Sunday, May 20, 2012

Volunteers of America

As a parent of a special needs child one of the biggest concerns is always what’s going to happen to them when they get older. As we age we realize that we will not always be around for our children. This is a concern for all parents, but if you have a special needs child you really begin to get scared. If you have an autistic child who is high functioning you tend to tell yourself that your child would be okay on their own, but if they are more severe on the spectrum you know that they will need assistance for the rest of their lives. Either way there is uncertainty. This is where one state program can help to ease this anxiety. The OK-AIM program works to make sure that adults with special needs are taken care of, and they are currently in need of volunteers.

According to the website ( Oklahoma Advocates Involved in Monitoring (OK-AIM) was “created by the State of Oklahoma to ensure that people with developmental disabilities live quality lives and receive the best possible community-based residential services.”

The backbone of the program is the group of volunteers that monitor the homes of individuals in need. According to Susan Reed, Area III Field Coordinator, the program is in need of more help. One of the main regions of concern is the Poteau area, but they can use assistance throughout the state.

So you may ask yourself what these volunteers do. According to the site they visit homes of people in their area with developmental disabilities to observe the quality of life inside the residence. They then give the information to the OK-AIM staff so they can make the proper adjustments for the residents.

During a home visit, a team of two volunteer monitors will evaluate four distinct areas:

1. Regard for the Individual

2. Personal Growth

3. Staff

4. Physical Setting

Written responses are sent to volunteers so they know when unsatisfactory items they may have reported are corrected, improved, or changed. This lets the volunteer know that what they are doing is truly helping improve a person’s way of life.

Individuals with developmental disabilities, members of their families, and interested Oklahomans are welcome and encouraged to enroll as OK-AIM volunteers. Volunteers receive training and materials that prepare them to make monitoring visits.

This is important for the individuals out there without families to care for them. They have nobody else to make sure they are getting the proper services they need.

This is a great program for anyone who enjoys working with individuals with disabilities. You also get the chance to make new friends in areas you may not have thought of before. If you become part of this great program you will have a coordinator to help you with the process. Reed said that all travel is reimbursed as well as some meal expenses. There are no degree requirements to become a volunteer.

One volunteer shared the following story on the website:

“We were visiting a young man who proudly lived in his own apartment. While we were there we asked him about smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. He showed us the fire extinguisher in his kitchen but when we tested his smoke alarm it didn't work. I decided to check the batteries, and upon looking, found there weren't any in the detector. He said that he had taken them out for his remote control car and forgot to get more. The other monitor and I went to the store and purchased some new batteries and put them in the alarm for him. He hugged us both and said "Now I can sleep tonight". We both laughed and left with happy hearts knowing that he was safe and that we had a life-long friend. To this day whenever he sees us, he comes and gives us a hug and reminds us of the time we bought him batteries for his smoke alarm.”

There is a very good video at that explains the program with help from volunteers.

Volunteers are needed in all parts of the state to make monitoring visits. For information, e-mail OK-AIM at or call the OK-AIM Coordinator Susan Reed at 877-255-1196.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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