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A family approach

For nearly 60 years Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara has been enhancing the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and supporting their families by providing innovative services and programs. Our agency provides an informational newsletter, Opportune Times, to the parents and siblings of the individuals for whom we provide services.

You may have just received news that your child has been born with or has been diagnosed (before the age of 22) with one of the five types of developmental disabilities — mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism or a neurological impairment.

You might go through many emotions trying to discern what this means for your child and your family.

What can you do after the diagnosis to start seeking the right programs and services to support your child’s growth, potential and educational needs?

All of a sudden you and your family have a mountain of information to sort through. How do you prioritize?

To begin with, it is very helpful to select a single contact point to provide objective information to you about the different agencies and programs available to your loved one, and your family, as well as someone to help you through the referral and application processes. The Central Intake/Admissions Department or is the best source for educated and caring individuals to answer your questions. Call (716) 504-2617 ext. 230 for more information.

Many counties offer early intervention services for newborns to age 3. Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara offers early intervention service coordination from birth to age 3. After that you must select who will coordinate the services for your child. This is an important relationship and one that should be established early on in the diagnosis of your child.

Research is critical: interview different agencies, other parents and physicians; look in the phone book and search the Internet.

As your child ages, issues of supportive services, guardianship and school-to-work transition will become important for you and your family to discuss.

This information is intended to provide you with many of the steps and definitions that will be helpful in advocating for the advancement of your child.