Service provider to discontinue two programs for special needs kids

    Families with special needs children in the region are losing a resource. “Easter Seals of Southeastern Pennsylvania” is discontinuing two popular programs for financial reasons.

    One of the people affected by this is Helen Howlett. She is raising her nephew, who has autism. He is 3 years old and non-verbal. Howlett works full time and says her parenting duties are nonstop, and can occasionally be overwhelming.

    For an occasional weekend “breather” she has been using a monthly day program in Philadelphia offered by Easter Seals. She can drop off her nephew and know that he will receive skilled care while she gets to do other things.

    “I’m a single parent with limited family resources, so it’s difficult for me to find time to clean the house, or, to just rest,” Howlett said.

    Easter Seals of Southeastern PA officials say the organization can no longer afford to offer this program. The organization is also discontinuing its summer day camps for children with special needs. CEO and director Carl Webster says decreased government funding, slumping donations, and rising operating costs drove the decision.

    “That dynamic for the last five years has just squeezed the resources of Easter Seals to the point where, like many providers, we have to make choices in what we do,” Webster said. “The choices we’ve made are heartbreaking both for us and for the families affected by this.”

    Helen Howlett says she is not sure how to fill the void left by the monthly Saturday option. “It’s going to be very difficult for me, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do at this point.”

    That program will end in June.

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