Investing in children with special needs pays dividends.
Meet the Hazlett Family
“Carrick loves working at Eat ‘n Park,” mom Susan says of her 24-year-old son. “He applied for a job as a dishwasher, but was hired as a busboy. He’s very social, so maybe that’s why he’s out with the customers. It’s been almost four years now, so it’s working for everyone.”
When the youngest of her three sons, Carrick, was born with Down syndrome, the family sought out early intervention services, funded by the state human services budget, and supports provided at school. Upon graduating from Trinity High School, Carrick received a waiver, which provides supports including aides who work with him on a variety of health and life skills. “One aide takes him to the local Planet Fitness gym,” Susan says. “They work out for three hours at a time. Carrick won’t quit until he’s done 20 reps on every machine.” Another aide has helped Carrick learn how to order meals at a restaurant, pay his bill and ensure he gets correct change.
“Being active is critical for Carrick,” she adds. In fact, in the six months between graduating from school at age 21 and when his services became available, “We could see him slide. He was losing literacy, writing, reading skills. He really missed school.”
The Hazlett family believes so strongly in activities for young people with special needs that they formed Adaptive Sports, Inc., a nonprofit that provides organized sports for people who are physically or mentally challenged.
“We offer baseball, soccer, tennis, football, bowling and other events like picnics, dances and trips to Kennywood [amusement park],” dad Terry says. It’s been 16 years since they first started, adding activities each year. The current roster boasts nearly 100 participants, from age 5 to 72. “We make sports work for everybody.”
“These kids need goals,” Terry says. “They need to participate, to work toward something and have a sense of accomplishment. The more you treat these kids with special needs as typical, the more they feel typical. That’s why services are so important. Without them, it would cost more in the long run. Spend a dime now or spend a dollar later.”