Have more questions? Need answers? Dial 2-1-1 or 954-537-0211 and ask to speak to a Special Needs Counselor. FREE! We are here to help you!


Can you tell me more about 2-1-1 Special Needs Connections?

The Children’s Service’s Council of Broward contracts with 2-1-1 First Call For Help to provide a specialized hotline service for children ages 0-22 with physical disabilities such as vision impairments and hearing disabilities and developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and Intellectual Disabilities. Other disabilities we specialize in are: Speech / Language Impairments, Spina Bifida, Developmental Delays, and Traumatic Brain Injury. We are prepared to answer any question and/or help you find the right resources today!

The Hotline is available Monday through Friday from 8:00am-8:00pm. Callers needing assistance at other times will receive a call back by a Special Needs Counselor on the following business day. Please leave a message with one of the 24/7 Helpline Counselors.

Parents are also invited to share their insider knowledge of resources and providers who have shown excellence in their services for children with Special Needs. Feel welcome to contact us.

How do I locate information about my child’s rights in the education system?

Parents seeking information and referrals can always contact 2-1-1 First Call For Help for this information as well. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law enacted in 1990 and reauthorized in 1997. It is designed to protect the rights of students with disabilities by ensuring that everyone receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE), regardless of ability. Furthermore, IDEA strives not only to grant equal access to students with disabilities, but also to provide additional special education services and procedural safeguards.

Special education services are individualized to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities and are provided in the least restrictive environment. Special education may include individual or small group instruction, curriculum or teaching modifications, assistive technology, transition services and other specialized services such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

These services are provided in accordance with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is specifically tailored to the unique needs of each enrolled student. IDEA also grants increased parental participation and protection for students. Children between the ages of 3 and 21, who meet the eligibility criteria in one of thirteen qualifying disabilities and who require special education services because of the disability can qualify for services under IDEA.

Please see the following websites for more information:

I’ve heard of a program called “Fiddlers” – What is that?

FDLRS stands for the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System. They provide diagnostic and instructional support services to district exceptional student education (ESE) programs and families of students with exceptionalities statewide. Within FDLRS there is a program called Child Find, which works in coordination with the school district, to locate children who are potentially eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Child Find links them with needed services. FDLRS Child Find provides the following services:

  • Promoting general public awareness of programs and services available for children and youth who have or at risk of developing disabilities.
  • Assisting with screening children and youth to determine the need for formal evaluation
  • Helping hard-to-reach populations and potential referral sources to know about child find services serves as a central point of information by receiving referrals, providing information, and directing inquiries to appropriate service providers
  • Assisting service providers with evaluation of potentially eligible children and youth, through brokering, coordination, training and support
  • Facilitating service planning and initiation through tracking potentially eligible children and youth and providing service coordination as they progress through the continuum from identification to placement.

Please see the following website for more information:

Have other questions? Need answers? Dial 2-1-1 or 954-537-0211


How do I obtain financial assistance for child care for my child with special needs?

We may be able to help! Dial 2-1-1. Basic eligibility is for children younger than six years of age, that have an IEP or IFSP who live in Broward County. To review if you meet all the requirements and to learn more, visit the link, HERE. 

My child was diagnosed with conduct disorder and ADHD. Are they served by the Special Needs Connections?

Call us! The Children’s Mental Health INFOLine at 2-1-1 can assist you. 2-1-1 Care Coordinators can help you find resources for most disabilities and behavioral needs. The Special Needs Program focuses on children ages 0-22 with developmental disabilities (such as Autism Spectrum, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and individuals diagnosed with an Intellectual Disability) or children with a visual / auditory disability such as a vision, deaf or hard of hearing. 

2-1-1 offers a 24-hour helpline and a Helpline Counselor will provide you with specialized information on programs and resources available in Broward County for mental health and other needs. 

My child is enrolled in a private school. What does the law say about their student rights?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 requires every state to have in effect policies and procedures to ensure a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for all students with disabilities. School districts have obligations to prenatally placed private school students with disabilities under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA Part B). IDEA Part B can provide benefits to students with disabilities who are placed by their parents in private schools. At the same time, it does not impose requirements on private schools.

Please see the following website for more information:

What is Medicaid-Waiver?

Medicaid-Waiver provides home and community-based supports and services to eligible persons with developmental disabilities living at home or in a home-like setting, as an alternative to living in an Intermediate Care Facility for the Developmentally Disabled. It only serves six very specific disabilities: Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, a diagnosis of Intellectual Disability  (with an IQ 70 or below), Prader Willie Syndrome, and Spina Bifida. Typically there is a long waiting list for these services that can take years but exceptions for those in crisis can be made on a case-by-case basis. If your son or daughter has one of the six disabilities listed above, consider calling 2-1-1 Broward for further details to get in touch with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities who coordinates these services in our community.

Please see the following website for more information:


How can I get a case manager to help me?

2-1-1 Broward has referrals that may help you as well as a new partnership to assist you in finding supports for Broward residents. If you are new to the system of care, needing help with navigating services in our community or have other issues you are unable to find help with for your child, you may be eligible for Special Needs Case Management. Contact the helpline and speak to a Special Needs Counselor for assistance.

I’ve heard of Special Needs Trusts. Where are they and how can I learn more?

Call 2-1-1 and ask for a Special Needs Counselor for more details and referrals! A Special Needs Trust provides a set of instructions for managing money set aside to help a person with a disability. A typical Trust is designed to leave benefits to an individual. Special Needs Trusts (also called “Supplemental Needs Trusts”) are Trust instruments designed to preserve SSI, Medicaid and other public benefits when one of four common events occur:

  • A disabled child (who is receiving public benefits) receives an inheritance
  • A disabled child (who is receiving public benefits) receives proceeds from a personal injury settlement or suit
  • A disabled adult in a skilled nursing facility (who is receiving public benefits) receives an inheritance
  • A disabled adult in a skilled nursing facility (who is receiving public benefits) receives proceeds from a personal injury settlement or suit

In all of the above situations, the receipt of these proceeds will mean the discontinuation of those benefits, unless proper planning is implemented. A Special Needs Trust is specifically designed to work for the benefit of the person with a disability. A Special Needs Trust is created for the supplemental care of the person with the disability. These Trusts (or SNTs) preserve government benefit eligibility and leave assets that will meet the supplemental needs of the person with a disability that go beyond food, shelter, and clothing and the medical and long-term supports and services of Medicaid. A Special Needs Trust is managed by a person other than the disabled beneficiary. Unlike many other types of Trusts, the U.S. Congress has created a unique Federal law permitting the use of Special Needs Trusts. Special Needs Trusts are valid throughout the country but laws may vary from state to state.

Please see the following websites for more information:

I’ve heard of Transistion Services and my teenage child needs help preparing for the world of work. What options do I have and where can I learn more about transition services and Transition Individualized Education Plans (TIEP)?

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) defines transition services as a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability focused on improving the academic and functional achievement to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities. While the transition plan for a student receiving special education services is designed to prepare them for life after high school, transition can start when a child enters preschool. The plan is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences and interests. [602(34)(B)]. Transition planning for students with disabilities spans the school, work and community settings. Transition should be a smooth flow from one place or condition to another. The transition planning process occurs over a period of several years and involves planning, goal setting, instruction, services, and activities designed to make that more successful.Transition planning should take place for any student with disabilities who has an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Transition planning should involve the student, the family, school staff, agency staff, and others identified by the Transition IEP team. Parents and Guardians will be asked to help write a Transition IEP (TIEP) when a student is 14 years old, and at least once every 12 months after that. The process of developing a Transition IEP is different than the process of developing a regular IEP and include a coordinated set of services that help students prepare for post-school activities such as:

  • Continuing and Adult Education – college, university, pursuit of personal interests, job skill training and placement.
  • Vocational Training – Trade or Technical School, On-the-Job Training Programs, Apprenticeships, Job Shadowing, Job Sampling.
  • Integrated Employment – including supported employment.
  • Adult Services (from various agencies) – Supervised settings for work and learning for adults.
  • Independent Living – includes training in handling money, travel training, shopping for food and other necessities, and managing free time
  • Community Participation – religious activities, volunteering, athletics/recreation

For additional information, please contact the ESE Department at your child’s school or contact 2-1-1 (954) 537-0211 or the District ESE Office at (754) 321-2230.

Please see the following websites for more information:
http://bcps-esls.com/html/transition_services.php (Referenced Above)

I’ve heard the expression “Person-First Language”. Where can I learn more?

Person first language means putting the person before their disability. (As an example: changing the phrase “an autistic child” to the more appropriate statement being “a child with autism”. Notice the “child” or person comes first in the statement). The following are guidelines for talking about disability:The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws work to assure that people with disabilities have the same basic rights as people without disabilities. Some things have been slow to change; namely, attitudes and perceptions about people with disabilities. Ignorance and discrimination can be serious impediments to achieving integration, productivity, and independence for people with disabilities.

The use of outdated language and words to describe people with disabilities contribute to the perpetuation of old stereotypes. If public opinion about people with disabilities is to be brought up to date, the public needs to hear and learn to use appropriate language. It is especially important for public speakers, the media, elected officials, and others in leadership positions to portray people with disabilities sensitively and realistically. This is a general guide to using descriptive words and language when talking to or concerning people with disabilities.

A Helpful Guide to Using Appropriate Language: Here are some suggestions.

  • Do not refer to a person’s disability unless it is relevant to the conversation.
  • When referring to a person’s disability, try to use “people first” language. In other words, when necessary, it is more appropriate to say “a person with a disability” rather than “a disabled person.” Another example would be saying “a child who has autism” rather than “an autistic child.”
  • Use “disability” rather than “handicap” to refer to a person’s disability. It is okay to say that a person is handicapped by obstacles, such as architectural barriers or the attitudes of ignorant or insensitive people.
  • Never use “cripple/crippled” in any reference of disability.
  • Avoid referring to people with disabilities as “the disabled, the blind, the epileptics, the retarded, a quadriplegic,” etc. Descriptive terms should be used as adjectives, not as nouns.
  • Avoid negative or sensational descriptions of a person’s disability. Avoid saying “suffers from,” “is a victim of,” or “is afflicted with.” Don’t refer to people with disabilities as “patients” unless they are receiving treatment in a medical facility. Never say “invalid.” These portrayals elicit unwanted sympathy, or worse, pity toward individuals with disabilities. Respect and acceptance is what people with disabilities would rather have.
  • Don’t portray people with disabilities as overly courageous, brave, special, or superhuman. This implies that it is unusual for people with disabilities to have talents or skills.
  • Don’t use “normal” to describe people who don’t have disabilities. It is better to say “people without disabilities” or “typical” if necessary to make comparisons.
  • Avoid saying phrases like “wheelchair-bound” or “confined to a wheelchair.” People who use mobility or adaptive equipment and wheelchairs are afforded freedom and access that otherwise would be denied to them and aren’t bound to these devices.
  • Never assume that a person with a communication disorder (speech impediment, hearing loss, motor impairment) also has a cognitive disability. (Also, please note some individuals with a cognitive disability can speak very well!).
What is Help Me Grow and where does 2-1-1 Special Needs Connections fit in?

Help me Grow (HMG) provides a Centralized Telephone Access Point for connecting children and their families to services and care coordination.

Like the 2-1-1 Special Needs Connection, our call center serves as the “go-to” place for family members, child health care providers, and other professionals seeking information, support, and referrals for children. Telephone services have proven to be an effective single point of access to community resources. They are cost-effective, easy to promote, efficient in identifying needs, and effective in supporting callers and triaging to appropriate services.

To ensure that callers feel safe, respected, and heard, the call center must be adequately staffed with individuals who are trained in telephone casework and cultural sensitivity, and have backgrounds in child development. As part of their role, call center staff members provide education and support to families around specific developmental or behavioral concerns or questions, which include:

  • Discussing various strategies the families may want to try;
  • Helping families understand what is typical for a child at a given age
  • Exploring what has been tried before and what has and has not worked
  • Mailing information to families on specific topics
  • Having families enroll their children in a developmental monitoring program, such as the Ages and Stages Child Monitoring Program
  • Providing referrals to parenting and support programs
  • Providing follow-up and advocating for families as needed
What is the plan for the future of children with Special Needs in Broward?

The Children’s Services Council of Broward analyzes the system of care and identify gaps in services for children with Special Needs. One recommendation from this analysis was the need to create a single source of information and referral to enable family members and providers be linked to local health education and social service agencies. From this initiative, the 2-1-1 Special Needs Connections was born. Effective October 1st, 2006, this comprehensive service is accessible simply by dialing 2-1-1, still serving thousands of families in Broward. Currently, the Special Needs Advisory Coalition (SNAC) helps steer programs and services for youth with special needs in our community.

For more information on the Children’s Services Council and SNAC, please click the link below:

The Special Needs Program Manager and Outreach Specialist can present to your organization on the topic of Disability Etiquette and the services of 2-1-1 Broward. To schedule an appointment, please contact the 2-1-1 Broward Administration Office: 954-390-0493 

Have other questions? Need answers? Dial 2-1-1 or 954-537-0211