"It is a real shuffle to be able to work full-time [while] my husband works full-time and to have a child with special needs." - Kathy Hauck, inside postal worker
Kathy is a postal worker in Wainwright, Alberta whose son is among the 6 to 10 percent of children with special needs in Canada and Québec. Ian is 10 years old and has Down's syndrome. His complicated medical history limits his ability to communicate.
Through the CUPW Special Needs Project, Ian’s family was able to hire a sign language teacher to alleviate some of the frustrations they were having trying to communicate with Ian.
"[The interpreter] taught all three of my children sign language," says Kathy. "It was absolutely wonderful, 'cause my children were communicating. But the difference in [Ian], it was just night and day."
The Special Needs Project provides financial help for child care and related services. The aim is to reduce stress on parents and provide opportunities for children to develop their skills and spend time in positive learning relationships with other children and adults.
Originally a summer pilot, the Special Needs Project quickly morphed into a permanent project to help ease the financial and emotional stresses of CUPW families who have children with special needs. The project has provided support to over 1,500 members. It now also covers members of the Union of Postal Communications Employees (UPCE) and CUPW’s Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers.
CUPW celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Special Needs Project in 2016.
CUPW parents contact the Special Needs Project staff in Baddeck, Nova Scotia through a toll-free number (1-800-840-5465). Project staff help parents develop an appropriate plan for their child, find educational and resource materials, and link up with groups working in the disability network.
Parents receive financial assistance to bring their child care costs more in line with those of other members. They can also receive a newsletter, Member-to-Member Connection, which helps parents communicate with each other. Members write small "want ads" with ideas to share or offer others, or requesting help.