Last June, Shannon Butler's mother already was beginning to gather supplies to send her 7-year-old daughter to school. But more important than a lunchbox and crayons, Shannon needed an augmentative communication device a small computer to help her communicate with her classmates.
This required more than a short trip to the nearest store.
Shannon has microcephaly, and so her voice box does not work. Mild cerebral palsy affects the use of her right hand, so sign language is not an option. This small computer is her voice.
At $4,000, the Butlers could not afford to buy this device by themselves.
``I dealt with a lot of people in different organizations and was handed many different phone numbers. Everyone told me to call someone else,'' Judy Butler, Shannon's mother, said.
Just when she thought she had exhausted every possible resource, Butler was haanded a phone number that led her straight to her solution.
THE PHONE call put her in contact with Emma Longan, coordinator for the Douglas County ARC (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens).
Just one week after her phone call to ARC, the Journal-World ran an article about Shannon's need, letters were sent to civic organizations for support, and fund-raisers were held. It took only two months to raise more than $4,000 for the device.
There was even money left over. It is being saved to buy a carrying case for the device and possibly a special swing for Shannon.
In addition to the tremendous fund-raising support ARC provided her, Butler said it became a main source of support for her.
``They were there when I needed them'' she said.
The ARC strives to fulfill the needs not only of the developmentally disabled themselves, but also to provide support groups and counseling services, as well as workshops, seminars and conferences concentrating on the needs and concerns of families and parents.
THE ASSOCIATION now is developing a project called Parent to Parent. This support group matches a veteran parent to a parent of a newly diagnosed developmentally disabled child. The veteran parents are able to provide resource referral, advocacy and one-on-one support for their partners.
ARC also provides support for siblings of disabled children with "Sibshops." Sibshops are held throughout the year for children ages 8-13. These workshops allow children with brothers and sisters with special needs to meet and talk to each other. It also teaches them more about their siblings' needs.
Generally, Longan said, ARC works with young children through the parents. This involves helping the parents learn the laws and rights their children and families have. Armed with this knowledge, the parents can make sure the needs of their children are met.
Parental and family support are only two aspects of ARC's dedication to serving the developmentally disabled throughout Douglas County. It strives to provide education, information, support and advocacy to all people with special needs.
ARC is scheduled to receive $25,947 from this year's United Way fund drive.
For information or assistance, contact Douglas County ARC at 211 E. 8th St., Suite F, P.O. Box 442227, Lawrence 66044. Douglas County ARC's phone number is 749-0120.