Parents and family members of people with disabilities and special needs can make an important difference by serving as active advocates for their loved ones’ growth, learning and acceptance in the community.

Numerous organizations offer help and guidance for parents and family members working their way through the maze of caring for people with special needs. Several are coordinated through the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council.

Louisiana Citizens for Action Now is a statewide grass-roots network that promotes service systems that support people with disabilities who are living in their own homes. LaCAN has specifically advocated for implementation of Louisiana’s Community and Family Support System Plan

Louisiana Together Educating All Children is a statewide grass-roots network promoting appropriate, inclusive education for all students. The organization strives to keep parents, educators, the general public and state leadership informed and supportive of research-based and effective practices that should be used appropriately for each student.

Partners in Policymaking is a national leadership training program for people with developmental disabilities and parents of young children with developmental disabilities. Attendees agree to attend six monthly training sessions, held in Baton Rouge, beginning in January each year.

Disaster volunteers are an integral part of any disaster emergency relief program after disaster strikes. Volunteers work in emergency shelters helping to coordinate services for the elderly and people with disabilities.

The LADDC was established in 1971 following the passage of the federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act. Members are appointed by the governor to develop and implement a five-year plan to address needs of residents of Louisiana with disabilities and special needs.

For information about applying to serve on the LADDC or any of the above-mentioned groups, visit www.laddc.org or call (800) 450-8108, or Families Helping Families of Southeast Louisiana at (504) 943-0343, or Families Helping Families of Jefferson at (504) 888-9111.

Applications are accepted year-round.

The Jefferson Parish Regional Advisory Committee for Developmental Disabilities has a vacancy for a parent of a child with a developmental disability or a person with a developmental disability. To learn more about the Jefferson Parish RAC, contact Mary Jacob at (504) 888-9111 or mjacob@fhfjefferson.org.

Jane Pic Adams is the mother of an adult daughter with Down syndrome and writes about disability issues. Email her at jpa.article @gmail.com.