Room for Everyone

by / Comments Off on Room for Everyone / 298 View / March 9, 2015

Idaho Parents Unlimited Provides Resources to Parents of Children with Disabilities

Story by Liza Long, Photography by Pete Grady

 

The first thing you notice when you walk into Idaho Parents Unlimited’s new space on Emerald Street is the array of colorful child-sized custom puppets. Some have disabilities; some don’t, and some have hidden disabilities like autism or mental illness. The puppets, created by the Pacer Center in Minnesota, are part of IPUL’s outreach mission to teach children in kindergarten through third grade about inclusiveness.

That sense of inclusion—of something for everyone—is what drives IPUL, a statewide organization founded in 1985 to “support, empower, educate, and advocate to enhance the quality of life for Idahoans with disabilities and their families.” It’s also something that IPUL Executive Director Angela Lindig lives with every day. As the parent of three teenagers who all have disabilities, Lindig knows firsthand just how hard it can be for parents to navigate systems of care.

“What sets us apart is that we are a family-led organization,” she told me as she gave me a tour of the organization’s new light and bright space. “We cover the spectrum for children with disabilities from birth to age 26, helping families with education, healthcare, and the arts.”

The new location is close to healthcare providers and just a block away from Disability Rights Idaho. It features several offices, a conference room, and a large central space where parents can attend lectures and training workshops or where children can participate in arts programming directed by Heather Kirk. “The arts are complementary to our mission,” Lindig explained. “Art provides an avenue to inclusion for students with disabilities.”

The sign that welcomes guests to IPUL is one example of an inclusive art project. Designed as part of an employment pilot program, the sign was created by youth with disabilities.

Lindig’s staff provides an average of 50 training workshops across the state for parents each year, helping them to understand things like IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and how to connect with local resources or apply for Social Security benefits. “We walk you through the process,” Lindig said. “Parent and professional collaboration is critical to success for the child.”

One concern for families is the transition to adulthood. Lindig partners with organizations around Idaho to ensure that IPUL can provide the most accurate, up-to-date information possible, whether it affects children locally or nationally. “Parenting is hard for any of us,” Lindig said. “Navigating these complex systems of health and education while parenting a child with complex needs is very challenging. Often parents don’t know that there is help. We remove as many barriers as possible. Our services are free to families.”

That personal touch has helped thousands of families in Idaho through the 30 years of IPUL’s existence—and Lindig and her staff hope to help thousands more. “We want people to know that we are here for them,” Lindig said. “We are parents too. We understand. And we want to help.”

For more information about IPUL’s training workshops, visit www.ipulidaho.org or call (208) 342-5884.
Idaho Parents Unlimited’s new offices are located at 4619 W Emerald St, Boise, ID 83706