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Challenges inspire community event

Photo submitted to the Times Observer Pictured from left to right are: Emily Wachter, Naka King and Anna Wright. The group organized the first “Special Needs Community Day” to be held on Saturday.

Ask any parent about their last family outing and they may describe a challenging scenario. Ask a parent of a child with special needs and they may tell you that sometimes even simple tasks just aren’t possible.

Naka King said that sometimes just a quick trip to the grocery store with her daughter, who has special needs, can be too overwhelming for her. A recent trip to the movies ended shortly after it started. “It was just too loud for her,” she said.

Her experience led to an idea. The goal was to create a comfortable environment where families could take part in activities that can be difficult. The result of that idea — the first “Special Needs Community Day.”

The free event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Don Mills Achievement Center, 677 Hospital Drive, Suite J, Warren. It includes sensory-friendly haircuts, family holiday photos, holiday activities and snacks. Families must make an appointment for haircuts and photos, King said. “If families just want to come and take part in some sensory play and maybe make new friends they can just stop by,” she added.

King organized the event with the help of two women who have provided services for her daughter. Anna Wright, occupational therapist and Emily Wachter, early intervention special instructor, helped bring King’s vision to fruition.

Photo submitted to the Times Observer Pictured is Naka King’s daughter, Rylan King, who is diagnosed with Dup15q Syndrome and whose sensory sensitivities helped inspired the first “Special Needs Community Day” to be held on Saturday.

“We developed the idea of the hair/photo day to ‘fill the gap’ of supports and services for families in our community,” Wachter said. “Having worked with families with children with special needs for more than 15 years, I have seen where the struggles or ‘gaps’ are.”

“Doing a hair cut and family photo day was a small way to help positively impact the lives of families,” Wachter said. “We are planning on developing a respite program to help families find and pay for child/adult care, as this is a service that is severely lacking in our rural community.”

King credits the community with supporting the event. The three women reached out to businesses and volunteers and “they didn’t hesitate to support this event.” “It was heartwarming,” she said.

“Each volunteer at this event is a therapist or educator who works with children or the special needs community,” King said. “They are committed to helping make each child and family experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.”

To reserve an appointment for services provided at the event email NWPACommunity@gmail.com.