by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Each time Kris Wilkinson’s family moves to a new Air Force base and a new state, it takes time to find the agencies, therapists and support groups needed to help her daughter, who has autism.
“Every state is different,” said Ms. Wilkinson, whose husband is stationed at Schriever Air Force Base.
Peterson and Schriever Airmen and Family Readiness Centers have teamed to offer a Special Needs Information Fair – a day when Airmen and their families can meet representatives from more than 40 Colorado Springs-area agencies that focus on helping adults and children with special needs or disabilities. Ms. Wilkinson, who has lived in the area for three years, is among the parent volunteers who helped identify local agencies.
“I think a lot of us parents are excited about the fact that this fair brings the military community together with the local community – it’s nice to have a connection,” she said.
On Peterson, there are 253 active duty special needs families enrolled in the Special Needs Identification and Coordination Program, said Christopher Newlandgadea, 21st Medical Operations Squadron. There are medical needs, which require specialized care for ongoing chronic illness and educational needs which require special academic programs. The SNIACP provides information and referrals to family members who have questions about off-base programs and the Special Needs Information Fair, “will be perfect for families who have those questions,” Mr. Newlandgadea said.
The fair is funded by a $2,000 grant from the Air Force Aid Society to the A&FRCs and will include information booths, bouncy castles, arts and crafts tables and snacks. Some of the agencies sending representatives include the City Therapeutic Recreation Center, the Diabetes Community Center, Special Olympics, Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center and Assistive Tech Partners.
“We are not just talking about children with special needs, we are talking about families,” said Lisa Ballard, 21st Space Wing school liaison officer. Ms. Ballard often fields questions about special education programs within the schools and she has built up quite a resource list.
“The whole purpose behind this event is to help families who have just moved here, or families who have been here, who are struggling to figure out what recourses are out there,” Ms. Ballard said.
If you go:
n Who: The Peterson and Schriever Airmen and Family Readiness Centers
n What: Special Needs Information Fair, featuring more than 40 representatives from Colorado Springs-area agencies that focus on helping adults and children with special needs or disabilities
n Where: Peterson Air Force Base Patriot Park and R.P. Lee Youth Center, Building 1555 on Peterson Boulevard
n When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 18
n Details: Call Peterson A&FRC at 556-6141 or Schriever A&FRC at 567-7340.