PMFRC hosts 3rd annual Special Needs Forum

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre (PMFRC) is reaching out to families with children with special needs.

The PMFRC hosted its third annual Special Needs Forum to find out what is needed from them to better help exceptional military families in the community.

“We want to hear from you,” said PMFRC Executive Director Claudia Beswick. “We want to know what your challenges are and how we can support you better.”

The Oct. 19 forum also included many community partners such as Autism Ontario, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS), Developmental Services (Family and Children’s Services of Renfrew County), Garrison Petawawa, the Phoenix Centre for Children and Families, and the Renfrew County District School Board. Representatives answered questions and provided information on resources available in the community. 

They often work together “to provide the best services we can to you,” said Beswick.

A few months ago, the PMFRC received an $8,000 grant from True Patriot Love. It was earmarked for a mobile sensory room and to purchase resources for a lending library. The portable sensory rooms were unveilied at the event, showcasing how space and costs are not an issue.

“We know that there is a need for it in the community,” said Beswick.

It can be very expensive to have a child with special needs.

These exceptional children often require specialized tools and equipment that aren’t covered by typical insurance, whether it is feeding tubes, a special pair of shoes, a computer program or a quiet place to calm down.

“You often don’t have those dollars in your back pocket because there are other life events happening,” said PMFRC Crisis Intervention Coordinator Chris Quigley.

In Ontario, the cost to have a child assessed for special needs often must be paid for by the parents or guardians. Organizations like Support Our Troops can help mitigate those costs by providing a $1,000 grant for assessment fees as well as a $1,000 grant for “other”. 

“That could be for anything under the sun,” said Quigley, adding the grants are per child, not per family.

Part of her job is to help families fill out applications for these grants. She can only recall one family whose request was initially denied.

The only challenge is the timeline; Support Our Troops can be very helpful as long as a family isn’t looking for instant help.

“It takes time to get through the application process,” Quigley admitted, pointing out that she can help families word the applications correctly.

As well as the opportunity to talk directly with service providers and learn more about services in the area, families were given binders with resources and information sheets to fill out. Compiling a child’s medical details can help make care easier and more streamlined.

The PMFRC also hosts several programs to help children with special needs and their families. The newly hired Special Needs Inclusion Programmer Amy MacKenzie recommended the Exceptional Families Network in particular as this monthly meeting allows people to share their experiences with other parents while connecting, sharing information and making friendships.

For more information on programs, please call the Special Needs Inclusion Programmer Amy MacKenzie at (613) 687-7587 ext. 3224 or send an email to