Poverty and socioeconomic status impacts school readiness, language development, and the important early intervention of learning disabilities. During the Covid-19 pandemic, these already underserved communities were even more drastically impacted by the inequities of our special education system. There are a lot of layers to this overwhelming problem, but through the work of organizations like the Special Needs Network in LA and individuals like Daniel Mendoza and Marcos Aguilar, we are spreading awareness and access to services otherwise difficult to obtain.
In this episode, Daniel and Marcos explain how children with special needs are impacted by inequities in their community. Daniel is the Clinical Director for the Special Needs Network’s Applied Behavior Program and shares in this episode how some children with Autism are not given the services they need in underserved communities. Marcos is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Assistant Clinical Director at Special Needs Network and together with their behavioral health team, provides education and resources to families, children, and adults. They have created multiple “access points” to reach as many families in need as they can.
We could have multiple episodes on this important topic, but their mission is clear. The Special Needs Network is doing tremendous work in their community in raising public awareness of developmental disabilities and impacting public policy. I’m honored to have Daniel and Marcos on the show today to further spread this awareness.
[1:59] – Dr. Wilson shares her experience with the Special Needs Network at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
[2:57] – Daniel explains the beginning of the Special Needs Network and how it has grown since 2005.
[4:22] – There has been an increased awareness regarding the inequities in education, particularly special education.
[5:30] – The programs that Special Needs Network offer were crucial during Covid-19. Daniel describes the experience for many parents and families.
[6:28] – During the pandemic, Special Needs Network was able to help fill the gap in services when services couldn’t continue in school.
[7:29] – Daniel explains what ABA therapy is and the benefits of it for anyone but especially those with Autism.
[9:01] – Marcos further explains ABA therapy for those with Autism. Some behaviors are due to an inability to effectively communicate.
[10:03] – The delay in services for children with Autism can be up to 2 years in underserved communities.
[11:22] – Daniel points out that in underserved communities, parent concerns are not taken as seriously. Parents tend to give up in their efforts to find support and early intervention.
[12:17] – The lack of understanding and access to services has caused some children to not obtain therapy in some cases till they are teenagers.
[13:43] – Dr. Wilson shares that she has known of families crossing state lines to seek services in other states. This is inequitable as services should be available everywhere.
[14:22] – The United States is “late to the game” on services for Autism.
[15:18] – Underserved communities also experience inequities in other services, even healthcare.
[16:40] – Daniel describes how the Special Needs Network approaches this overwhelming work.
[17:42] – What is “boots on the ground”?
[19:09] – Special Needs Network also attracts people with resources and supplies like backpacks and food during special events. They also partner with larger corporations to reach more families.
[20:50] – All the different access points for Special Needs Network, they’ve created an infrastructure in their community, including pediatricians.
[22:00] – Special Needs Network also partners with schools and is working on referral systems for school psychologists and another entry point for students.
[24:07] – Parent support is also vital as having a child with special needs can be very isolating and have a negative stigma.
[25:08] – Marcos emphasizes the importance of collaboration with families.
[26:27] – When the team works together as a unit, that is when you see the child “take off.”
[27:27] – Marcos tells families that he doesn’t want to be the best to work with their child, but wants to be able to access work for their child and connect them to the right programs.
[28:43] – Parents connecting with each other creates word of mouth for Special Needs Network but also builds a community of support for families with similar challenges.
[31:26] – Parent mentoring also helps with the negative stigma of having a child with special needs. It creates hope for parents who are discouraged.
[32:31] – Society has two different models of looking at developmental disabilities. Daniel explains them both.
[34:24] – There needs to be societal change in this area of acceptance.
[37:29] – Dr. Wilson invited Daniel and Marcos to speak at a town hall coming up.
[38:37] – Daniel describes a new facility opening in December of this year and what they will be able to offer in one building.
About Our Guests and Special Needs Network:
Daniel Mendoza is the Clinical Director for Special Needs Network’s Applied Behavior Analysis program, and Marcos Aguilar is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Assistant Clinical Director at Special Needs Network, Inc. Both Daniel and Marcos are part of an interdisciplinary behavioral health team that includes behavioral analysts, clinical psychologists, social workers, and pediatricians, providing behavioral health treatment to children diagnosed with autism.
Special Needs Network, Inc. is a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of underserved families struggling with raising a child with developmental disabilities. Their mission is to raise public awareness of developmental disabilities and to impact public policy, while providing education and resources to families, children and adults. SNN serves as a link between under-served communities and mainstream developmental disability organizations and governmental institutions, which often fail to address issues specific to these communities. SNN firmly believes that dignity, hope and opportunity are the birthright of all children.
Founded in 2005, Special Needs Network, Inc. (SNN) grew out of the struggles of Areva D. Martin, Esq. after her son Marty was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. After finding it incredibly difficult to access services for Marty, Ms. Martin became aware of the enormous challenges faced by families affected by developmental disabilities in underserved communities – in particular, the neighborhood of South Los Angeles. A Harvard-trained attorney, Ms. Martin used her entrepreneurial and legal skills, as well as her own experiences navigating the complex system of care, to create a parent-centered organization with a mission to help the communities in need through four resolutions:
1. Reduce the waiting period for families to have their children diagnosed;
2. Bring education, resources, and services directly to the community;
3. Provide unique learning opportunities for children and young adults with developmental disabilities; and
4. Forge an action-based coalition of families empowered to self-advocate at all levels of government.
Connect with Daniel and Marcos:
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