Resources for Families

As families look beyond their child's 3rd birthday, they often feel a need to expand their resource and support network. Many parents of young children with special needs find it helpful to reach out to others for support or information. Some parents feel that they can never find enough information; others feel overwhelmed by all of the information that is available. This resource section is a starting point to help you find other sources for information and support.

When your child turns 3 you may want to expand your support network. Sharing your questions and concerns with new people can be difficult at first. Take the time to look for one source of information or one support group until you find what works for you. Keep a list of the resources that provide you with the best support. Write down the names of all of the helpful people you meet along the way in an address book or in this workbook

Parents of young children with special needs find that networking becomes an important part of their lives. Through your resource and support networks, you will have opportunities to learn from other parents and share your knowledge and insights with others.


Some parents find that the most helpful information they gather comes from talking with other parents that understand the questions, thoughts and feelings that come with entering a new school or early childhood program. Networking with other parents can help you to feel that you are not alone. Other parents can offer new ideas or strategies to try. Your parent liaison or service coordinator can help you connect with parents in your area.

Parent Groups

Many parent groups meet on a regular basis to discuss topics related to parenting young children, special needs information, or special education. Some parent groups are specific to a disability, others are more broad-based. Some parent groups are local, regional or state-wide while others are based in a school district or special education cooperative. You can find out about parent groups through your parent liaison, service coordinator, school district or other parents.

The Internet

Websites can be a useful place to turn for information. Many parent groups and support and advocacy organizations have websites. By searching under a specific topic or disability, you can find several web-based sources of information. You can also find links to websites by visiting some of the starting points given in this section.


  • Ask other parents where they have found valuable resources.
  • Be careful with information you find on websites.
  • Cross-reference what you find on a website with other sources.
  • Go to recommended websites for accurate information.

Good Starting Points

Illinois State Board of Education

The parent section of the ISBE website listed under special education offers information for parents on topics including early childhood special education; parent training; projects that work with parents such as Project CHOICES and STAR NET; and the Parent Training and Information Centers: Designs for Change, Family Matters, and Family Resource Center on Disabilities.

You can also download a copy of A Parent's Guide: The Educational Rights of Students With Disabilities in English and Spanish.

Illinois Department of Human Services

The website provides information about IDHS programs for persons with developmental disabilities, mental illness, or substance abuse problems and their families. Information for families with young children include resources on disability and medical services, child care, financial assistance and programs that offer assistance to low-income families.

Illinois Early Learning Project

Illinois Early Learning Project is a source of evidence-based, reliable information on early care and education for parents, caregivers and teachers of young children. The website offers printable tip sheets for caregivers and parents; frequently asked questions pages; a customized question answering service; a statewide calendar of events for parents and caregivers; an easy-to-use database of links to "the best of the Web" on topics related to early care and education; and periodic online chats.

Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse

The Clearinghouse website offers information on health, education, disability and developmental concerns about your children through a vast collection of books, journals, videos/DVDs, CD-ROMs, special publications and brochures.

Illinois Life Span Project

Illinois Life Span is a statewide information, referral and advocacy resource for people with developmental disabilities and their families. The Advocacy Toolbox section of the website includes information on early intervention, early childhood special education, government benefit programs, advocacy training, support groups, recreation and leisure providers and programs, assistive technology, respite services and special needs future planning among other topics. Toy resources for children with special needs are also on the website.

Illinois Parents

Illinois Parents links parents and those who work with families to local programs, services and community agencies. Illinois Parents collects and shares information about parenting classes, library services, support groups and other services for parents statewide.

Family Village Project

The Family Village is a website for children and adults with disabilities, their families, and their friends and allies. Family Village brings together thousands of online resources in an organized, easy-to-use directory. The centerpiece of Family Village is the library, where visitors can find information on over 300 diagnoses. Visitors can also learn about assistive technology, legal rights and legislation, special education, leisure activities and much more. A large listing of disability-specific support organizations is also available.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities

NICHCY serves the nation as the central source of information on disabilities in children. This extensive web resource offers many useful and informative publications on many topics of importance to families that have children with special needs. Information is available in English and Spanish.

You can also find resources through:

  • Park district and special recreation organizations
  • Local libraries
  • Pediatric medical centers, hospitals and therapy
  • centers
  • Bookstores