Monday, March 18, 2013

Community Resources - Interview with We Care's Vi Ibarra



What does your organization do for children of special needs?  

We Care has been providing children with special needs skills for a better start in life for 50 years!  Our programs continue to evolve to meet the needs of the community.  Some of our services include an early intervention preschool for kids with developmental delays, We Chat language group for late talkers, supports for children with mental health issues and their families, and the program I oversee, the Autism Family Support Project (AFSP).

How can a person access your services (i.e. fees, application process, eligibility, ages, etc.)?  

We are a non-profit and the majority of our services are available free of charge to parents.  Eligibility ages vary among programs.  For the AFSP, any family with a young child with an autistic spectrum disorder may access our services by contacting me.   Information about other programs may be found at www.WeCareChildren.org.

How does your program support social interaction among all children, typically developing and with special needs? 

The AFSP offers a number of family events throughout the year.  These events are open to all members of the family and include typically developing siblings.  It is nice for our kids with autism to have the opportunity to interact with typically developing kids, and it is also a focus of the program to include typical siblings.  Typical siblings can sometimes feel left out, or like they get less attention that their brother or sister with special needs.  Every member of the family is important and special in their own right and we strive to be inclusive.

Can you tell us what events/activities are happening this year?   

This will be our seventh year of offering Summer Camp for kids with autism and their siblings.  We have two distinct camps: one for kids up to age 7, and one for kids age 7 to 12.  Both will be held in August and are funded by RCEB for those children who qualify.  Throughout the year we also have monthly Parent-to-Parent support meeting, Parent Education events and Family Nights Out.  If you have a young child with autism, contact me to be added to our roster and get invitations for each of our events.

Another exciting event is our Making Connections family resource fair for parents of children from birth to age 5.   For parents who have questions about their child's development, this is an event they don't want to miss!  Saturday, April 20 from 10 am to 2 pm at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Trinity Ave in Walnut Creek.  We will have free vision, hearing and developmental screenings as well as lots of local resources for parents and a fun zone for the whole family.  Parents of school age kids can help by passing the word along to any parents of younger kids.  Folks can contact me for more details.

Any suggestions for other community supports for parents to check out? 

I always refer parents to Care Parent Network.  Their staff has a huge depth and breadth of knowledge, and they offer a variety of services and supports as a child grows.  

What have you found most rewarding working with We Care Services for Children?  

As a parent of two children, one of whom has autism, it is so fulfilling to be able to work with other parents.  It is an honor for me to be able to accompany another parent in their journey with autism.  I am the coordinator of the program, and my family is receiving support through the program.  My children have had a lot of fun at We Care events over the years.

What is your favorite activity? 

My favorite We Care activities are any that bring the entire family together.  We have Family Nights Out several times per year which is an opportunity for the entire family to go do something together with other families with similar challenges.  Some examples of events we have done are going to the movies together, Encore Gymnastics, watching an A's baseball game or having family picnics on a Saturday at We Care.  It's a great way for parents to network informally while also giving our kids with autism and their siblings some fun time with mom and dad.

Contact Info.
Vi Ibarra, Project Coordinator at We Care Services for Children (925) 671-0777, ext 214

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