Inclusive Summer Camp Programs for All Ages

March 21st, 2024

The text, "Summer Camp," written with chalk on chalkboard next to chalk sticks of different bright colors

Our list of camps and activities all over Illinois can help you find the right fit for your child

Summer and the long break from school are right around the corner!

The good news is there are a variety of programs throughout the state to help keep your children engaged and learning.

We’ve gathered a list of day and overnight camps as well as virtual programs for youth of all ages with disabilities and special healthcare needs.

Does your child want to make new friends? Develop new skills? Meet others with their same condition or become more independent?

Our 2024 summer camp list can help you find the right fit.

There are several ways to search the camp opportunities on our website:

These camps are accessible and inclusive for a variety of ages and needs, including many of our program’s eligible medical conditions.

Please note that program deadlines vary, and some camps fill up quickly.

Know of a good summer camp opportunity to add to our list?

Send us the details at We’ll continue to update our list of camps and activities, so please check back often!

Free Tax Help for Illinois Residents With Disabilities, Others in Need

March 18th, 2024

The display screen of a calculator with the text, "Tax Hep"

Programs offering free tax preparation and help filing tax returns are available to eligible individuals and families across Illinois.

People with disabilities, families with low income, taxpayers who speak limited English, and individuals over the age of 50 can receive tax help through in-person and online programs.

Many of the programs will provide help through April 15, the deadline for filing your 2023 tax return. The type of services and programs available will vary by region.

The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals.

VITA sites offer free tax help to individuals, including:

  • People who genrally make $64,000 or less
  • People with disabilities
  • Taxpayers who speak limited English
  • People 60 years of age or older

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Service focuses on providing in-person and online tax help to people over the age of 50 or who have low-to-moderate income. You do not need to be an AARP member to receive assistance.

The AARP Tax-Aide Site Locator can help you find a site where an IRS-certified volunteer can help you prepare and file your taxes.

Tax-Aide also offers free virtual coaching and software for state and federal returns if you prefer to do your own taxes. You must:

  • Have an income between $16,000 and $79,000
  • Be an active-duty military member making $79,000 or less

In the Chicagoland area, taxpayers can also access the Ladder Up Tax Assistance Program (TAP). The program provides free basic tax return preparation for:

  • Families earning up to $64,000 and individuals earning up to $32,000 per year
  • Full-year Illinois residents

You can also contact your local library and government offices for information about free tax preparation services in your area.

Applications Open for the 2024-25 IL LEND Fellowship Program

February 8th, 2024

IL LEND logo

This free training program prepares graduate students, self-advocates and family members to be leaders in improving health services for people with disabilities.

Family members, self-advocates and graduate students can apply for a free training program to build your skills and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

The University of Illinois Chicago’s (UIC) Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities Program (IL LEND) training program is now accepting applications for the 2024-25 school year.

This yearlong interdisciplinary program will provide participants a deep dive into areas that include:

  • Cultural competence
  • Emerging issues
  • Family-centered care
  • Leadership
  • Advocacy
  • Serving children with autism and other disabilities and their families
  • Services and systems change

IL LEND is housed in the Department of Disability and Human Development at UIC. It is part of LEND’s nationwide network providing interdisciplinary training to improve the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities. LEND focuses on providing individuals with the skills necessary to create positive change on all levels, from the individual to systems.

The IL LEND fellowship program brings together trainees from diverse backgrounds. Trainees will participate in classroom learning and a wide variety of hands-on experiences.

Training will focus on serving individuals with disabilities and their families through coordinated, culturally competent and family-centered care and gaining a deeper understanding of public health services and policy systems change.

Training will include:

  • An individually tailored mentorship
  • Weekly didactic (classroom) sessions
  • Research or leadership projects
  • Community outreach
  • Policy and advocacy training
  • Clinical training with a focus on Autism

There is no cost to participate in the fellowship program. Eligible trainees can receive a stipend.

This program is open to graduate students, adults with developmental disabilities, parents and/or siblings of individuals with developmental disabilities, and individuals from diverse backgrounds.

IL LEND trainees from the Chicago metropolitan area meet in person at UIC for their LEND training. Trainees can also join remotely through training sites at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU).

The program gives priority to the following applicants:

  • Family members
  • Self-advocates
  • Graduate students in the represented disciplines, which include nursing, social work, developmental pediatrics, disability studies, and public health.

See the IL LEND graduate program brochure for more details and a complete list of study areas.

Download the IL LEND Fellowship Program application flyer to review or share.

Read more about applying on the IL LEND website. You can also click on the links below to download the:

The deadline to apply is March 25.

If you have questions about the fellowship program, contact Kruti Acharya at or (312) 413-1495.

To learn more about IL LEND, visit

DCFS Scholarship Opportunity for Current and Former Youth in Care

January 31st, 2024

The annual academic scholarship program is taking applications for the upcoming school year through March 31.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is currently accepting applications for the 2024 DCFS Scholarship Program. The program offers tuition money and academic fee waivers to current and former youth in care attending Illinois colleges after high school.

The program is available to youth:

  • Who have an open DCFS case
  • Whose cases were closed through adoption or guardianship
  • Who aged out of care at 18 or older

Students interested in attending Illinois trade schools, community colleges, or traditional colleges or universities and who are at least 16 years old on March 31 may apply.

The scholarship application is available online.

Scholarship recipients will receive:

  • Up to five consecutive years of tuition and academic fee waivers to be used at participating Illinois state community colleges and public universities
  • A monthly grant to offset other expenses
  • A medical card

The program will select scholarship recipients based on:

  • Their scholastic record and aptitude
  • Community and extracurricular activities
  • Three letters of recommendation from non-relatives
  • A personal essay illustrating their purpose for higher education

This DCFS Scholarship Program tip sheet has more details about eligibility requirements, available benefits and what the scholarship does not cover.

DCFS encourages students to submit their applications before the March 31 deadline.

Last year, DCFS awarded scholarships to 259 college-bound youth, the most in the agency’s history.

For questions about the application process or for more information, contact the DCFS Office of Education and Transition Services at (217) 557-2689 or

See the 2024 scholarship press release for more details.

Announcing Rate Increases for In-Home Nurses

December 19th, 2023

blue stethoscope and tablet on white background

Increased rates for in-home nurses will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

We have an exciting update for our participants enrolled in the Home Care Program.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have approved a rate increase for in-home nurses in the new year.

We hope this rate increase can help expand available and high-quality nursing options for our participant families.

This rate increase affects:

  • Registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN) and certified nursing assistant (CNA) care
  • In-home and facility-based respite care
  • Nurse training rates

This increase will take effect Jan. 1, 2024. The rates are as follows:

  • RN, $54 per hour
  • LPN, $45 per hour
  • CNA, $30 per hour

You can see the updated Home Health Fee Schedule on the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) website.

The following rate increases are for participants who are in the Home and Community-Based Services Waiver for Those Who Are Medically Fragile, Technology Dependent (MFTD):

  • Nurse training for an RN, $54 per hour
  • Nurse training for an LPN, $45 per hour
  • In-home respite for an RN, $54 per hour
  • In-home respite for an LPN, $45 per hour
  • In-home respite for a CNA, $30 per hour

HFS will also increase the maximum amount for nurse training service hours from four to 32 hours per nurse per waiver year.

As a reminder, parents and legally responsible adults who have an RN or LPN license can be paid caregivers. (Parents and legally responsible adults who are CNAs cannot be paid caregivers at this time.)

HFS will increase your nursing resource allocation amounts to reflect the increase.

Your Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) care coordination team can help you with any questions about the rate increase or nursing services.

You can also find more helpful information about Home Care Program services on our website’s Home Care Information Hub.

Sensory-Friendly Holiday Happenings in Illinois

November 22nd, 2023

An older, dark-haired boy in a wheelchair smiles at the Christmas trees and holiday decorations that surround him

Fun, inclusive events the whole family can enjoy throughout Illinois!

How will you make memories this holiday season?

There are light displays, sensitive Santa opportunities, parades and more going on throughout Illinois.

Our Special Events page includes a roundup of opportunities designed specifically for youth with disabilities and special healthcare needs.

You can also browse this collection of special programs and event guides for opportunities to create some holiday magic and plenty of smiles:

We will continue to add holiday events and activities, so please check our Special Events page often throughout the season.

If you know of a good sensory-friendly event to share, please email us at

Please note, the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) is not involved in organizing or scheduling these holiday events. If you have questions about a specific event, please contact the event sponsor or organizer.

DSCC Dad Helps Superheroes of All Abilities Unite in Southern Illinois

October 18th, 2023

DSCC participant Isabella's older brother Braden wears a Superman costume and holds Isabella in his arms next to Isabella's nurse, Toni. A superhero comic backdrop is behind them.

Pastor Tim Reynolds organizes the annual Special Needs Superheroes event to take place in Mount Vernon on Oct. 28

In Mount Vernon, superheroes of all kinds unite each year to bring joy to children and adults with disabilities.

Mount Vernon Baptist Temple’s annual Special Needs Superheroes event encourages individuals of all ages and abilities to dress as their favorite superhero and enjoy fall activities together. This popular free celebration returns for its fifth year on Oct. 28.

Pastor Tim Reynolds helped create the event and credits his wife, Melissa, and a dedicated group of volunteers with keeping it running. Reynolds’ daughter Isabella has complex medical needs and is a participant with the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC).

Isabella and her dad, Tim, take time out for a selfie.

Reynolds said the idea for the event came from a desire to serve his small community in southern Illinois.

“It can be hard for families and individuals with disabilities to go to a theme park. We have a church with a good layout, nice grounds, and a gymnasium,” Reynolds said. “I pastor two churches, and we decided to work together to create a special day for young and old alike that was as close to a carnival atmosphere as possible.”

Choosing a superheroes theme, the first event kicked off in 2018.

“I’m not sure why we chose the superheroes theme, but it fit, and it’s lots of fun. The first year we had about 400 attendees,” Reynolds said.

The event continued to grow each year except for a one-year gap in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year we’re planning for more than 800 guests. We have a bunch of folks who love Comic-Con. They have amazing costumes and travel from Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana and other places to help us year after year,” Reynolds said.

Volunteers from churches, 4-H clubs, government, and more serve as “buddies.” They help participants of all ages and abilities experience activities that include:

  • A petting zoo and horseback rides
  • Face painting and games
  • Balloon tying with Rainbow the Clown
  • Superhero photos
  • Haircuts
  • Brats, hamburgers, snow cones and popcorn
Guests enjoy painting and creating art they can take home at one of the many activity stations at the Special Needs Superheroes event.

“It’s just a big kick. Some people like dressing up, others just like taking it all in,” Reynolds said. “I really love the horseback riding and seeing them with the animals. For some, it’s the first time they’ve ever ridden a horse or been able to touch and be up close to these animals. They’re so uninhibited in expressing their excitement and joy. You can’t help smiling all over.”

The guest list also includes community members and residents from area Community Integrated Living Arrangement (CILA) Homes.

The whole Reynolds family, including Isabella and her three older siblings, also take part in the fun.

Reynolds said his wife, Melissa, organizes all the details for the superheroes event. She prefers to remain in the background while he is “just the promoter and front man.”

“She is the rock of our family and works tirelessly caring for Isabella,” Reynolds said.

Isabella and her mom, Melissa, share a smile.

Isabella has Moebius syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can cause paralysis, an inability to smile and other disabilities.

“We adopted her as a baby and the doctor said she wouldn’t live past a year old,” Reynolds said. “She’s a happy girl and recently turned 12.”

Isabella enrolled with DSCC shortly after birth and receives services through the Home Care Program. The Home Care Program helps children and young adults who need in-home nursing to safely live at home.

“We connected with DSCC at the hospital and really appreciate all that they do,” Reynolds said. “DSCC has helped us track down nursing services and medical equipment. They’re always there to help and are another go-to when you need help filling in the gaps.”

Members of our DSCC team from the St. Clair Regional Office will be at this year’s Special Needs Superheroes event to speak with families about our services.

The event takes place from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 at Mount Vernon Baptist Temple, 817 Woodland Drive, in Mount Vernon. There is no charge to attend.

“Everything is completely free,” Reynolds emphasized. “There’s nothing better than the smiles and hugs you get from kids with sno-cone-covered faces. We started all of this to be a blessing to someone, but I think we, the volunteers, are truly the ones who go away blessed.”

See the Special Needs Superheroes flyer for more details or visit the Events section of our website.

If you’d like to attend, please call or text (618) 315-1111 to register. The deadline to sign up is Oct. 23.

New Training Resources on Caring for Children With Trachs

October 2nd, 2023

A young girl with a tracheostomy tube smiles at the camera while sitting in a small pink chair

A new video and an updated free online course are available to help support the care of children with tracheostomy tubes

Parents and caregivers have a lot to learn when their child needs a tracheostomy (trach) tube to breathe.

Our Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) team is here to support and guide families through learning how to care for their children’s complex medical needs.

We’ve gathered two new training resources to help families understand trach care.

Lurie Children’s Hospital Video on How to Handle Trach Emergencies

When emergency situations occur, it’s very important to keep the child’s trach tube open and in place.

Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has developed a video to help parents, caregivers and others know how to handle emergency situations with pediatric trach patients.

In this video, Lurie nurses explain:

  • How to prevent and assess emergency situations
  • How to manage a mucous plug
  • How to replace a trach tube that has become dislodged
  • What to do if the trach tube is difficult to replace
  • When to provide manual ventilation using bag to trach tube, bag and mask to mouth, and mouth to mouth

We encourage our participant families in the Home Care Program to watch this video. Many of the children and youth in the Home Care Program rely on trachs and ventilators to breathe.

Please note that watching this video alone is not enough training to safely care for a child with a trach. Families should speak with their child’s doctors and care team about any questions or training needs.

For more information on how to safely care for a trach tube, you can visit Lurie’s Tracheostomy Care at Home webpage.

Free eHomeCare Course on How to Care for Children With A Trach

An updated free online course is available on how to care for children with trachs with or without a ventilator.

The eHomeCare program training is for:

  • Nurses working in home-based environments
  • Physicians
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Family members and caregivers of children with trachs with and without ventilators
  • Students from health professions

The course is available until Sept. 30, 2026.

Learners can use this course for initial training, an annual review or as an ongoing resource.

The course learning objectives are:

  • Describe best practices for providing day-to-day care for children with trachs with or without ventilators in the community
  • Explain how to manage emergency situations for children with trachs with or without ventilators in the community
  • Report an increase in confidence when caring for children with trachs with or without ventilators in the community
  • Describe the roles and responsibilities of members of the healthcare team.

Free continuing education credits are available.

If you have trouble enrolling in the course or need help, please email

Again, please note that families should speak with their child’s doctors and care team about any questions or training needs for their child with a trach.

Our participant families can also contact their DSCC Care Coordinator with questions.

Free At-Home COVID Test Program Resumes

September 25th, 2023

at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 test sitting on a tabletop

UPDATE: As of March 9, 2024, the free COVID-19 Test Program is suspended and no longer taking orders.

A federal program that provides free at-home COVID-19 tests is once again available.

Starting Sept. 25, 2023, every U.S. household can order four free COVID-19 rapid tests through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

Visit to place an order. (The website is available in Spanish and Chinese.) Here’s what you need to know:

  • There is a limit of one order per residential address.
  • One order includes four individual rapid antigen COVID-19 tests.
  • Orders will ship free starting the week of Oct. 2, 2023.

If you need help placing an order, you can call (800) 232-0233 or (888) 720-7489 (TTY).

The USPS is also distributing more accessible tests for individuals who are blind or have low vision.

Starting Sept. 25, 2023, you can visit to order one set of 12 free at-home tests with enhanced accessibility (while supplies last). Here is what you need to know:

  • There is a limit of one order per residential address.
  • Each order includes 12 accessible rapid-antigen tests.
  • Supplies are limited. Please do not order the more accessible tests if you have options for using the standard tests.
  • The tests work with a compatible Bluetooth-enabled smartphone and a free app to provide users with audible instructions and audible test results.
  • Orders will ship free starting the week of Oct. 2, 2023.

Individuals with disabilities can also contact the Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) for help with available testing options, including ordering free at-home test kits.

Contact DIAL Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. through:

The U.S. government will also continue to make COVID-19 tests available to uninsured individuals and underserved communities through its existing outreach programs.

To learn how to access low- or no-cost COVID-19 tests from the federal government, you can contact any of these programs:

Still have old COVID-19 tests at home? You can check the FDA’s website to see if your COVID-19 tests have extended expiration dates.

You can also visit for more details about free testing sites by state, frequently asked questions about at-home tests and more.

Leadership and Education Opportunity for Caregivers Living with Complex Medical Needs

May 12th, 2023

Camden Coalition logo

National Consumer Scholars can develop leadership skills and share their experiences to help improve care and services for people with complex health and social needs

A leadership development program is available for caregivers and advocates who live with and/or care for someone with complex medical needs.

The Camden Coalition is accepting applications for its 2023-24 National Consumer Scholars program.

In the National Consumer Scholars program, caregivers and advocates can take part in peer-led leadership development activities. They play an active role in the coalition’s annual conference and bring lessons back to their local communities. Consumer Scholars also work alongside Camden Coalition staff to develop and inform the complex care field.

National Consumer Scholars have firsthand experience living with and/or caring for someone with complex health and social needs. They also have experience working as a consumer/patient advisor/advocate and/or community leader.

The program is open to individuals from across the country who represent many different experiences.

Learn more about the program and how to apply on the National Consumer Scholars program website.

The application deadline is May 31.

For more information, contact Evelyne Kane at