For the past several years I have dreamed of expanding our program to provide support for kids with special needs. I am thrilled that our current program is providing local public-school students with the resources they need to go to school and succeed academically. However, I truly believe that EVERY young person should have the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential, regardless of their strengths and challenges.
Unfortunately, like many developing countries, Mexico has struggled to provide for the developmental and educational needs of children with disabilities. In Rocky Point, a lack of comprehensive, professional services for children with special needs has left most families having to travel to the Children’s Hospital in Hermosillo, Mexico. Unfortunately, many local families lack the resources necessary to make this 6 – 8-hour trip on a regular basis, leaving their children without the professional services they need to reach their potential.
Over the past four years I have had the privilege of getting to know many local young people with special needs and their families. Every one of them has shared with me the sadness, frustration, and hardship they have experienced trying to access the therapies and other professional support that their children need to develop to their fullest potential. Their stories are both heartbreaking and inspiring. By the end of 2019 my local team and I began planning for a new program to serve these very special students.
Then the COVID crisis hit leaving the hundreds of public-school students in our regular program facing unprecedented barriers to education. Providing these almost 600 students with the resources they now need for remote learning left our budget strained. We had to put plans for the new special needs program on hold.
A leap of faith
Although we did not have the funds available for this project that we had hoped to, in January of 2021 we decided to take a leap of faith. I was thrilled to be there with my team for the launch of a new program called ‘Centro de Atencion y Terapias Infantil’ (C.A.T.I.) which translates to ‘Center for Attention and Therapies for Children.’ C.A.T.I.’s team of therapists, special educators and other professionals is now available to help local young people with special needs overcome obstacles to independence and reach their potential. Family members are included as active members of the therapy program and receive ongoing support to teach them how to help their children learn the skills they need to develop and thrive.
In the short time it has been open, the response to the C.A.T.I. program has been tremendously positive. In addition to receiving consistent support from our team of local therapists, thanks to an exciting new partnership with ASU, C.A.T.I. students are also able to benefit from weekly speech tele-therapy with bilingual therapists from the ASU Speech and Language Clinic.
Each student attending C.A.T.I. receives an initial evaluation and then a therapeutic and educational plan developed for him/her. Most students receive therapies and other support at the C.A.T.I. center 4 times a week and the cost is 4,000 pesos or approximately $200 a month.
We need your help!
Unfortunately, many local students with special needs come from families that lack the resources to pay privately for the C.A.T.I. program. We are using funds previously raised to support more than a dozen students, but we are hoping to find sponsors to help fund the many students on our waiting list.
You can provide this life-changing opportunity for a young person with special needs by sponsoring a C.A.T.I. student at stepsoflove.org/special-needs.