric Medicine of Florida Inc. 
Hyperbaric Medicine of Florida Inc. is located on the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast with offices in Fort Walton Beach and Destin. Its mission is to provide state-of-the-art professional hyperbaric oxygen treatments at affordable costs for complicated illnesses. Its professional staff of physicians and certified hyperbaric technicians specializes in the treatment of autism and other neurologically-challenged children and adults. They look upon each patient as part of their extended family to be treated with compassion and understanding.

Kidz Korner Pediatric Occupational Therapy
Kidz Korner consists of two privately-owned clinics in Northwest Florida and also provides services at Emerald Coast Autism Center and Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville.  The story behind this outpatient pediatric private practice and center was to provide 100% quality occupational therapy - a form of intervention in which the therapist and the child work together to develop or improve the skills necessary for daily living - to infants, toddlers, children and adolescents.  Kidz Korner is focused on providing high-quality therapeutic interventions for you and your child and will do everything they can to meet your expectations.

Magnolia Pediatric Therapy
With offices located in Ft. Walton Beach, Destin, and Panama City Beach, Magnolia Pediatric Therapy is a family-friendly professional clinic specializing in the treatment of pediatric speech, language, feeding/swallowing, and fluency disorders.  Its skilled therapists are licensed to work with children with developmental disabilities, ASDs, articulation disorders, apraxia, and myofacial abnormalities, to name a few. They take pride in offering a professional and friendly atmosphere where your child can benefit from one-on-one treatment sessions or a small group setting to enhance social skills.

Resources For Human Development Inc. 
A national human services nonprofit founded in 1970, Resources for Human Development serves tens of thousands of people of all abilities every year with caring, effective and innovative programs addressing intellectual and developmental disabilities, behavioral health, homelessness, addiction recovery and more.

The Pediatric Therapy Center
Pediatric Therapy Center of NWFL was established as a provider of occupational, physical and speech therapy to children from birth to 21 years of age.  It serves children in clinic environments, child care centers, homes, and schools in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Escambia counties.  Its mission is to provide quality, evidence-based, multidisciplinary therapy services in tandem with the child’s family.

Spectrum House
Spectrum House provides comprehensive behavioral and educational services to individuals diagnosed with ASDs and other related disabilities. Research-based techniques are used to assist each child in developing their fullest potential while maximizing opportunities to become self-sufficient, productive members of society.

Sports and Other Programs

Autism Surfs
Autism Surfs is a community of friends and families that have come together with the purpose of teaching children with ASD to surf. Its mission is to provide an environment for children with ASD and their families to experience surf, sun, and sand. This combination will help enrich children's lives by exposing them to the different sights, sounds, and textures that our beautiful beaches have to offer here on the Emerald Coast. Find them on Facebook.

Beach Elite Cheerleading
Beach Elite Cheerleading offers special needs cheerleading for all ages at no cost for special needs participants. Coaches are first aid- and CPR-certified and the facility is accredited through USASF.  There are two practices a week and they compete locally and regionally.

Emerald Coast Challenger Little League Baseball
The Emerald Coast Challenger League is a separate division of Little League that enables boys and girls ages 4-18, or up to age 25 with a waiver, who have physical and mental challenges to enjoy the game of baseball along with millions of other children who participate in this sport worldwide. Supported by generous local business sponsors, there are no fees to play in the league. Find them on Facebook.

The Funplex of Fort Walton Beach
The mission of the Funplex is to provide a safe and fun environment through quality programs.  It aims to enhance the lives of young people and is committed to providing quality instruction to maximize the health and fitness, mental resolve, and team-building in each athlete and is excited to share this stimulating environment with the special needs children in our community during field trips and specialty classes.

GUSU Paddlesports
GUSU Paddlesports opened its doors in 2009. In 2011 GUSU began working with The Autism Society of The Emerald Coast (EMERGE), a local charity who strives to improve the lives of children and adults living with autism spectrum disease (ASD). To show our support, funds raised through our annual paddleboard race, GUSU PSUP Classic, have been donated to EMERGE over the last few years. In 2014 GUSU decided to spread the love by adding three new charities to the list: Children in Crisis, Sacred Heart Foundation, and Shelter House. All proceeds from the GUSU PSUP Classic in 2014 were divided equally among these four charities. What started as a competitive event for local paddleboarders has become a fun way for visitors and locals alike to support and donate to charities in our community! The GUSU PSUP Classic offers several classes for racers of all skill levels, from beginners (some of our racers participating in our event had never been on a paddleboard before) to skilled paddlers. Our race series offers something for all ages, and we invite people of all ability and talent to attend and participate. The GUSU PSUP Classic has become more popular with each passing year, and we look forward to continuing to grow with our local paddleboard community. Our GUSU family is excited to see what 2015 has in store! 111 Harbor Blvd. Destin, FL 32541 850-460-7300

Horizons of Okaloosa County
Horizons, founded in 1955, is an affiliate of The Arc of the United States, the world’s largest grassroots advocacy organization for citizens of all ages with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities and their families. Horizons focuses on abilities, respect, and choice for all and encourages active citizenship and inclusion in every community. 

PAL Soccer
PAL Soccer League is the home of outdoor youth recreational soccer for the Niceville, Valparaiso and Bluewater Bay and surrounding areas since 1976. It offers a positive, wholesome environment for learning soccer, sportsmanship and teamwork and fun for everyone involved including players, parents, coaches, referees and board members. Everyone is expected to maintain proper, respectful conduct while coaches coach and parents cheer.

Pyramid Incorporated, a 501C (3) corporation, was created in 1994 to serve 200 individuals, most of whom faced severe developmental barriers, and now serves more than 700 adults representing a wide range of abilities. Pyramid is best known for its unique arts program which offers a full range of visual and performing arts, catering to each student’s level of ability and interest.  The organization remains committed to serving those with severe disabilities as it seeks new ways to engage its students, to provide an environment in which they can find excitement and meaning, and to provide them the opportunity to become full participants in their communities.

Special Olympics
The mission of Special Olympics Florida is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

The Will Lawyer, P.A. A resource for the preparation of special needs trusts.  850.650.7299

YOLO Board 
Last summer, YOLO Board Miramar Beach / Santa Rosa Beach opened up YOLO Board Adventures in Sandestin to the Special Olympic athletes. They held weekly training sessions to prepare for the annual relay series, and the athletes persevered in spite of the cold, windy conditions.  Each race of the series began with the athletes blazing the course, transforming the event into something extraordinary. It was amazing how quickly they took to the sport of stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). These athletes are truly a treasure as they remind us to find joy in every moment.  YOLO Board looks forward to seeing the athletes at the events next year.

Young Rembrandts NW Florida

Drawing with the Young Rembrandts method utilizes and develops a unique ’dual-brain’ skill-set.  Teaching a ‘right-brain’ activity using a ‘left brain’ methodology, we are actively engaging and developing both right and left brain processes—vital in the development of innovative and critical thinking skills, our ability to communicate conceptual ideas, and find new solutions.  

Information and instruction is presented in clear, simple language and “chunked” in manageable sections. Highly-visual cues and directions lead our students from one achievable step to the next. Curriculum is structured and consistent— students know what to expect and what is expected of them Instructors are attentive to individual levels of progress within a social environment—focusing on what a student can do versus what they can’t.
We do not alter our curriculum for the special needs classroom, instead our methodology is designed to accommodate the individual learning styles of ALL students, regardless of individual ability.  This methodology makes our program a valuable   resource in the special needs classroom—initiating the full participation of ALL students, and in return, providing the full benefits of a formal art education. 850-850-733-2715

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