It’s coming up on a full year since the ASD Clubhouse went into operation, and there is one thing I’m certain of:
Omaha is a great place to raise kids with special needs.
Month after month, I learned about a new organization, met a new volunteer or organizer and discovered a new resource or event designed specifically for our kids. I’ve been floored on a daily basis by how many different resources are available to parents in the area to help our kids learn, play and grow. I thought I had a lengthy list of resources, one that would grow in Year Two, but only ever so slowly.
Then I attended the Omaha area autism community provider Holiday Breakfast hosted by the Autism Society of Nebraska (ASN) and the Autism Center of Nebraska (ACN) on December 7.
Now I believe the resources and people in our community who want to help our kids might be beyond any number I could have hoped to discover.
Let’s meet the neighbors.
The official description of the event read “You are invited because the Autism Society of Nebraska sees a need in our community for the opportunity for therapists, business people, entrepreneurs, and medical professionals who serve clients on the autism spectrum to connect and learn about one another, and make our community stronger by understanding how each of us serves the autism community.”
We couldn’t agree more.
After all, the need of parents to find resources and support mechanisms was exactly what inspired us to start the ASD Clubhouse.
Organized by Kevin Mahler of the ASN, the Autism Center of Nebraska welcomed us with some great coffee and breakfast but especially for lively, engaging conversation. This is likely the first such event to ever take place in the Omaha area. As Kevin, put it, “We want to gather people together and have people meet one another and leave the event feeling more connected to other people who provide services to the autism community and more hopeful about how inclusive our city can be.”
Who are the people in your neighborhood?
In all, there were close to 40 participants, many of them representing organizations that we’ve featured in ASD Clubhouse posts and events, like Radical Minds, Pediatric Therapy Center, Munroe Meyer Institute Autism Care for Toddlers (ACT) Clinic, Children’s Respite Center and of course the ASN and ACN.
Over the course of two hours, we met doctors, ministers, advocates, volunteers and leaders from over 2 dozen area organizations all of whom are dedicated to providing services for our kids. There included:
- Music Therapy – It was great to talk to Cole and Elisa from Music Speaks and see their eyes twinkle with pride as they discussed recent breakthroughs with their clients. It seemed like they were able to find any number of ways to connect with their clients through sound, action and of course music.
- Religious Inclusion – It was wonderful to talk to Daniel from Reality Church and learn about his “I Fit” program that matches up a special needs kiddo with a volunteer to learn more about their particular needs and facilitate their careful introduction into the church environment. I also enjoyed talking to Ann Brown about the Young Life Campernaum program that matches Christian volunteers with teens and young adults and assist them in lots of different activities. I also started to learn more about Radiant Life Chiropractic. Check out their Facebook page for daily updates on their activities and the progress of their patients!
- Behavioral therapists – I loved listening to physical, behavioral and occupational therapists discuss techniques not as competitors but as colleagues. It was great to hear how their learned something new from one of the other attendees. I myself enjoyed a wonderful conversation with one of the other sponsors of the breakfast, Dr. Natalie Swift, who works especially with adults on the spectrum.
- Educators – I loved to see representatives from Omaha Public Schools and Creighton University looking beyond their school borders and interacting with the community. We are so reliant on their educators and students to help our kiddos, I hope we can see more districts, programs and colleges in future meetings.
After a meet-and-greet session, we all came back together and listed some of the things we learned from each other. It took almost an hour to get through everyone and everything.
I don’t think there was a single participant in the room who didn’t leave without a new contact, a new resource or (like me) a newfound enthusiasm for the limitless scope of opportunities available for our kids in the Omaha area.
How do you find those resources?
If you’re reading this, you’re likely looking for one or many of these resources for your own kids. We here at the ASD Clubhouse are committed to helping you find those resources, and our job got a lot easier after this event. We hope to learn more about and highlight many of these organizations in individual posts over the coming year.
If you ever wonder where to find additional resources, you can start with us. You’re always welcome to send us an e-mail or post in our social media outlets for information on specific needs. Our list of resources grows daily. As always, we do our best to keep our Events Calendar up-to-date so you can see what many of these resources are up to each month.
You should also always feel free to visit the Autism Center of Nebraska and meet with representatives from the Autism Society of Nebraska. A large part of their mission is to find and provide those resources for you.
Great things ahead in 2019!
As Robyn Roberts of the ASN said in her introduction, “With inclusive societies, everyone wins.” We couldn’t agree more.
One of the things we love most about raising our special needs kiddo in Omaha is the great culture of inclusion that permeates through every organization, business and school district. We welcome first, we are kind first, and we never turn someone away no matter their challenge. Every single participant in the breakfast felt the same way, and I was proud to be among them. It really makes me confident for the great things ahead for all our kiddos.
Kevin told us that he hopes to repeat the community provider breakfast again in 2019, hopefully a couple of times. I would encourage any organization, business, professional and volunteer who would like their organization to participate to reach out to Kevin and be sure to invite you to the next session. The more people who attend and learn things, the more information can be spread outward and back into the community.
All of us here at the ASD Clubhouse wish you all the happiest of Holidays and hope you are looking forward to the possibilities ahead in 2019. With so many professionals, businesses, organizations and advocates out there, there is nothing but a great deal of hope and excitement for the days ahead.