New Program Provides Caregiver Relief

Caregivers of teens with disabilities can get some time for self-care thanks to a new respite program.

Ability Connection, a Dallas-based nonprofit agency specializing in care for all types of intellectual and developmental disabilities, launches a new respite program, Camp Connections Respite, for caregivers of teens with disabilities.

The 67-year-old organization currently serves 700 people across Texas and relies on a one-person focus, where the skilled staff learns what priorities individuals and families need and desire.

Expanding beyond its current services, the organization now creates opportunities for caregivers of this community to recharge. The new Respite program provides care for children with disabilities between 10-17 years old, the most underserved age range in the special needs community. 

“Caring for a child with a disability is a tremendous reward, but also a tremendous responsibility. Often overlooked is the care, or opportunity to refuel and refresh, for the family caregivers,” Jim Hanophy, Ability Connection President and CEO said. “In fact, respite care is one of the most frequently reported unmet needs of parents and caregivers and that’s where we come in to help provide a safe place with well-trained professionals to offer great attention to the children.”

Hanophy said there are 46,000 special education students in Dallas County, and that the new program will provide socializing and quality care through engaging activities for those teen students.

The Camp Connections Respite team has partnered with local businesses to provide gift cards and has curated a menu of activities caregivers can enjoy, in an effort to remove any planning or additional effort from the equation. The Respite program also offers a sliding scale of payment, based on Federal Guidelines and will also invite neurotypical siblings to experience the Respite as well.

Damarys Pellot, a Camp Connections Respite parent, has two children enrolled in the program, and learned about the opportunity through their school.

“I got used to having no options for a break before Camp Connections Respite existed,” Pellot said. “Having peace of mind knowing we are leaving our children in the most capable hands of those who can deal with the intricacies of a disability is priceless. Just a few hours away each month helps us become better parents. We think all families would strongly benefit from this resource.”

Camp Connections Respite is offered by Ability Connection on the first and third Friday nights at its main facility from 6 to 10 p.m. and on the second and fourth Saturday from noon until 4 p.m. at Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church. 

Caregivers can learn more, or sign up to participate on Ability Connection’s website. Resources and information are posted in both English and Spanish. In addition to the Respite offerings, Ability Collection launched the School Holiday and Summer Care Program in tandem. The School Holiday program will take place during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break. The Summer 2022 Camp Connections Program, expanding next year to two locations, will begin in June. Enrollment for all of these care opportunities is open now. 

“Many teens don’t have access to the same type of summer programs as neurotypical teens do,” Hanophy said. “Evidence suggests that students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities tend to regress during the summer from some of the skills gained during the school year. This new program will help to retain and strengthen their social activity and skill-learning capabilities in preparation for the next school year.”

To learn more about the newly-launched programs and Ability Connection visit here.

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