Our Family Navigation Programs are designed to strengthen and empower families through support, connection and education to support their success at every stage of life. Research has demonstrated that early identification and intervention, as well as high expectations, are the best strategies for future success.
Charting the LifeCourse™
Using nationally-recognized curriculum developed by the University of Missouri–Kansas City Institute for Human Development, Missouri’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Services (UCEDD), UCF helps individuals with disabilities and families at any age or stage of life think about what they need to know, identify how to find or develop supports, and discover what it takes to live the lives they want to live. The full curriculum includes support for early development and late life milestones; however, UCF is currently focused on delivering and improving access to the Daily Life & Employment portion of the program.
The Daily Life & Employment six-module series is designed to help individuals seeking employment and those who support them to think through the questions to ask, things to do, and resources that can help lead them to a job, career, volunteering, college or continuing education, and ultimately, the lives they want. This series provides questions to ask or think about, and strategies to get the answers and move closer to the desired result. It is not intended to be all inclusive but is a starting place for youth and families to individualize it to meet their own unique needs. The surveys, materials, modules, and supplemental videos in the Daily Life & Employment series are facilitated by a trained professional through UCF, with the ultimate goal of helping our clients find real jobs with real wages.
Early Start Denver Model Parent Training for Low Income Families
The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is an individualized behavioral therapy for children with autism between the ages of 12-48 months, based on the methods of applied behavior analysis (ABA). In this comprehensive, empirically tested intervention, parents and therapists use play to build positive and fun relationships that encourage children to boost language, social and cognitive skills. Numerous studies have found that the benefits of ESDM with young children include markedly improved learning and language abilities and adaptive behavior and reduced symptoms of autism by the time they reach school age.
As of October 2019, there are only 24 therapists worldwide that are both a certified Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) Therapist and a certified ESDM Parent Coach (P-ESDM): Melissa K Burkhardt, M.S. Ed., BCBA provides the therapeutic services to selected families. Lower income families, who have children with autism ages 12-48 months, are eligible to apply for UCF’s ESDM Parent Coaching Scholarship. Recipients receive 14 weekly parent coaching sessions with Melissa Burkhardt, M.S. Ed., BCBA, where they learn to implement the teaching of crucial developmental skills in their child’s everyday routines. One of the first skills a parent learns is how to gain their child’s attention, by getting in the child’s spotlight of attention, face-to-face, and following their child’s lead. Research shows that children with autism learn language more rapidly when the adult talks about what the child is already looking at, instead of trying to shift the child’s attention. One family stated, “Learning how to work with your child can provide major long-term benefits for them and for those who can’t afford traditional therapy.”
The Unicorn Children’s Foundation offered a workshop series on Mindfulness Stress Reduction during May Mental Health Awareness Month. These offerings were an addition to the virtual support and resource offerings for people with special needs and their families by providing access to information, guidance, learning, and social opportunities.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is an effective-research based program for reducing physical and psychological stress. Research has shown that the benefits of mindfulness meditation increases the ability to cope with chronic pain, develops self-awareness, effective communication skills, and most importantly a non-judgmental awareness that enables us to respond with greater clarity, stability and understanding to life’s stressors, rather than reacting in unhealthy ways.
June Virtual Support Group for Parents of Special Needs
In an effort to stay connected after school is out, while still recognizing people's need for some time off, we =meet weekly to exchange ideas and support one another during the COVID pandemic. Sometimes we learn best from others who are going through similar experiences!
Helping children with special needs live better lives by connecting their families with support, answers and resources.
In 2012, 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast was approached by a coalition of organizations addressing the Palm Beach County service delivery system for children with special needs.
These children and their families have a difficult time finding services that are geared specifically to children and young adults who have special needs. Providing for the care and responding to the needs of a child with special needs can be overwhelming and emotionally demanding for family members, as each and every day presents new challenges and needs that require attention.
In light of this condition, the Special Needs HelpLine was established to help this target population obtain support; resolve issues; get connected to services; and have their family’s needs met.
The goal is to alleviate the emotional stress experienced by parents and caregivers of children (birth to 22) with special needs in Palm Beach County and ensure their connection to the services that they need.
Our Special Needs Advocate works with approximately 350 families annually.
To connect with our Special Needs Advocate, simply call 2-1-1 and ask to be referred to the Special Needs HelpLine.
So much progress has been made since Unicorn Children’s Foundation contributed $1,000,000 for an Endowed Chair in Communications and Learning Disorders! The Unicorn Children’s Foundation Clinics have now expanded to include: challenging behavior disorder clinic; feeding disorder clinic, and; a developmental assessment clinic.
Unicorn Children’s Foundation Mobile Developmental Clinics, operated in partnership with local universities, provide free screenings and parent referrals to support organizations where children identified at-risk can receive the appropriate treatment at the earliest age possible. It costs approximately $40 per child to be screened and identified early which will provide them the greatest chance of an improved future.
Respite Education & Support Tools (REST) Companion Training
At Unicorn Children’s Foundation, we are dedicated to support families and individuals challenged by special needs. That is why we had a REST (Respite Education and Support Tools) certified trainer to train Companions and Trainers.
The purpose of the virtual hub is to provide a public, comprehensive and centralized web-based ‘virtual hub’ that will provide resources and links to community-based programs and services to create a more efficient and effective information and referral source within Palm Beach County.
UCF is collaborating with 211 and SNAC PBC stakeholders to create a website that connects families affected by neurodiversity with programs and services in Palm Beach County that can assist them on their journey at every age and stage. 211 is the community helpline and crisis hotline, and one of the most frequent types of calls they receive are requests for services from community providers. Www.specialneedspbc.info is bridging this gap to help citizens find what they need more quickly and efficiently. The site will include relevant age-related information, screeners, and access to a directory of providers to address specific issues or concerns. It will also act as a community calendar to direct interested parties to training events and social/recreational opportunities in the County. Scheduled to go live in early 2020, www.specialneedspbc.info takes a tremendous step forward in providing more integrated information, resources, and services for our community’s members with disabilities.