Serving Families Raising Children with Special Needs

Broadcasters serve as watchdogs and help to support families.

Across the country, local TV and radio stations spotlight the challenges families face raising the nearly 3 million American children with special needs. Broadcasters also highlight — and often partner with — the countless organizations that provide vital support to these children and their families.

WRIC Helps Student with Special Needs Obtain Busing

Every day, Erica Blackwell would email officials at Richmond Public Schools in Virginia, asking them to provide her son, Dariyon, who has ADHD and a learning disability, reliable transportation to his school. The bus schedule varied dramatically — some days arriving up to a half hour early — and her son’s individual education plan specifically stated he should have curbside pickup in a car.

Blackwell made no progress with the school district, until Nexstar Media Group’s WRIC began to investigate her situation. After the station reached out to the school system multiple times, a spokesperson said a car would now pick up Dariyon each day, as outlined in his individual education plan.

"I never heard anything back until you guys got involved,” said Blackwell.

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Pittsburgh’s KDKA Showcases School for Kids with Autism

KDKA, a CBS owned-and-operated station, featured the Watson Institute Social Center for Academic Achievement, a school in South Fayette, Pennsylvania, for students with high-functioning autism.

The school is run by the Watson Institute, an organization that provides resources to children with special needs and their families. It runs a second school for students with autism in Sharpsburg.

Everything at the schools is designed specifically to help students succeed.

“At traditional schools, all teachers are not trained to work with autistic children, and the environment can be overwhelming. That’s why at Watson, it’s quiet. Students have their own private cubicles that they can decorate to make them feel at home,” said KDKA reporter Kristine Sorensen.

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WCVB-TV Finds Significant Discrepancies in Services for Students with Special Needs

An investigation from Boston’s WCVB-TV found that the services provided to school districts to students with disabilities varied widely across the state, with affluent students receiving more support than less affluent students.

The Hearst-owned station analyzed settlements from lawsuits by parents of students with special needs against school districts, seeking support for their children.

The records showed that sometimes school districts paid for 100 percent of tuition at special needs schools, but in other cases districts only paid 50 percent.

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WXIA-TV Spotlights Plan to Develop Accessible Recreation Complex in Georgia

Atlanta’s WXIA-TV reported on a partnership between the nonprofits Extra Special People and Miracle League, both of which focus on providing safe play structures and building a recreation complex designed for children with special needs in northeast Georgia.

The plans for the facility include a rubberized turf field that accommodates wheelchairs and other devices while helping to prevent injuries.

The new complex will help Extra Special People “fulfill our belief that every kid deserves to play sports and thrive in an accessible space that allows them to gain confidence, improve their physical health and abilities, and foster meaningful relationships with their peers,” said Laura Whitaker, the organization’s executive director.

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Radio Shows Provide Support to Families

Parents raising children with disabilities can find guidance and community from the Everything Special Needs Show, on Philadelphia station WNJC 1360, and the Special Needs Family Hour, on Tampa station WGUL 860. Both shows are hosted by women whose children have special needs and feature interviews with experts on everything from education law to mental health.

Crusading for Children

In 1954, WHAS-TV launched the Crusade for Children, an organization that raises money for agencies, schools and hospitals to better the lives of special needs children. To date, the organization has raised more the $180 million.

This year’s telethon, aired on WHAS Radio, owned by iHeartMedia and WHAS-TV, owned by TEGNA, raised $5,675,000.

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