Friday, October 15, 2010

Hampton University in Virginia to create support center for parents of disabled preschoolers

From The Daily Press in Va.

HAMPTON, Va. — Families of children with autism, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and other developmental disabilities who can't afford help will have a support center to turn to next fall.

Hampton University is creating a family support center for underserved black and minority families with disabled preschoolers, according to Bernadette Williams, chairwoman of the HU Physical Therapy Department.

The university is using a $1.2 million five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to train faculty and students in the physical therapy, communicative disorders, nursing and psychology programs to work with those underserved populations, said Williams, who applied for the grant.

Also participating are the social work and special education programs at Norfolk State University and a faculty member specializing in pediatric physical therapy at Old Dominion University.

Services will be provided at the HU Child Development Center and at the Head Start building on Hampton Avenue in Newport News, Williams said. She is seeking black and minority families to participate in focus groups on what to offer at the center.

Williams said transportation and possibly babysitting services will be provided for families who need it to participate in focus groups, a family advisory committee that will be formed, and to receive services once they're offered.

"We want to find out from families what kinds of needs aren't being met," she said. "That will help us design what we need to do in the community."

The target for focus groups is a minority family with disabled children from newborns to 8 years old, Williams said, although the center will primarily serve families with preschoolers. Some ideas include aquatic therapy and horseback riding as therapeutic activities for children, Williams said.

After the first year, which will be devoted to planning and training, the center aims to serve at least 50 families a year, or 200 overall by the end of the four-year grant, she added. It is partnering with Tidewater Community College to make resources available to parents who don't have the money or childcare needed to continue their education.