Tag Archive for: Autism

Right now the additional needs’ community is full of stress and anxiety. It’s the process not the outcome that helps alleviate stress and anxiety. That is one of the reasons we want artists to get involved and not worry if they will win one of the top prizes. With that mission in mind, we came up with “Support individuals with additional needs as you support your local businesses by becoming an Angel sponsor for ANI’s art contest. “

ANI constantly strives to see how our resources and events will be a win-win for everyone involved. As an Angel Sponsor you are encouraging individuals with additional needs to get involved with the art contest as you continue supporting your local businesses. That is a win win for everyone. We want to give everyone a chance to win a prize and that is the reason why we thought of this idea which was inspired by our CEO’s sister-law Heidi Sharpe. She and her family purchased two gifts cards from Frank’s Bakery in Bangor Maine and then did a drawing to give those cards away.  

How it works is you, the Angel sponsor, purchases a gift card of $25 or more from one or more of your local businesses and mail it to Additional Needs, Inc. at P.O. Box 110124 Naples, Florida 34108. Please e-mail us at Info@additionalneeds.info to let us know it’s coming so we can start on the promotional part so once it arrives we are all set to start getting the word out to individuals with additional needs in your area.  You and the company or companies you purchased from will be put on our Angel Sponsor page. Once the card or cards arrive we will let the artists know that we will have a drawing in two weeks for the card or cards. Once the two weeks is up we will do a live Facebook drawing by putting the names of the artists in your area in a hat and pulling out a name. The more cards we get, the more drawings we will do.  In order for the artists to participate in the drawings, they will need to be registered and have a picture of how their artwork is coming along. Or, if they have finished it in those two weeks the final picture of their artwork. We just want to make sure that the artist is going do a piece of art. Artists will be eligible for new cards that come into their area as long as they have not won a card before.

Thank you for helping individuals with additional needs de-stress as you support your local businesses in these trying times. 

Hello! My name is Hannah Rose Kandel. My family and friends sometimes call me Hannie or Rosie, but I also like to be called HannieRosie. I’m 27 ½ years old and live in Naples, Florida. I’d like to share with you some recent steps I’ve taken toward an office job and a bright, fulfilling future.

 When I was 25 years old, my mom asked me if I was interested in finding programs that would help me in the office world. My parents were so proud of me that I wanted to be an adult and to live more independently. We spoke with Kris, a family friend, and she agreed to live with me in Doral, Florida, for 10 months, so I could attend the Dan Marino Foundation Program. The Dan Marino Foundation serves college-aged students with additional needs.

 Dan Marino offers three different tracks: Hospitality, Microsoft Office, and A+. I enrolled in the Microsoft Office track because I knew I wanted a job in an office setting. I went to technology classes on the Florida International University campus multiple times a week for the 10-month period. I found these classes interesting.

 Also during this period, I spent six months at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office as an intern doing office work so I could gain additional, real-world, real-life experiences. The internship was challenging in the adult world, but it was very helpful. The time in Miami was also a bit of a challenge, but it gave me the opportunity to live out of my parents’ house for the first time.

 In June of 2018, I passed all three certifications on the Microsoft office track – Word, Excel, and Outlook – and completed my internship at the law office. These completions made me feel happy and accomplished. Then, it was time to move back home to Naples.

 I thought it would now be easy to get an office job. Not so easy! I wanted to get a job at the courthouse like my internship in Miami, but the courthouse said I had to go through Kelly Services first. It’s a company that helps you find office work. The staff at Kelly Services said I had to improve my typing skills first at typing.com in order to become an office worker. Once I did that, I had several interviews but still no job offers. Idela and Jazmin at Interpreting & Application Services LLC helped me more with job searches and interviews. During the four months after Miami, I learned a lot about job-hunting!

 After four months of searching for a job, I accepted a job offer at the STARability Foundation as an administrative assistant. It was a great match for me and for STARability! STARability is a nonprofit organization that supports adults with additional needs. I work there three days a week, and I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary. I love to work on my assigned tasks at hand, such as paperwork, filing, shredding, and organizing.

 My colleagues have become my friends. One of them is Susan, who became my roommate! Now, we have an apartment together and she is helping me grow my independent living skills. We have so much fun together! Living with Susan is awesome and we are great friends.

 I’m looking forward to one day working full-time, having a family of my own, traveling and living independently, and continuing to make friends and learn from new experiences. I’m looking forward to the growth of my life!


Written by Hannah Rose Kandel

The fact that you are on this site means you are searching for help.  Hopefully, I can provide you with some answers.

How important is it that you have your child’s vision checked? It might interest you to know that 70% of the brain utilizes vision; that is why any neurological or developmental delay can impact how your child processes visual information.

While many parents assume the pediatrician does an eye exam as part of your yearly wellness exam, all that is performed is a vision screening.  And, when it comes to children with additional needs – it can be challenging to determine how well your child can see, unless the doctor has special training in this area.

How can a child pass a vision screening or eye exam, yet still have a vision problem?

Have you been told your child sees fine, yet he or she struggles to copy words from the board to paper on the desk in school? Or perhaps, your child just struggles with reading, or remembering what was read? Does your child have to touch everything in order to “see” it or feel balanced?

The key here is that just because a child can see the letters on the eye chart, which is typically 20 feet away, it doesn’t mean your child has all the visual skills required for reading, learning, or functioning in life.   

In her book, Autism Solutions: How to Create a Healthy and Meaningful Life for Your Child, Ricki G. Robinson, MD, MPH, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Keck School of Medicine, states:

 “Precise coordinated eye movements are needed for focusing, eye tracking, and binocular vision (eyes working together).  All are required for maintaining eye contact and spatial awareness, even hand-eye coordination. … However, if these skills are delayed, they can be learned.”


To whom does this apply?

This applies to all children, especially those with additional needs.  For example, I saw a child with Down Syndrome who could see the letters on the line on the eye chart that is referred to as 20/20.  The parents were even told his vision was fine.  However, as a result of a developmental vision evaluation, we were able to determine that he had trouble shifting his focus from seeing far away to being able to see at the distance necessary for reading.  He could barely see up close.  A special pair of bifocals fixed the problem.  Optometric research has found that 65-70% of kids with Down Syndrome have this visual disorder (accommodative insufficiency).

Children with additional needs, including those on the autism spectrum, CP, Down Syndrome, ADHD, Fragile X, twice-exceptional children as well as gifted learners, all share one thing in common.  They have eyes.  In most cases, unless you have seen a developmental optometrist, you have either been told their vision is fine because they can see the letters on the eye chart, or that they are seeing the best they ever will, or there is nothing else that can be done. 

In some cases, your child may have an eye turn that was “corrected” with surgery, or you are considering surgery.  Depending on the cause of your child’s additional needs, the potential of an eye turn is significantly greater than in the neurotypical population.  In fact, it can range from 17-50% compared to 2-5%. 

While most ophthalmologists will be up front about the potential of multiple surgeries being needed to achieve straight eyes, little is shared about what a child’s world looks like when they have an eye turn (no matter how small). Once the eyes appear straight, it is assumed their vision is fine, even though it may not be. 

Many children struggle with double vision, or vision that fluctuates where print or objects appear to move on the page even with the slightest eye turn which, as parents, you may or may not be able to see.  Because they lack the verbal skills to tell you how they see, and also because they have no idea what their world should look like, they don’t say anything.  Instead they show you with their behavior, if you know how to interpret the signs.

Some of the signs include difficulty paying attention, poor reading comprehension, difficulty reading or learning to read, problems with balance or movement and clumsiness.  For a longer list, click here.

Who should evaluate your child’s vision?

As a developmental optometrist, I can tell you, developmental optometrists have a wealth of training in how to evaluate overall visual function – that means how we use our eyes in daily life.  We also have specific training in how to correct visual deficiencies without surgery.  Most developmental optometrists understand how to help children with additional needs.

Sometimes we are lucky, and all the child needs is special glasses.  In more severe cases, it can require a combination of special glasses plus an in-office program of optometric vision therapy.  The good news is that developmental optometrists have been able to help reduce the challenges that additional needs children face on a daily basis.  In some cases, special glasses can eliminate toe walking, and in other cases, the glasses help children to be able to see to read where previously reading was impossible.

In her book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, Occupational Therapist, Lindsey Biel, states,

“Consider going to a developmental optometrist even if no one refers you, because an undiagnosed vision problem is a major obstacle for any child.”  

Correcting vision problems in children with additional needs can be life changing.  To find a doctor who can provide your special need’s child with this type of vision care visit: www.covd.org.


Written by Dr. Matthew Walsh


Dr. Matthew Walsh is a developmental optometrist with an office in Naples, FL.  Dr. Walsh provides specialized services in the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems that interfere with reading, learning and overall functioning in life.  For more information visit his website: www.naplesvisiontherapy.com


Additional Needs, Inc. all started with one question to a friend, “Do you know of a place or an activity I can volunteer for?” The answer, “yes” started me on my additional needs journey. I started to volunteer for Art Fest Naples which benefited individuals with autism and their families that received services from Eden of Florida. As I was getting to know the individuals and their families two of the families made a lasting impression on me. I learned this is not just a journey for the families with additional needs, it’s a journey for society as a whole. The Kandels and the Stanleys shared their stories with me and how they’ve been advocating for their children with autism along with sharing resources with other families.

 Year after year with the art fest, I got more and more involved with putting the show together as well as learning more of what the families needed and wanted for their children. One of my side goals was to find ways for individuals to gain meaningful employment. This is one of the biggest concerns for families. Within just a few years I became the logistics director and a year after that our son Jack was born. The pregnancy went very well and we  thought all was set for a natural childbirth.

 On the day that Cynthia went into labor that all changed. Jack’s heart rate started to drop with each contraction Cynthia experienced and our doctor told us they were going to need to do a C-section. This was the last thing we wanted. Throughout the pregnancy Cynthia worked with alternative medicine practitioners. Receiving this news, Cynthia called up a practitioner-friend who rushed to the hospital to assist in making a natural delivery possible. The practitioner helped with Jack’s heart rate and Cynthia had the natural birth she desired. From the moment Cynthia saw Jack she thought he was with Down syndrome. She told this to me later and said she saw it in his eyes. The funny thing is that afternoon, after Jack was born, I went to walk our dog and as I looked into the rearview mirror and saw his eyes in mine. All I could think was he has my eyes! I had no clue that Jack was with Down syndrome.

 It wasn’t until our first pediatric visit that our doctor made us aware of the possibility of Jack having a heart issue and being with Down syndrome. A week and a day after delivery, we found out that Jack’s heart rhythm had changed. We had to meet with the pediatric cardiologist immediately. Forty five minutes later we met Dr. Lowell. It was through that cardiologist visit that it was confirmed, Jack was with Down syndrome and that he was going to need heart surgery ASAP.

 In my desperation, I went into learning mode. That entailed hours upon hours on the computer searching about Down syndrome and the resources that our area had or didn’t have. I was doing this in the middle of the night, neglecting my own sleep and checking on our son every half an hour to make sure he was breathing ok. What frustrated me most was that doing a search for information was very difficult and time consuming. So, I began bookmarking sites that I found helpful but very hard to find. I then thought back to the Kandel and Stanley families and how they always shared what they had learned. I thought I would do the same by building a website that had all the resources for individuals with Down syndrome in the Collier County area on it. I thought the best way for people to find it was to name it DownsyndromeNaples.com. It was that simple. now there were located on one site.

 From day one I wanted to have a site that covered all resources for additional needs but at the time of building DownsyndromeNaples.com I was focused on our son and making sure his surgery went well. It took a few years to get grounded and be able to start on Additional Needs, Inc. Now here we are! Building a company that has all the resources and tools to assist individuals with additional needs in reaching their full potential. All run by individuals with additional needs in every state. Jack is doing well and I hope if he wants, one day will run Additional Needs, Inc.    

I went to the Dan Marino 10-Month program from August 28, 2017, to my graduation on June 28, 2018. The program I chose to do was called the Microsoft Office Specialist track. I received my national certification in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook. I lived with my life coach, Kris, in Miami, where I worked on independent living skills. I highly recommend the program! I also had a 6-Month internship at the Miami State Attorney’s Office. They even offered me a job when I graduated! But I made a decision to move back to Naples. I had several interviews at different places. I was euphoric when I received a job offer from the STARability Foundation, formerly known as FDD (Foundation for the Developmentally Disabled). I am currently an administrative assistant working part-time. My responsibilities include creating spreadsheets, inputting data, filing new files, updating the old logo and location for STARability into the computer, and shredding old files and documents. I love my job!


Written by Hannah Kandel

Our lovely eldest grandson has just had his twelfth birthday & is turning into a handsome boy, what a wonderful journey we have been on with him, with its highs & lows, us learning how to deal with a meltdown, him learning to live in a world he doesn’t totally understand, however, we wouldn’t change a thing. We love him unconditionally, as I’m sure he does us.

 Over the year’s things have changed, one being to let us sing happy birthday to him, the other one being to share his birthday cake, up to now his cake has been his & his alone. His brother & cousins could join him in blowing the candles out as well, not a big deal to many but to our gorgeous boy it’s a massive step. He loves whatever cake I make him, so long as there is a lot of chocolate involved & this year, he said I was #cake queen!! I’ll take that.

 He doesn’t need huge presents & was so excited with a gift card for his favourite pizza restaurant, along with gift vouchers for clip & climb adventure. He had also received money which he is saving towards a dog, I’m not sure he knows how long he will need to save for! He also received a Google home which with his love of music was a big hit.

 Still an adrenalin junky, with absolutely no fear, he along with his brother love to do adventurous things, they recently went to an indoor climbing centre, hence vouchers for clip & climb, they loved it, climbing to the top of all the obstacles & swinging back down.

 Five years ago, both boys learnt to swim whilst in America on holiday. They love the water & these lessons paid off big time when they recently went to an indoor surf centre. They were loaned wetsuits & surf boards & were shown how to surf, they loved it, going again & again, being thrown off & getting back on, I have a feeling they will be going back very soon.

 Our gorgeous boy is not without his problems, bless him, along with being autistic he has been diagnosed with ADHD, at school he has an HECP which entitles him to a classroom Assistant that works alongside him, helping when he does not understand what’s being asked of him, but he is doing very well, he came home with his report with all A’s & B’s & even exceeded expectations with a couple of subjects, needless to say we were all very proud of him.

 He still loves his music & along with his brother & cousins will dance away to the radio. He is still a member of the steel band & at Christmas he opted to play at the tree lighting ceremony in his local town, a huge step for him to play in public. We were in America & couldn’t go so we asked him if his mum could take pictures for us to see, in the past he would have refused but this year he said yes. Another milestone reached!

 As he has got older, he has become more tactile, his Grandpa spent ages encouraging him to have a “big boy hug” with him, gradually over time it worked & the first thing he does now when he arrives is kick off his shoes and give his Gramps a hug. I even got one the other day for bringing him some chocolate cookies, that’s a huge welcome step forward.

 He does make us laugh as well, at the end of last year his Grandpa had a small operation & was resting on his recliner when our funny boy came in, he said “Nanor shouldn’t Grandpa be in an old peoples home, he doesn’t look very well” I assured him Gramps was fine, just resting.

 In the summer we took both boys to an air show, which was obviously going to be very noisy, a problem for our grandson, who is noise sensitive, his brother asked if there was ear protectors for him, there wasn’t, so we warned him it would be loud & I offered to watch from inside with him, he said no he would be ok, put his hoods up, yes he was wearing two,  & put his hands over his ears. His brother who is always looking out for him put his hands over as well, it worked he coped, another milestone conquered.

 On another occasion we had a visit to the zoo, his brother wanted to go to the butterfly house, which he was not keen on, so as Grandpa was there he said he would go in & I would wait with him outside, but he said “no Nanor I can do this come on!!” and he did, another milestone reached.

 He knows he is autistic & reacts differently to certain situations, he has asked why he’s autistic & why is it getting worse, I’m not sure if it is getting worse or if that’s him recognising the symptoms, but sadly we don’t have answers for him, but we will always be there offering comfort support & unconditional love.

 Now if all you see is autism when you see our gorgeous grandson, having a meltdown or using naughty words, then that is your loss. Behind these events is a loving, sensitive, intelligent boy, trying as I started with, to cope with a world he doesn’t totally understand.

 Give him time, give him space & you will see exactly what we see.


Author: Karen Woollett “Nanor’s Tale”

Someone once said that it “takes a village” to raise a child. Nothing could be truer than this quote when you have a child with additional needs! I was lucky enough when our daughter was diagnosed on the autism spectrum in 1993 that I knew ONE other person who had a child on the autism spectrum. At that time, it was 1 out of every 10,000 births! I went out to lunch with this mom (Julie) and we each shared our history with lots of tears, lots of supportive words, and it was the start of a beautiful 25 year friendship. Of course, my husband, our other two very young children, and our families were there to listen and be supportive. But our families all lived so far away that no one really knew what our day-to-day struggles were. And who really wants to get on a long distance phone call and complain, explain how scared you were, or to cry. As we were trying to assemble our multidisciplinary team of speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, behavioral therapists, and physical therapists, we met some incredible individuals who became a part of “our village”. I felt very comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings, asking for support, and started to feel like we really had a team to help us and then to pay it forward by helping every other children and their families along the way. This is my definition of what a village is! Find “your village” and then help the next family you meet with a child with additional needs.

It was Father’s Day 12 years ago that our daughter and son-in-law told us we were to become grandparents for the first time, there was excitement, joy and anticipation awaiting his arrival. He was two weeks late and had a very traumatic entry into the world, being finally delivered by emergency C section.

He was not a good sleeper and often had night terrors, which were alarming, not least because nobody could explain why he had them, thankfully as time went by he grew out of the terrors. During the day he was a very content baby.


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