Having a child with special needs is challenging. When that child becomes an adult, the challenges increase. In Highland Park ISD, a special-needs student can remain enrolled in the Life Skills program until the age of 21. Then what?
A group of Park Cities parents have formed a nonprofit called Connecting Point that they hope can be the answer to that question. They want to offer fulfilling day programs for special-needs adults who live in University Park or Highland Park.
“One of the reasons we chose the name Connecting Point is that we’re really hoping to have everybody out and about in the community,” Sarah Oliai told me. “Everyone’s going to participate on their own level. Whatever their ability is, they’re going to be along for the ride on their level.”
Oliai said the effort began three years ago, when a few students aged out of the Life Skills program. One mom, JoAnn Ryan, began looking at options for her son, and she didn’t like what she found.
“She didn’t see any place that, one, provided the level of care he needs, but two, was also someplace that would provide quality care,” Oliai said. “You know, she would go somewhere, and there would be a bunch of individuals in wheelchairs parked in front of a TV, and that’s all they did all day.”
Connecting Point would like to start offering programs this fall, but Oliai said that depends on fundraising. She estimates they need $200,000 to hire key staff plus another $100,000 to open the doors. A big expense will be a bus equipped with a wheelchair lift.
Connecting Point has scheduled an informational meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Episcopal Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle, which is on the corner of Inwood Road and Mockingbird Lane.
“This is really our first community meeting to set out, ‘This is what we’ve gotten accomplished. This is where we hope to go,’ ” Oliai said.