Dallas Nonprofit Launches ‘Camp Connections Respite’ for Caregivers of Kids and Teens with Disabilities

There are 46,000 special education students in DISD schools alone, says the nonprofit's president and CEO. The "camps"—offered every other Friday evening and every other Saturday afternoon—allow caregivers to take a much-needed break while their children enjoy enriching and engaging activities.

Parents of teenagers with intellectual and developmental disabilities often rise to every challenge, offering their kids constant love and support. But like all parents, they can use a break at times—which can be difficult to arrange when your kid has special needs. Now a Dallas-based nonprofit is stepping in to help.

Ability Connection, a 67-year-old nonprofit that serves 700 people across Texas, is expanding its services to offer caregivers a much-needed break while their children enjoy enriching and engaging activities. (The program is offered for kids and teens with all types of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Ability Connection was originally founded as United Cerebral Palsy Association of Dallas County.)

The new caregiver “recharge” program, Camp Connection Respite, provides care and activities for children with disabilities between 10 and 17 years old—the most underserved age range in the special needs community. The nonprofit’s medically trained staff will ensure each kid’s needs are met during the hours-long respite.

Photo: Ability Connection

A compelling need for respite care

Jim Hanophy, Ability Connection’s president and CEO, says there are 46,000 special education students in DISD schools alone. He says the new program will provide socializing and quality care for kids 10 to 17 with disabilities. The staff at the “respite camps” are well equipped to provide all levels of care, regardless of the severity of the disability, he says.

Program is offered on a sliding payment scale

The Camp Connections Respite team has partnered with local businesses to provide gift cards, and offers a curated a menu of activities to remove any planning or additional effort by caregivers.

The Respite program also offers a sliding scale of payment, based on federal guidelines.

Neurotypical siblings are invited to experience the respite as well.

Photo: Ability Connection

Parent appreciates the break

Damarys Pellot, a Camp Connections Respite parent with two children enrolled in the program, learned about it through their school.

“I got used to having no options for a break before Camp Connections Respite existed,” Pellot said in a statement. “Having peace of mind knowing we are leaving our children in the most capable hands of those who can deal with the intricacies of a disability is priceless. Just a few hours away each month helps us become better parents. We think all families would strongly benefit from this resource.”

Program is offered four times each month

The program is offered on the first and third Friday nights of each month from 6 to 10 p.m.at Ability Connection’s main facility at 8802 Harry Hines Blvd. in Dallas. It’s also offered on the second and fourth Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. at Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church, 9027 Midway Road in Dallas. 

Special holiday programs are also offered during the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, spring break, and summer.

Participants in Ability Connection’s respite program. [Photo: Ability Connection]

“Many teens don’t have access to the same type of summer programs as neurotypical teens do,” President and CEO Hanophy said in the statement. “Evidence suggests that students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities tend to regress during the summer from some of the skills gained during the school year. This new program will help to retain and strengthen their social activity and skill-learning capabilities in preparation for the next school year.”

To learn more about the new program and Ability Connection visit here.

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