PARC was the first agency to help my son. I tried to get help first from Early Steps. We went through the evaluation but my son did not score low enough to start receiving services. When I sent my son to a private school, they suggested the PARC Family Focus Program. The Family Focus Program had a representative that come to the school to work with children one on one. So, it would allow my son to have an hour of therapy every week.
I am recommending PARC as a place to receive services and an agency that is dedicated to working with special needs children. I have had good quality service from the agency and would highly recommend reading, researching, and visiting the parts of the organization that could help your family. PARC is a Tampa Bay Area organization that may not have service in your area.
The Family Focus Program is for children ages 0-6 and is funded by the Juvenile Welfare Board. The therapy is once a week, provided in home or in school. The child has to be referred for evaluation. The teacher can suggest that a child could benefit in one or more of the six categories (cognitive, language, fine motor, gross motor, social emotional, and self-help). You can have your pediatrician refer your child due to possible developmental delay or behavior challenges if you are not at a school or agency that will refer you.
In my experience, my child did not qualify at age 2 with Early Steps for early intervention but did qualify with the Family Focus Program. So, if you are looking for help and cannot get your child to qualify, please look into services available by other agency.
The evaluation process is simple and takes just one hour for the therapist to complete. You as the parent will get a carbon copy of all the forms completed regarding the evaluation and weekly sessions if your child qualifies. There is a lot of paperwork to fill out; just do it! Once the child is receiving services, you as the parent will have a direct contact to a professional early intervention specialist. This was excellent for me when my son was 2. I was trying so hard to find him help and kept running into dead ends. Finally, when he started to see “Chris” and weekly I had detailed reports about what my child was and was not able to do I had the key words and evidence to keep pursuing additional help.
Some of the activities I read from the reports included, color recognition, shapes, lacing breads, identify cognitive concepts, communication and many general development skills. The therapists was always helpful in leaving notes about what activities my child loved and enjoyed and activities that were challenging that day. She always noted when the child had success and wrote that they celebrated together.
After several months of working with my son the therapist from PARC talked to me about other resources as well as concerns regarding his development. I explained that I tried to go through Early Steps to receive services but that my son did not qualify. She explained that the testing and evaluation process changes at age 3 and it become the FDLRS program. That program can then provide early intervention preschool in a blended model within the schools. Obviously, at this time we did not know that my son had autism but knew that he was not speaking and was struggling with developmental educational milestones.
If it wasn’t for the private preschool and the services provided by the PARC Family Focus Program, I would not have been able to get additional early intervention detection, screenings and services for my son.
Move forward two years, I found myself back at PARC. We were not eligible for the Family Focus Program for my son anymore because we had moved on to using the FDLRS program with Pinellas County. With the FDLRS we had taken a position in a blended preschool program that followed the school year calendar. It was summer. The previous year finding a summer program for a non-verbal 3 year old that with diagnosed ASD is not possible. There are so few camps for special needs children age 5 and under. Now, my son was 4 and was diagnosed with ASD. I had a plan that he would get part time help with an ABA therapist in the morning but we couldn’t get the paperwork and insurance authorization back fast enough for that to happen over summer. So, I found PARC autism summer camp.
The summer camp was what we needed and it worked. They had activities, structure, small ratios, qualified teachers, field trips and swimming lessons. (swimming lessons did not goes as planned; however, it was a good experience with me attending) I would and will send my son to the camp again next year without hesitation. The employees are well trained and understanding of people with special needs. Many of the teachers shared that they either work in an ASD classroom during the school year or that they have a child with autism themselves. I was so revealed when we found the Autism Summer Camp. The cost of the camp was also reasonable at $80 for the week from 8 am to 2:30 pm. Food was also provided with the weekly camp fee.
I only have experience with these two programs; and am providing a review of the services I received for my child. PARC has many other services available; like respite care! So, if you need help, support, therapy, or a starting point for a child with developmental delays or behavior challenges please consider contacting PARC.