St. Francis family activity center helps kids with special needs connect

Parents of kids with special needs know it can be hard to find the support you need. But there is one place kids and families can connect.

The Family Activity Center at St Francis Children's Center opened it's doors two years ago. It provides mostly free services to children with special needs, as well as their siblings and parents. 

Events like Scatter and Chatter, Open Play, and Super Saturdays let parents network with one another while the children learn and play. Family Activity Center Coordinator Jennifer Drechler says there's no other place in Milwaukee that has something like this for children with special needs. 

The center gives families with children who have autism, down syndrome, and developmental delays a place to just be themselves. 

 "They are tired of explaining their child, or their child's behavior, or why their child looks the way they do. They can come in and just be a parent of a normal neurotypical child," said Drechler. 

Scatter and Chatter is a free event for families and children 6 years and younger to come, play and just connect with one another. Glenn Schumann says both he and his wife have been bringing their son Henry to the center for a little over a year. Today, Henry came to play and celebrate his birthday. 

"The people are extraordinary-AWWW, and now he's getting his cake for his second birthday," said Schumann. 

Santiago is another adorable little two-year-old who loves to get into everything. His mother Nancy Alvia says the last year they've been coming to the center has been absolutely wonderful. 

"We feel like a family, where our kids like to come and they like to play," said Alvia," [Santiago] learns how to play with other kids, how to, he tends to copy other kids, so it's awesome."

The center's help expands past just teaching pre-kindergarten and younger children. Starting this summer another family activity the center will offer is a social engagement club for kids eight to twelve years old with special needs.  

 "Through talking with families and talking with other agencies around Milwaukee County, that there's very little for that age group to utilize in the summer and in the school year," explains Drechler. 

That age group is difficult sometimes to cater to, which is why there is such a lack of activities for them. But Drechler says the FAC is up to the challenge. Go to their website for a full list of activities and other helpful aids at St Francies Children's Center.

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