Web site responds to issues of children with special needs

For parents of children with special needs, finding resources and assistance can be a daunting challenge. A new Web site, the Special Needs Information Service Online (SNIS), www.snis.ca, helps parents, caregivers and professionals of children with special needs to negotiate the maze of health, educational, financial and other information and services available. The site was developed by the Centre of Excellence for Children and Adolescents with Special Needs and funded by Health Canada. Dr. Patricia Canning, Faculty of Education and Faculty of Science, Dr. Mary Courage, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine, and Lynn Frizzell, developed the content for SNIS-Newfoundland and Labrador.

SNIS is a collaborative project between the Memorial team and the centre's research group at Mount Saint Vincent University responsible for SNIS-Nova Scotia. The Technical Resource Centre of the King's Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Waterville, Nova Scotia, developed and supports the software and Web site.

“Parents in any part of the province who suspect their child might have a speech/language problem can go to SNIS-NL and find the clinic/service provider in their area and how they might make contact,” said Dr. Canning. “Similarly, a professional who sees a child with autism who lives in St. Anthony can go to SNIS-NL and find the government office they would contact for preschool intervention services and which community organizations may offer support programs for parents.”

Ms. Frizzell explained that, “The site also contains a wide range of information available including kinds of financial assistance and income tax deductions that might be available for children with special needs and their families.”

An additional feature of the SNIS is the availability of the Browsealoud text-to-speech software, which is used to convert the text into audible speech spoken through the computer speaker. The software will be helpful to people who need or want aural verification of what they are seeing in print. The software is available on the site and can be downloaded free of charge.

The Centre for Children and Adolescents with Special Needs, under the administrative leadership of Lakehead University, focuses specifically on children and youth with special needs living in rural and remote communities. The centre's mandate is to conduct research in child and adolescent development, investigate models for the prevention and early identification of special needs and consider the most appropriate ways to offer services to children and families, given the challenges of geography, professional availability, cost, etc. SNIS meets this mandate. To facilitate the expansion of SNIS to other provinces, the software and a manual can be made available to other organizations interested in developing their own provincial SNIS directory.

Interested groups may contact Adele McSorley at Mount Saint Vincent University at amcsorle@msvu1.msvu.ca.

For further information about SNIS-NL, the Centre of Excellence for Children and Adolescents with Special Needs, or to add information or your service to SNIS-NL, please contact either of the co-directors of the centre, Dr. Patricia Canning or Dr. Mary Courage, or the research co-ordinator, Lynn Frizzell at (709) 737-2395 or visit the Web site at www.snis.ca.