Category: Family

Holiday Resources 2023

The holidays can be a hard time for families and people with disabilities.

INDEX has an updated Holiday Resources 2023 fact sheet. You can find holiday help in Massachusetts. Looking for food and food pantries? Want a place to go for a Thanksgiving or holiday dinner with others? Thinking about how you can get toys and gifts for children?

Resources are for:

* Food/Meals

* Toys & Gifts

* Financial Help

* Holiday Programs

Holiday Resources 2023

Summer Recreation

Summer is here! Time to enjoy the warmer weather and have fun.

Here are some programs and places to enjoy this summer.

Accessible Cape Cod 

Wheelchair accessible beaches on Cape Cod.

Accessible Pools & Spray Decks 

Outdoor swimming pool lifts are available at all of the State Parks and Recreation Department’s 20 swimming pools. The pools are free. Contact pool directly for information about other site factors affecting accessibility.

Access Recreation New England

Connecting people with disabilities to accessible recreation opportunities

Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

Offers nine miles of walking trails guiding through a variety of field, woodland, and wetland habitats. A quarter-mile, handicap accessible trail and boardwalk along the bank of Indian Brook in Natick. Universally accessible facilities: Nature Center, Restrooms, All Persons Trail.

Mass Dept of Conservation & Recreational Universal Access Program

Provides outdoor recreation opportunities in Massachusetts State Parks for visitors of all abilities. Accessibility to Massachusetts State Parks is achieved through site improvements, specialized adaptive recreation equipment, and accessible recreation programs.

Piers Park Adaptive Sailing

Provides programs for disabled youth and adults aboard 23-foot sonar sailboats on a no charge basis. Serves those with amputations, paralysis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, autism, hearing impaired, sight impaired, intellectual disabilities and other disabilities. Successfully integrates youth with disabilities into summer youth sailing programs.

Smile Mass Local Beach Wheelchair Locations

Smile Mass has both fresh and saltwater beach wheelchairs available across the state. Wheelchair users can access beaches and enjoy the water.

Spaulding Adaptive Sports

Offers adaptive sports and recreation activities in Boston, Cape Cod and the North Shore.  Includes wheelchair tennis, hand cycling, adaptive rowing, waterskiing or windsurfing.

Click on the links for more info. You can go to our Recreation Opportunities for People with Disabilities fact sheet to find more choices for people of all ages, abilities and skill levels.


Renew your MassHealth Coverage

INDEX wants to remind people that MassHealth renewal time is here. Renewal is important for people with disabilities in Massachusetts who have MassHealth.

DDS supported individuals with MassHealth may need extra help with their renewals.

MassHealth is here to help renew your MassHealth coverage!

Learn about the MassHealth renewal process and what it means for you.

Did you or the head of your household recently receive a notice from MassHealth saying that you need to renew your coverage, or that you have been automatically renewed?

That’s because every year, MassHealth reviews members to make sure they still qualify for coverage through MassHealth, the Health Safety Net, or Children’s Medical Security Plan.

If you received a notice saying you must renew, please respond by the due date listed in your renewal notice or your benefits might decrease or end.

Please be sure to contact MassHealth with any updates to your

  • address, phone number, email, income, or
  • other members in your household within 10 days of the change.

You can renew:

  • Online
  • By phone
  • By mail
  • By fax
  • In person

How to renew your MassHealth coverage: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/renew-your-masshealth-coverage

Christmas of Caring at First Congregational Church (FCC) Aims to Help Ease Medical Debt

Rev. Josh Fitterling and FCC Worcester will be partner with the nonprofit organization RIP Medical Debt to forgive medical debts for individuals in Worcester County and across Massachusetts.

FCC Worcester is currently taking donations for RIP Medical Debt and planning the Christmas of Caring fundraiser for Dec. 11, which will include a Christmas carol singalong and a chance auction. According to Fitterling, the church will also donate collection money from its Christmas Eve service to RIP Medical Debt this year.

According to Daniel Lempert, vice president of communications at RIP Medical Debt, the organization is a New York-based nonprofit that uses donations to buy and then forgive medical debt across the United States. It was founded in 2014 by two former debt collections executives who chose to use their knowledge of the industry to forgive, rather than collect, individuals’ debts.

Read full Worcester Telegram article.

Supporting Siblings of Autistic Children with Aggressive Behaviors

Emily Rubin, Director of the UMass Chan Medical School Shriver Center’s Sibling Support Program, shared information about siblings experiencing aggression from autistic brothers and sisters.   In a Q&A session with Autism Speaks, Emily discussed aggression and other severe behaviors.

The Sibling Support Program: A Family-Centered Mental Health Initiative is a community-based program offered by UMass Chan Medical School. 

Families interested in the Sibling Support Program: A Family-Centered Mental Health Initiative can contact Emily directly at emily.rubin@umassmed.edu. They will receive information about the program, a permission form and Zoom link to log in. 

Read Emily Rubin’s Autism Speaks Q&A Session

Children’s Mental Health Week (CMHW)  May 1-7, 2022

This year’s theme is Action Changes Things. One way to advocate for children’s mental health is by lighting up green in support of Children’s Mental Health Week this year.  Parent/Professional Advocacy League has a toolkit for people to use. Toolkit materials are free. Posters can be downloaded.  Some towns and cities will have CMHW public lightings.

Since 2002, the Governor of Massachusetts, has issued an official proclamation for Children’s Mental Health Week. Some Massachusetts  mayors issue proclamations, too. Children’s Mental Health Week is dedicated to increasing public awareness about the triumphs and challenges in children’s mental health.  It emphasizes the importance of family and youth involvement in children’s mental health.

In Massachusetts, Children’s Mental Health Week is sponsored by the Department of Mental Health and the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP), a Beacon Health Options company.

Here are some Children’s Mental Health resources that may be helpful. 

Children’s Mental Health Campaign (CMHC) has six highly reputable partner organizations: 

Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) – Helps MassHealth children with behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs.  Families can get integrated behavioral health services and a comprehensive, community-based system of care.

     Find a CBHI Provider 

Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) HandHold – DMH has a collection of resources that you can try at home today and organizations that we know can help.

Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP) – MBHP is here to provide you or your loved one with a full range of services to help with medical, mental health, and substance use disorder conditions.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Massachusetts Resources for Children and Teens – Includes family support programs. 

Children’s mental health is important every week of the year. 

Celebrating Holidays During COVID-19

This holiday season will be different for most of us.  Here are some resources to help families cope with the challenges that COVID-19 brings to friends and families.  Practicing safe social distancing and limiting gathering sizes is important.  Practicing safety measures such as mask wearing and hand washing can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Many families and groups of friends are planning on holding virtual parties and get togethers.  Zoom, FaceTime, Google Duo, Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat are some options. Scheduling a get together works best so that people can all be together virtually at the same time.  You can send invitations.

Popular Science has some suggestions for hosting a virtual party or get together.

Holiday Resources:

We all Have Our Fears: Unfiltered, Runaway Thoughts of a Sibling

Always Thinking

Sometimes I get worried thinking about my 30-year old brother, CJ. I think of how our parents are getting older. I think about where he can get help since he is not in school. I think of what he needs to be healthy. I think of how people treat him.

All of this thinking takes me down a path of questions with no end.

What If…

What if something bad happens to my parents?  

What if my parents’ health gets worse?

What if my mom can’t care for my brother CJ anymore?

What if my dad can no longer work and provide for the family?

What if CJ does not get the help he needs?

What if I have to stop working to care for CJ?

What if CJ gets upset because he can’t express his feelings?

What if he hurts himself again?

What if something bad happens to CJ because people are afraid of him?

What if someone calls the police on him again?

What if something bad happens to CJ because people are afraid of him?

What if someone calls the police on him again?

What if they put him in the hospital again?

What if they give him drugs to make him sleep again?

What if people keep treating CJ like he is not human?

For more information and tips on navigating through life as a sibling of someone with autism, refer to A Siblings Guide to Autism: An Autism Speak Family Support Tool Kit.