Caring for a child with special needs comes with many challenges which are hard to face alone.
Hayley Nimmo knows this from personal experience. Five years ago when she went searching for a support group to provide help and comfort for her family and her two-year-old son with special needs, she left feeling depressed and unsupported.
This inspired her to start the Fraser Valley FiT Network Society (Keeping Families in Touch), a volunteer- run non-profit support group that provides education and events for families with children that have special needs.
Now after four years of delivering care to their members, they are opening their doors to the public for a large educational fair.
The Alternative Therapy Fair, being held on May 2, will provide families with children who have special needs, learning difficulties, or simply struggle at school an opportunity to meet with therapists and wellness consultants for free.
A total of 30 vendors will be set up in the gymnasium at R.E. Mountain Secondary, including behaviour consultants and therapists, music therapists, naturopaths, physical therapists, visual therapists and more.
According to Nimmo, consultations with just one of these therapists can often cost up to $100. This event is completely free and open to all members of the FiT Network and the public.
“Even if your child has a learning disability or a suspected learning challenge they are welcome to attend,” Nimmo said. “The biggest thing about the FiT Network that motivated me when I started it is that I wanted a place where families could come and find comfort, find motivation and find encouragement. For a lot of families who have kids that are not necessarily diagnosed with special needs but could really benefit from these therapies, this is a great place to come.”
“For our members it is often very difficult to have the courage to get out in the community. Our children’s needs are very diverse and stimulations and experiences can put them over the edge and cause them to have eradicate behaviour,” Nimmo said.
“A lot of people just feel isolated and they don’t go out. “Some of our kids have invisible disabilities, so you get a lot of looks from people when your child is acting out in public,” said Nimmo. “So the FiT Network takes over community places to hold our functions. It’s just great.”
The FiT Network hosts a variety of social and educational events for its members, including monthly networking meetings with guest speakers, casual coffee nights for parents to socialize and family fun events such as picnics and dances.
Since its beginning, the FiT Network has helped hundreds of people in situations like Nimmo’s.
When her son Beckem was born in 2005, he was given only three weeks to live. He has many disabilities, including an undiagnosed neuromuscular disorder, severe scoliosis, global developmental delay and autism. Despite his challenges, Nimmo says his incredible spirit never ceases to amaze and inspire her.
“He inspired the entire FiT Network. Prior to me having a child with special needs, I was very ignorant of this community because they frightened me, honestly. Without Beckem the FiT Network would have never existed and it has helped so many.
“Ignorance really is bliss, and once I had a child with special needs it really did open up my world. You really do notice a difference with the group of families that come together. Although there are some tears in there they always tend to leave feeling good and feeling energetic. There’s always more laughter than there are tears. It’s a beautiful thing to be part of.”
The Alternative Therapy Fair is on Wednesday, May 2 from 7 to 9 p.m. at R.E. Mountain Secondary, 7755 202A St. Admission is free. For more information visit www.fitnetworksociety.com.