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Program gives parents with special-needs kids a night out

By: BILL REED
February 27, 2010
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photo - Stefanie Morgan, helps her son, Ryan, 3, with his name tag while her husband Mike Morgan signs in Ryan and his sister Rachel, 9, in the wheelchair, at The Resource Exchange's Breaktime at the UCCS Family Development Center Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. The event allowed parents of developmentally disabled children to have an evening out together. The Morgans said it hard to find sitters that will accept both a special-needs child and a normal child.  Photo by The Gazette, Christian Murdock
Stefanie Morgan, helps her son, Ryan, 3, with his name tag while her husband Mike Morgan signs in Ryan and his sister Rachel, 9, in the wheelchair, at The Resource Exchange's Breaktime at the UCCS Family Development Center Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. The event allowed parents of developmentally disabled children to have an evening out together. The Morgans said it hard to find sitters that will accept both a special-needs child and a normal child. Photo by The Gazette, Christian Murdock 

Mike and Stefanie Morgan have had exactly one date in the past year, so they were thrilled for a Break Time on Saturday night.

Break Time is a program by The Resource Exchange that offers a night out to parents of children with developmental disabilities. The program had been suspended for more than a year because of lack of funds, but with help from the Pikes Peak United Way, it’s back.

“We can’t call the teenager down the street to watch (Rachel), because she has feeding through the tube and possibly seizures,” Stefanie Morgan said.

Her daughter Rachel, 9, has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, doesn’t speak and is blind. Finding someone to watch Rachel and her 3-year-old brother, Ryan, is no easy task.

“This is huge for us,” Mike Morgan said of their five hours of freedom.

Break Time features professionals from The Resource Exchange, a nurse, a behavioral specialist and college education majors who give one-on-one attention to special-needs kids.

Twenty-five children showed up for Saturday’s Break Time, 12 with disabilities and 13 siblings, ranging in age from 20 months to 18 years. It was at the Family Development Center at UCCS.

Kristy Wilbanks, programs director for The Resource Exchange, said Break Time will be held monthly through August.

“This is so exciting. Parents, honestly, are just desperate for a break,” said Marsha Unruh, family support coordinator for The Resource Exchange.  “When you have a child who, say, is in a wheelchair and is nonverbal, it’s exhausting. Tonight they can go to dinner, a movie, take a nap.”

Some of the education students looked wide-eyed as they read the needs of the child they would tend.

“They’ll learn to work together as a team pretty quickly,” Unruh said. “It’s excellent training for a teacher.”

Parents showed up promptly for their ticket to freedom, and the children launched into an evening of Olympic-themed crafts, play time and dinner.

Rebecca Freeland dropped off five children, including special-needs child Taylor, 10. Her big night out was to be spent moving into a more affordable house, without the kids around to make messes.

“I’m so exciting,” she joked.

Teresa and Kirk Von Loh planned to go out to dinner and then watch the Olympics. Their 10-year-old Emily has a chromosomal disorder, they said, and while she has plenty of love to give, she doesn’t have much of an attention span.

“We’re excited to not have to eat in 20 minutes,” Teresa Von Loh said.

Then Emily bolted for the playground, and her parents bolted for the car.

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