BY MELANIE BUCK –
A local area special needs group is available to parents across the county and member, Amanda Posey, said the group welcomes any family who wishes to join, regardless of their child’s age. B.A.S.E. – Building, Accepting, Supporting, and Educating – is a group that formed in April 2015 and officially became a non-profit organization in July 2016.
Posey said the group was formed after she attended a ladies’ retreat a couple of years ago. “It was one of those things that I came back with on my heart. I called a couple of ladies that were also special needs parents and asked them if they thought it was something I could do. They just jumped at the idea,” Posey explained.
Being the parent of a special needs child herself, Posey and some other parents began meeting and slowly but surely, by word of mouth, the group grew. “Some of these people I had not met but they were friends of my friends and we formed a coalition. It has led us to branch out with other ideas,” Posey said. That’s when the name and process of becoming a non-profit formed.
B.A.S.E. now meets the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Dallas Avenue Baptist Church Family Life Center, 300 Dallas Avenue, in Mena. “It’s for special needs families. We are very open to all disabilities and all families,” she explained. “It’s very laidback. We have a high school student who takes care of childcare. It’s got a gym area so kids can run and play while we meet and they are in a room next to the parents. It’s worked out really well for us.”
When the group gets together, they tell their stories, share advice, and exchange a commonness that only they could know. “We talk about our kids, their journeys, their medicines, the things we encounter as special needs parents, IEP’s, therapy or special diets, or situations that arise.” One of the benefits gained is getting advice from parents with a child older than yours, someone who has been there and worked through the trial-and-error system. “As it’s evolved, I can see parents of older kids with parents of younger kids and those parents can bounce ideas off of each other and gain knowledge.”
Another way the group has evolved over the months is advocacy. “We have gone from sharing our journeys to the fact of being more advocates of our kids in the community.” Posey explained that parents and friends recently wrote letters to congressmen to urge them to vote for HB 1033 [a House Bill], that calls for the diversion of $8.5 million from the tobacco settlement fund to fund the needs of a waiting list with 3,000 Arkansans that have intellectual or developmental disabilities and are waiting for community-based or in home services. “There is strength in numbers and we wanted our voices heard,” Posey said. The bill passed the Arkansas House of Representatives in late January and currently awaits Senate approval.
“I have realized how much we need support from each other and our community,” said Posey. “We hope our stories make others realize what our kids are able to do. There may be deficits, but we need to look at how can we take their strengths to make them fly, and we need community support to do that.”
Posey emphasized that there is no age limit for the child in their group. “We have families with kids of all ages. You can learn from that because someone else has been through a similar journey you are on. My child will be 18 this year and it kind of becomes a whole new ball game. They are becoming an adult and there are a lot of changes that you wouldn’t realize but with others, they can help you know what’s coming.”
Posey encourages others with special needs children to participate in the group. Their mission is: “To build acceptance, support, and educate families through integrated community support. We strive to help specials needs individuals find love, hope, and acceptance, while becoming active, happy, and helpful citizens.”
To learn more, contact Amanda Posey at 479-243-5898; Jennifer Mabry, 479-216-3170; Linda Shelly, 479-234-6197; or Christy Plunkett, 479-243-3483. The group also has a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/BASEOFTHEOUACHITAS/.
The group also incorporates family outings, play dates, and other community events focused on specials needs children. Offering encouragement and support, and sharing information and experiences to help each other is the focus of B.A.S.E.
“We have a great group. We would love and welcome all families. We are really laid back and are advocates for our kids and want to support one another in a difficult but rewarding journey,” added Posey.