Guardian Advocacy.. What Parents Need  To Know

Guardian Advocacy.. What Parents Need To Know

With graduation season upon us, parents are face to face with the reality their child is no longer a baby, but a bonafide adult. It is these facts which make parents aware of the responsibilities that come with being an adult. Being an adult comes with its challenges, however becoming an adult who has special needs is a challenge in itself.  As parents make the best decision for their children, how does one determine what legal aspects to consider?  Legal guardianship comes up many times, specifically in the areas of medical matters.  So, let’s talk Guardian Advocacy and what does that mean for yourself and your child.


Guardian Advocacy is a process for families, caregivers, and friends of individuals with an intellectual disability to obtain a guardianship without having to have an examining committee appointed to determine that the person is incompetent.   A Guardian Advocate needs to be selected when a person with a developmental disability turns he or she turns 18.   Upon becoming any adult, the parent no longer has the legal ability to make decisions for their child.   To obtain guardian advocacy over an individual, the person with an intellectual disability must have a disorder or syndrome that falls under certain criteria.


If the individual has an Intelligent Quotient of below 70,  Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Spina Bifida, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Phelan- McDermid Syndrome, which manifests before the age of 18. Not everyone with an intellectual disability needs a legal guardian. One is necessary if the person is not able to make the necessary decisions relating to daily life activities (where to live, financial decisions, educational decisions, etc.). If you fear your child may not be able to make sound decisions regarding their life, Guardian Advocacy may be the way to go and is the least restrictive regarding what is best for the individual in the future.


Background Check Requirements and who may not serve as Guardian Advocate:


A person who may not be appointed as a Guardian Advocate includes anyone who has been convicted of a felony; suffers from any incapacity or illness that makes them incapable of discharging duties of a Guardian Advocate, or is otherwise unsuitable to perform the functions of a Guardian Advocate; has been judicially determined to have committed abuse, abandonment, or neglect of a child.


As an advocate, and Social Worker, I understand making the best decision for your loved one is not easy, and I applaud anyone who takes into consideration their loved one’s future.


If you or your loved one have any more questions or want more clarification, please reach out to attorney Laurie Ohall at (she does free workshops to help you figure out how you can file for guardian advocacy over your child on your own and without having to hire an attorney) and also check out the following links  to the guardian advocacy statutes –  If you are in Hillsborough County, here is the link to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit –

Summer Camp for Children with Special Needs

Summer Camp for Children with Special Needs

The Summer is right around the corner.  Any ideas on what to do with the little ones this Summer? What about Summer Camp. Finding the right match for your child can be a daunting task, but here are some import things to consider when looking for a camp for the Summer. There are a plethora of options when it comes to Summer Camp options, but how do parents choose what works? Here are some things to consider when looking for a camp.
What experiences would you like your child to get while attending camp?  Will your child learn to increase his or her social skills? Does the camp have a therapeutic approach such as therapeutic curriculum, e.g.,( Equestrian or Pet therapy)?What about academic? What will the camp do for your child and how do these objectives help with the overall support of the child?
 If your child will be attending a camp which is inclusive based, what are the protocols for when a child has a maladaptive behavior? Are there policies and procedures in place for such things?  Will Specialty service such as Occupational and Speech Therapist be able to come to camp to render services?

The structure of the camp is critical when considering camp. What type of activities will the child be engaged in while at camp? Are the camp activities sensory based? How will the camp incorporate social play? Will there be times dedicated to alone time in quiet areas? If so is the child allowed to bring his or her items such as  IPAD or Tablets,  and will this be incorporated into the schedule?

kids playing tug-a -war

Along with structure, another question to consider is location. How far is the camp from the nearest relative in case of emergency? Does the camp have transportation?  Will there be field trips involved?  Will a parent have to pay the full rate for a kid who only goes half days or are there discounts and financial benefits in place for this?
Medical Issues
Does the camp have a nurse on hand or are staff trained to take care of things such as seizures? Is the camp equipped to handle your child diet restrictions?


 Lots to consider when picking out a camp. I hope these questions help organize important things to consider when choosing a camp. I hope these tips were helpful.
Spring Break is gone,but Summer is around the Corner.

Spring Break is gone,but Summer is around the Corner.

  What did you do for Spring Break? Nothing fun, fresh or exciting well, I can honestly say, my spring break was better than yours and let me tell you why.  I volunteered at Autism Spectrum The camp hosted by The South Pinellas Autism Project. The Day camp location is at a local YMCA in the city of Saint Petersburg, Florida. While other kids are attending the YMCA children, who are on the Spectrum as well as have other neuro-developmental challenges as well. It is a camp within a camp.


As a social worker who works with Intellectually Disabled and Autistic children, one of my many challenges is finding resources for parents especially when it comes to activities for their children during break time like for example, is the camp equipped to handle my child and all of his needs?  Other concerns for example, what if my kid has a maladaptive episode?  Can my child bring his IPAD?

Matt Wiseman is Executive Director for the South Pinellas Autism Project, which launched in April 2016. Matt is a father of three boys, the youngest of whom is on the Autism Spectrum.

The camp accepts kids from as young as five years old up until the age of 13 years old.  At the camp, kids have the ability to join Spring Break with staff who understands their unique needs. At the camp, the children have the ability to be in quiet areas with the electronic devices as well as be social with other kids. The camp comes equipped with staff that is specifically trained to handle maladaptive behaviors. According to one of the South Pinellas Autism Project Chairperson, Rob Capuano, reports, “Our goal is to have a safe and fun camp, that accommodates kids who have challenging behavior and development issues,” says SPAP Chair Rob Capuano. “At the same time, we want to encourage them to build on positive behaviors and academic strengths.” A camp is a safe place for children who are on the Spectrum.

kids playing tug-a -war

The children have the ability to play with their own electronics. The children stay busy with a detailed scheduled created by staff. Activities include playing the Xbox with games named Fruit Ninja and Just Dance. The children have an opportunity play outside in the play ground twice a day. Children have snack time as well as lunch. These meals are not included and must be provided by parent/ guardians.

The South Pinellas Autism Project past camps have been in Winter Camp in 2016 and they will also create a Summer Camp as well in summer of 2017. The camp is located on the Greater St. Pete YMCA’s Central Campus, which is just off I-275 and easily accessible from all of South Pinellas and Eastern parts of Clearwater and Safety Harbor. Central Campus is at 5175 45th St N in St Petersburg, FL 33714. Hours are weekdays 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. The cost is $150 a week, and there is tuition assistance available. The first day of camp is May 30th, and it will run about 10 weeks until early August. 

kid on swing

If one is interested in volunteering or gaining more information about The South Pinellas Autism project can be found