People, places and information of interest to the special-needs community in L.A.

Doc Talk: Tracking Progress Against Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is now estimated to impact one in every 68 children in the U.S. and anyone not affected by autism likely knows someone who is. Researchers have been working for decades to unlock its causes and find effective treatment. At the forefront of these efforts is the Center for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA. Its director, Dan Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D., says we know much more about autism...

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kids with autism

Helping Kids With Autism Find Work

  Joanne Lara sees too much of what she calls the “school-to-couch” model. “Fifty thousand kids a year in this country are graduating high school with autism, with no place to go,” says the executive director of Autism Works Now (AWN), an innovative nonprofit that teaches workplace-readiness skills. They end up on their parents’ couch because they don’t know how to find and keep a job – and because their...

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Inclusive Pageant Spotlights Girls of All Abilities

Many girls dream of wearing a crown and being “queen” for a day, and the California Miss Amazing pageant gives girls of all abilities that chance. The day includes all the usual pageant pomp, from formalwear and interviews to tiaras and trophies, but the beauty here is more than skin deep. “One of the main impacts of the program is [for the girls] to realize their potential,” says Miss Amazing...

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Celebrating Human Abilities at Aquarium of the Pacific

What does a celebration of the artistic talents of people with disabilities have to do with taking care of the world’s oceans? Plenty, says Peter Martineau, marketing events manager at Aquarium of the Pacific, which will host its 14th annual Festival of Human Abilities this month. “The aquarium has always wanted to include as many people from as many backgrounds as possible,” says Martineau, pointing out that the aquarium’s mission...

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ABLE Plans Let Those With Disabilities Set Financial Goals

For most of us who would like to save up for something – a new computer, a college class, a trip or even retirement – all we need to do to get started is to open a bank account or take advantage of a retirement or college savings plan. Most people with disabilities don’t have that luxury. Those who take advantage of state and federal government benefits such as Supplemental...

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The Second City Launches Courses for Kids With Autism

The Second City – which has locations in Chicago, Toronto and Hollywood – has been a launching pad for theater and comedy talent for decades. Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey are some of the institution’s more recent alumni. The venue also offers kids comedy, acting and writing classes. And this month, for the first time, the Hollywood location launches a program just for kids with developmental disabilities. In...

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A Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker Comes to Theaters

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, you might have shied away from ballet – even that most child-friendly ballet, “The Nutcracker.” Children with sensory issues might be overwhelmed by the sound and the spectacle. And those with attention deficits could have a tough time staying quietly in their seats. This month, the Autism Society of America is helping bring “The Nutcracker” to kids with autism in a...

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Registration is Open for Free Accessible Rose Parade Viewing

The Tournament of Roses and the city of Pasadena work together to coordinate three areas of accessible street-level viewing for the annual Rose Parade, and this year people with disabilities can make reservations online for the first time. There are three accessible viewing areas offering reserved space to people with disabilities free of charge. This allows those with disabilities – and up to four guests – to avoid having to...

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Step Out to Raise Funds for UCPLA

How many steps do you take per day? Do you have 10,000 in you? Find out, get fit and raise funds and awareness for individuals with cerebral palsy during the “Out & About With UCPLA” fitness challenge Oct. 3-28. The money you raise will help purchase equipment such as adaptable tricycles and adaptable beach wheelchairs that help people with cerebral palsy reach their fitness goals. Kids who participate can also...

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Matt Asner Becomes Vice President of Development For Autism Society of America

Matt Asner will join The Autism Society as National Vice President of Development, Autism Society President and CEO Scott Badesch announced Aug. 23. “We are thrilled to have Matt as part of the Autism Society family. His passion, energy and wonderful commitment to helping give all diagnosed with autism the maximum opportunities to reach their highest quality of life, along with an amazing track record of success in all he...

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Young Actors Take On Bullying With ‘The Intimidation Game’

While autism now impacts about one in 68 kids, bullying is pretty much universal. So a unique group of young actors are doing something about it in their own special way. The Miracle Project has been helping kids with autism and all abilities express themselves through theater and music since 2004. Under the direction of the indomitable Elaine Hall, the troupe creates and performs original musicals that forge friendships, educate,...

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Deaf Son’s Need Inspires Swim Shirt Company

Cole Sherman is profoundly deaf, has cochlear implants and loves to swim. “My son, he’s a water baby,” says Cole’s dad, Eric. For many years, water and the processors that implant users wear outside the body just didn’t mix. But in 2012, when Cole was 7, he got his first set of waterproof processors. The Tarzana family quickly discovered that the processors weren’t convenient to wear in the pool. “The wearing...

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Pam Lyn King: Coaching From the Heart

Pam Lyn King knows first hand what life is like for a special-needs family. Her younger sister, Kristol, was born with Down syndrome and autism. When Kristol died three years ago at age 20, King felt a profound void that she wasn’t sure how to fill. Landing a new job as an administrative specialist in the communications department of Kaiser Permanente in 2014 opened her heart in ways she didn’t...

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Granada Hills Students Create Art for Iditarod Mushers

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, dubbed the Last Great Race on Earth, is finally over and a winner has been declared. Musher Dallas Seavey is celebrating his win of the strenuous 1,000 mile race across Alaska that ended in Nome, Alaska in the early hours of March 15. Competitors are still finishing the long trek, but here’s the L.A. connection: Granada Hills Charter High School students with mild, moderate...

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Putting People With Autism To Work, Now

Each Thursday evening six young adults gather around a large table in an office off Ventura and Reseda boulevards and work to hone their employment skills. Because these individuals have autism, their chances of finding meaningful employment aren’t great. While 50,000 18-22-year-olds with autism graduate from public schools in the U.S. each year, the employment rate among people with disabilities is only 10 percent. This is why Joanne Lara and...

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special needs - find'em scent kit

Keeping Bloodhounds On the Scent of Missing Kids

Around half of all children on the autism spectrum will wander toward something that interests them, or bolt away from something that is bothersome. And because they have little sense of danger, this wandering can take them away from their caregivers and into unsafe situations. These children often go missing, and according to the National Autism Association, children ages 9 and younger with autism who wander off are killed 42...

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special needs -Flydra Project Passion

Animation Contests Seeks Artists With Special Needs

L.A.-based Flydra Creative is an animation studio launched by a group of young up-and-coming animators. They’ve worked at places like Cartoon Network, studied cinematic arts at USC, been YouTube sensations and won awards. Now they want to give other young animators – animators of all abilities – a shot at seeing their ideas for a cartoon character and animated series come to life. The studio has launched “Project Passion,” an...

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special needs - Reasons to Smile

Down Syndrome Stories That Will Make You Smile

When Andrea Knauss gave birth to her third daughter, Anna, 25 years ago, a nurse came into her hospital room and told her, “God has a big job for you!” The hospital photographer told her, “I guess you don’t want pictures of your baby, do you.” Anna was born with Down syndrome, and the hospital social worker Knauss consulted couldn’t even point her toward a book or video that would...

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Autism Focused Private School Hosts Open House in Woodland Hills

CARD Academy, a nonpublic school day school for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), today announced its open house in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Saturday, February 27, 2016 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Using an applied behavior analysis (ABA) teaching approach, CARD Academy educates students with ASD, developmental delay and speech-language impairment from preschool to age 22. The open house will offer parents a chance to discover the benefits...

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Get Into the Act at Abilities Expo

Abilities Expo, coming to the L.A. Convention Center Feb. 5-7, showcases technology, products, services and information for people of all abilities. But this is not an event designed just for looking. The “Events Arena” at the back of the hall, for instance, will feature wheelchair dance, service dogs, adaptive shot put, all-abilities yoga, adaptive skateboarding, power soccer, wheelchair tennis and adaptive basketball. “This is where we do hourly demonstrations of...

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Pairing Special Needs Families With Quality Providers

Need a restaurant recommendation? Try Yelp. A plumber? Angie’s List. And if you’re looking for a reliable service provider for someone with special needs, you can turn to Love My Provider (www.lovemyprovider.com), a fee-free website specializing in therapeutic services such as Applied Behavior Analysis; occupational, physical and speech therapy; summer camps and day programs. The nonprofit company was founded by special educator and behavior analyst Sara Gershfeld, who provided special-needs...

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USC Telehealth Offers Free Help For Special-Needs Caregivers

Mary Ann Frattarole thinks it was early 2012 when she started getting desperate calls from parents and caregivers of children and adults with special needs. “I got some heart-wrenching calls from parents that had a special-needs child,” she says, including one mom who also had a husband with a disability for whom she was the only caregiver. “She said, ‘I don’t know how I can make it another day. Can...

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A Conference To Talk About Typing

Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher both have limited speech due to autism, and when they were growing up, this meant they were labeled “retarded” and excluded from regular education. But their lives were turned around when, as adults, each learned to communicate by typing. Bissonnette, 52, and Thresher, 42, eventually embarked on a world tour to shine a light on autism that became the 2010 documentary film Wretches & Jabberers....

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For Autism Initiative, Sesame Street Looks to Our Neighborhood

TV’s “Sesame Street” has long been populated with flightless birds, singing frogs, cuddly monsters and children of all sorts. And as the number of children diagnosed on the autism spectrum continues to grow in the world at large, they are coming to Sesame Street as well. To help out with the “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children” initiative, Sesame Workshop turned to a neighborhood in Sherman Oaks,...

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This Holiday Shopping Keeps Vacation Dreams Afloat

Since 2006, Autism on the Seas has organized and staffed vacations (on cruises and at resorts on land) for families with children and adults with a variety of special needs – from autism to Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other types of challenges. Now the organization has launched a nonprofit arm that will help fund these vacations as well. The Autism on the Seas Foundation will award varying amounts of...

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13-year-old Chef Cooks With Food Greats at Autism Speaks Gala

By the time Chase Bailey was 10, he was hooked on cooking shows. He discussed best methods for caramelizing onions with his mom and filled the family DVR with recipes for pizzas baked in brick ovens and tortillas filled with mahi mahi and mango-radish salsa. At 11, he started his own cooking blog, followed by his YouTube channel, “Chase 'N Yur Face.” And in October, the Irvine 13-year-old, who is...

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National TACA Autism Conference Offers Hope and Help to Affected Families

Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States, with 1 in 68 children currently affected with the disorder. For these families, identifying and paying for the help they need to get their child on the road to recovery is extremely daunting. That’s where Talk About Curing Autism (TACA), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating, empowering and supporting families affected by autism, comes in. TACA not...

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New Online Autism Training For Babysitters Available

All parents want their child’s babysitters to be well prepared – able to keep their child entertained, handle the after-school or bedtime routine and deal with whatever challenges or emergencies might come up. For parents of children on the autism spectrum, there’s a new online tool available to help prepare sitters for the unique challenge of caring for these special kids. Available from the Institute for Behavioral Training (IBT), the...

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Help Group Summit Focuses on Autism, Learning Disabilities and ADHD

A two-day conference featuring leading experts in research and best practices in the assessment and treatment of autism, learning disabilities and ADHD is set for Oct. 23 and 24 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The Help Group’s Summit 2015 is designed for educators, clinicians/therapists and parents. Speakers include experts from UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, University of Washington, UC Davis, UC Riverside and USC. The conference...

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New Occupational And Speech Therapy Clinic For Children Opens In West Hollywood

The founders of OT Studios, which opened in July, believe that every child deserves to live life to the fullest, regardless of their challenges. Here is what you and your child can expect to find at the facility: Highly trained and qualified therapists Sensory integration, occupational therapy and speech therapy services An intimate and creative atmosphere! A fun studio space and perfect setting to work on motor and sensory development...

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DEAFestival 2015 Comes to Grand Park

The 17th annual DEAFestival, a free daylong family event offering resources, entertainment and community building, will take place at Los Angeles City Hall and Grand Park (200 N. Spring St., L.A.) from noon-4 p.m. Oct. 3. The event will feature a deaf talent show, a T-shirt design contest, a fashion show, information booths, art workshops, child safety seat classes and free car seat giveaways. At the “Once Upon a Sign”...

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Local Fundraiser to Benefit UCLA Intervention Program

The father of a former student at the UCLA Intervention Program, a school focused on helping children with disabilities, has launched a fundraiser to increase awareness and raise money to support the school. Michael T. Ward says he recognizes the immeasurable value of the program to the community, and more specifically to the children and families it serves. In an effort to ensure that the program is around for generations...

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Special Needs - ETTA Official Visit

Summer@ETTA Gets An ‘Official’ Visit

Last week a number of local elected officials visited Summer@ETTA, ETTA's specialized summer program for individuals with disabilities. ETTA provides a full spectrum of services for adults with special needs. ETTA serves people with developmental disabilities and their families, with services including residential housing, case management, employment training and placement, educational services and social services.

special needs canine companions Lionel

A Boy and His Dog Share Love and Therapy

Eight-year-old Daron, of Van Nuys, has a tight knit family. They have been through a lot together. Daron has cerebral palsy and needs a lot of support, but his parents, Hagop and Armine, and his older sister, Ani, are devoted to him. They will do just about anything to make Daron smile. That is why the family applied for an assistance dog for Daron from Canine Companions for Independence. The...

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ETTA Expands Day Program Offerings for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

ETTA’s Isak Boruchin Adult Day Program opened in September with three clients, and has exceeded expectations by growing to 14 clients in the first year. The program provides safe, meaningful and purposeful volunteering, job development, skill building, and recreation activities for adults with disabilities at sites within their local community. That growth will continue, as ETTA is expanding the program to include adults with more severe disabilities, and opening of...

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Special Needs Conference Focuses On Balance For Families

For Navah Paskowitz, “Bringing Balance,” the theme of the conference she is organizing for parents and siblings of children with special needs, is personal. “It really came out of my own family,” Paskowitz says. “We have a heavy load, my husband and I.” Paskowitz, executive director of corporate development and program director of The Friendship Circle By the Sea, is married to Matt Asner, executive director of the Southern California...

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PCDA Hosts A Taste of Summer: Rosé Soiree July 22

Professional Child Development Associates (PCDA), a nonprofit organization that offers a range of multidisciplinary screening, evaluation, therapy and specialized services for children and young adults with special needs, is hosting A Taste of Summer: Rosé Soiree at 6:30 p.m. July 22. Guests are invited to enjoy wine and food selections, music and mingling at a beautiful historic garden in South Pasadena, with the proceeds to benefit children with autism and...

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Angel City Games Bring Adaptive Sport To L.A.

Ezra Frech, a Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year nominee in 2014, was born with no left knee or shin bone and only one finger on his left hand. And though he had his leg amputated below the knee at age 2 ½, nothing has slowed him down. When his leg was amputated, doctors were able to attach one of his toes to his left hand, giving him two opposing...

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Jennifer Jones: Raising Awareness for Kids With Special Needs

Jennifer Jones never thought of herself as a community activist, but when her 15-year-old son, Dylan, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder 11 years ago, Jones’ course in life took a profound turn. The mom of two was working as a graphic and product designer and first became involved with Autism Speaks as a parent wanting to connect more with the autism community. She is now director of field development...

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L.A. to Host 2015 Special Olympics World Games

Los Angeles will play host to as many as half a million people this summer as we welcome athletes and fans from all over the world for the 14th Special Olympic World Games, taking place July 25-Aug. 2. Seven-thousand athletes with intellectual disabilities, coached by 3,000 coaches, will compete in 25 sports at all different levels, says Steven Vanderpool, a spokesperson for the games. There will be 117 countries represented....

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Village Glen Robotics Team Takes Rookie All-Star Award, Heads to Nationals

The students at Village Glen School are extraordinary in a number of ways – and their Knightrise robotics team is no exception. Village Glen, part of The Help Group, is made up of students who have special needs and challenges in socialization, communication and peer relations, but also natural ability in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. The school’s STEM initiative includes classes in computer programming, digital arts,...

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Temple Grandin to Appear at Club Nokia

One of the rock stars of the special needs world will take the stage at Club Nokia May 20 – along with a host of musical, celebrity and other guests – to raise awareness about the lack of jobs for young adults on the spectrum, and to benefit a new pilot program designed to help. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is widely considered one of the most accomplished and well-known adults with...

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Breaking the Sound Barrier for Children Born Deaf

Almost immediately after she was born, it became apparent that Angelica Lopez was deaf. Her parents, Julie and Santos, learned sign language and started making the heartbreaking, but necessary, adjustments to their daughter's special needs. Last summer, they learned of a device called an auditory brainstem implant (ABI), still in the testing phase, that might help recover Angelica’s hearing. Hearing aids and cochlear implants cannot help children like Angelica, because...

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UCLA Researchers Hope to Make Earlier Autism Detection Possible

Early detection is the key to helping children on the autism spectrum realize their full potential. Experts tend to agree that autism can be reliably diagnosed at age 3, when symptoms are present. Infants’ behavior is much more limited, making earlier detection a challenge, but researchers at UCLA are hoping to learn enough to change that. By studying behavior along with brain differences that could signal communication delays, they hope...

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Conference Showcases Neurodevelopmental Treatment Models For Special Needs

Parents can learn new ways to support children with neurodevelopmental differences at “The Power and Promise of Neurodevelopmental Approaches” March 13-15. The conference is hosted by the Profectum Foundation, a group of parents and practitioners dedicated to training and research. “Our hope is to bring world-class researchers to the conference and show parents and professionals how to better understand their children with special emotional, developmental or physical needs,” says clinical...

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Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Studying Tummy Troubles and Autism

Research has shown that children on the autism spectrum experience more, and more severe, stomach problems such as constipation and bloating than other children their age do. If your child is one of them, you might be interested in a study being conducted by the special needs researchers at the Boone Fetter Clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Because the discomfort from these gastrointestinal issues can make school and social...

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Brain Training Technique Holds Promise For Kids With Special Needs

Using three short learning sessions with hour-long breaks in between could help children with fragile X syndrome remember material as well as typically developing children, according to neurobiologists from UC Irvine. A genetic condition, fragile X causes intellectual and developmental disabilities, and is associated with autism. People with fragile X typically struggle learning new skills and information. Working with mice bred to display characteristics of fragile X, Christine Gall, Ph.D.;...

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Brain Balance of Brentwood Now Open

Nothing is more painful than to watch your child struggle. Difficulties in school, trouble making friends, tantrums and meltdowns are tough to observe, especially when you know that, underneath it all, you have a great kid. At the new Brain Balance Achievement Center of Brentwood, professionals work to address these challenges facing kids with special needs with a program that combines physical and sensory-motor exercises with cognitive skill training and healthy...

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Young Artists Pitch In On Vintage Mural

Once upon a time, driving down Whitsett Avenue in North Hollywood meant a trip through orchards filled with orange trees, with the occasional billboard adding color and excitement. The orange groves are long gone, and for years the stretch of Whitsett between Sherman Way and Saticoy became an area of blight. A lengthy community clean-up and planting effort that began in 2013 transformed the area into a clean and green...

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Stepping Up To the Plate For People With Autism

Danny Gott is 21 and has loved farm animals since he was a little boy. Danny also has autism. In honor of their special son, Danny’s parents, Cathy Gott and Jim Gott – former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and current pitching coach for the Anaheim Angels – founded Danny’s Farm in 2007. The nonprofit petting zoo has two missions: to serve children with special needs, and to employ...

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Local Scout Stands Tall Despite Challenges

Spencer Gates, a high school senior, has a condition that makes it difficult for him to walk more than a few steps, but he didn’t let that stop him from running with his passion for helping the community through Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America, Los Angeles Area Council (LAAC) serves more than 13,000 boys in 570 scout units in Los Angeles and 56 surrounding communities, from South Pasadena...

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Pujols Steps to the Plate for Special Needs

Albert Pujols has left an indelible mark on the game of baseball. Over the past 13 years, first with the St. Louis Cardinals and now with the Los Angeles Angels, Pujols has been one of the top hitters in the game and among its best all-around players. His two World Series rings – earned with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011 – and three National League Most Valuable Player Awards...

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Kole Kodimer: A Westhills Champion

A baseball league for kids with special needs that started as an 11-year-old boy’s Bar Mitzvah project has, in just two short years, developed into a family and community passion. Guaranteed to make you smile, the Westhills Champions baseball league has become a point of community pride. The athletes, whose physical and mental limitations vary, play baseball and form life-changing bonds with local teen volunteers. The league was launched by...

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Santa Clarita To Serve as Special Olympics World Games 2015 Host Town

The City of Santa Clarita has been officially selected as a Host Town for the Special Olympics 2015 World Summer Games. Before the games begin on July 25, 2015, more than 7,000 athletes from 177 countries will be welcomed to Southern California through the “Host Town” program, which includes 100 communities from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Host towns provide the athletes with hospitality, and treat them to a...

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Steve Everett-Power(ful) Soccer Role Model 1

Steve Everett: Power(ful) Soccer Role Model

Steve Everett plays and promotes power soccer, where adults and kids play together from their power wheelchairs, and learn powerful lessons. by Christina Elston When Steve Everett talks about the sport of power soccer, played in power wheelchairs, he makes it sound fun. “We have these guards on the front of our chairs. They almost look like snow plows,” he says, “and when we spin in a circle, that’s how...

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A Golden Ticket For Special-Needs Families

Here are some things we don’t always think of as going together: Wheelchairs and dancing. Autism and play groups. Families and prom. Linda Hall doesn’t intend to let this stand in her way. She is organizing a family prom with wheelchair dancing to raise funds for a community center where children with special needs – and those without – can connect and play. Special Family Prom, to be held from...

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