Special Needs

Dorothy is a foster mother of three children in Spring Hill, Fla. Her 15-year-old son has spina bifida and developmental delays, and her 13-year-old daughter is, she says, "mildly autistic." Neither was happy at public school.

"My son was in a lockdown classroom with gang members. It was a bad situation. I was afraid he was going to get hurt," Dorothy says. "My daughter was getting bullied because she spoke out of turn or would get upset easily. Twenty kids in a classroom was a lot for her."

The day Ayden came home from school with bruises, his mother started looking for a new school.

Ayden's a bright 9-year-old with a blond crew cut, glasses and an eager smile showing new teeth coming in. He also has autism, ADHD and a seizure disorder. (We're not using his last name to protect his privacy.) He loves karate, chapter books and very soft blankets: "I love the fuzziness, I just cocoon myself into my own burrito."

"He's so smart but lacks so much socially," says his mother, Lynn.

penguinproject.org

Murray's Playhouse in the Park is starting a program for kids with special needs called The Penguin Project. At 6 p.m. this Thursday (May 22) and next Thursday (May 29), Playhouse hosts introductory  - get acquainted meetings for special needs youth with youth interested in becoming peer mentors, and anyone who wants to know more about the project. Kate Lochte learns more with founder and director Dr. Andy Morgan. Dr. Morgan is a professor of clinical pediatrics and former head of the Division of Child Development at the University College of Medicine in Peoria, Illinois.

horsesinc.org

HORSES, Inc's name is actually an acronym:  Helping Others Reach Success using Equine Services.  It offers therapeutic horseback riding classes for people with physical, mental or emotional challenges.  Today we meet one of its Board Members, John Maldaner, to speak about the Boots & Bridles Competition Saturday at Carson Park in Paducah.  The all-day event is actually a celebration of the riders with a couple of participation events as well.