Family Resources

Family members of a person with intellectual disabilities often feel confused and alone. Getting involved with Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) gives families a support network providing them acceptance, resources, hope and a chance to become advocates – making them a valued voice in our movement. Families can choose their level of involvement in the Special Olympics program. Some families provide not only encouragement and love, but may coach, offer transportation, assist with fund-raising, officiate, chaperone, and train other volunteers within their local agency.

Family Handbook

General Information

  • Aging and Disability Resource Centers: Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) are in most counties and are the first place to go to get accurate, unbiased information on all aspects of life related to aging or living with a disability. Go here to learn about program options, benefits and to enroll in adult programs.
  • Chapters of The Arc: Wisconsin chapters of the Arc are located statewide and can offer information on local programs and supports for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) across the lifespan.
  • Compass Wisconsin-Threshold (for children): Provides outreach, intake, application and eligibility determination for Children’s Long-Term Support services to families living in Adams, Columbia, Dane, Green, Jackson, Jefferson, Kenosha, La Crosse, Lafayette, Marquette, Monroe, Ozaukee, Racine, Rock, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties.
  • Independent Living Centers: Independent Living Centers (ILCs) provide assistance to people with disabilities including peer support, information and referral, independent living skills training, coordination of personal care and other services, advocacy and community education.
  • L.I.F.E. Academy, LLC: L.I.F.E. Academy operates its Daily Living Skill Training facility in a “Home” located on the West Side of Green Bay, WI. This facility is used as a training center for those in both the DLST and SHC programs. The neutral setting offers individuals the opportunity to learn and practice their skills in a setting that resembles that of their own home or future residence. L.I.F.E. Academy serves Brown and Shawano Counties. Services include: Supportive home care for individuals with disabilities, Daily living skills for individuals with disabilities, plus other services such as “Respite” Services, after hours group training and class opportunities (Budgeting, Meal Planning, Healthy Relationships, and more), and Social Group Activities.
  • Regional Centers for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs: Regional Centers provide free support to families with children and youth with special health care needs and the providers who serve them. The Centers help get answers, find services, and connect to community resources.
  • The Waisman Center: The Waisman Center University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities supports the full inclusion and self-determination of people with developmental disabilities and their families through a variety of programs including personnel development, direct services and clinics, technical assistance and information dissemination. 1-800-532-3321
  • Wisconsin Board for Persons with Developmental Disabilities: Advocates for the independence and inclusion of people with developmental disabilities through a series of projects, trainings, public policy work and funding opportunities available to the public.
  • Wisconsin First Step: Information and links to services for children and youth with special needs, their families and providers. 800-642-7837

Assistive Technology


  • Benefit specialists: Benefit specialists provide help to older adults and people with disabilities with questions and problems related to benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Food Share, and health insurance. Contact your local ADRC to find a benefit specialist in your area.
  • Food Share Wisconsin: Helps low-income families and individuals buy nutritious food. You must apply to find out if you are eligible for Food Share benefits. Apply on-line or ask at the ADRC.

Caregiver Supports & Respite

  • Respite Care Association of Wisconsin: A resource and referral agency that assists in locating a respite service and other resources in your area. 608-222-2033
  • Caregiver Support Programs: Provides information and assistance to help people better care for their loved ones – and themselves. Can arrange for services and help families understand their options for care, Caregiver support programs are available in every community. Contact your local ADRC or contact a caregiver resource specialist: (866) 843-9810
  • Dementia Care Specialists: Provide information and assistance about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
  • How to Get Paid as a Family Caregiver

Children-Specific Programs

  • Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Programs for Children with Disabilities: Wisconsin has multiple programs available for children with delays or disabilities. Find a comprehensive listing here.
  • Wisconsin’s Birth to 3 Program: The Wisconsin Birth to 3 Program serves children under the age of 3 with developmental delays and disabilities and their families.
  • Katie Beckett Medicaid: The Katie Beckett Program is a special eligibility process that allows certain children with long-term disabilities, mental illness, or complex medical needs, living at home with their families, to access Medicaid-funded healthcare.
  • Autism Supports: Families with children with autism may qualify for two different types of treatment: comprehensive and focused.
  • Children’s Mental Health: The Wisconsin Department of Health Services supports programs that offer services to young children, youth, and young adults with mental health challenges.

Decision-Making Supports and Guardianship


  • Department of Public Instruction – Special Education: Information on rights and other resources available to eligible children with disabilities in Wisconsin public schools.
  • Wisconsin FACETS: Connects families to community resources. Educates parents on their rights and how to use those rights to become involved in their child’s education. 877-374-0511
  • Wisconsin Statewide Parent-Educator Initiative (WSPEI): WSPEI assists families and educators to find resources, build relationships leading to positive outcomes for children’s learning. Parent educators provide free support.
  • Transition Improvement Grant: Provides professional development to Wisconsin youth, parents, educators and all stakeholders in postsecondary transition for students with disabilities. TIG Coordinators are located throughout Wisconsin. Search for transition and other supports by county:


Family Supports

  • Family Voices of Wisconsin: Helps families who have children and youth with disabilities and/or special health care needs navigate health care and community supports. 608-828-9959
  • Wisconsin Family Ties: Information, resources and support for families with children who have emotional, mental health or behavioral disorders. 1-800-422-7145
  • WisconSibs: Serving Wisconsin brothers and sisters with siblings with disabilities. Offers Sibshops® and camps for boys and girls, future-planning training and social events for adults and families. 920-968-1742
  • Parent 2 Parent of Wisconsin: A peer matching program for parents of children with special health care needs or disabilities. No parent should feel alone, ever. 888-266-0028
  • Alianza Latina Aplicando Soluciones: Helps to promote the independence of persons with disabilities by providing information and support to them, their families, and their service providers in the areas related to but not limited to education and health. 414-643-0022
  • Family Friendly Guide for Families in Milwaukee County

Financial and Legal Planning Resources

  • Special Needs Alliance: A national organization comprised of attorneys who can help answer questions about public benefits, special needs trusts, guardianships/conservatorships, planning for disabilities and special education issues.
  • Wispact: A private nonprofit organization that administers pooled and community Special Needs Trusts for people with disabilities. 800-943-7386 press 9, press1, enter Ext. 53975
  • Opening an ABLE Account in Wisconsin: Wisconsin residents may establish an ABLE account in another state as Wisconsin does not have its own ABLE program. Wisconsin residents may compare other state ABLE programs through the ABLE National Resource Center
  • What is a Special Needs Trust?
  • The Life Navigators Trust Program: Pooled trust and other trust resources and information. 414-774-6255

Future Planning


  • Wisconsin Medicaid Programs: Wisconsin’s ForwardHealth Medicaid is public health insurance for the elderly, blind or disabled who meet eligibility requirements. You can apply for Medicaid online, by phone, by mail, or in person with your local agency.
  • ABC for Health, Inc:. Provides health care consumers with the information, advocacy tools, legal services, and expert support they need to navigate the health care financing system. Health benefits counselors are available to answer questions. 800-585-4222
  • Provider Search Tool: A fast method for consumers to find a health care facility or care provider as well as compliance history for Wisconsin providers regulated by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).
  • Self-Directed HealthCare Kit: A tool to help people with disabilities set up and prepare for healthcare appointments by gathering needed information ahead of time.
  • Medical Assistance Purchase Plan (MAPP): Offers people with disabilities who are working or interested in working the opportunity to buy health care coverage through the Wisconsin Medicaid Program.
  • Byte: Educational guide on dental care for children with autism.


Long-Term Services and Supports

  • Comparison chart of Wisconsin Long-Term Care programs for Adults
  • Covered Services in Wisconsin Long-Term Care Programs
  • Family Care: Family Care is a managed care long-term care program that helps frail elders and adults with disabilities get the services they need to remain in their homes. People who are eligible for long-term care have the choice of IRIS or managed care. Must first undergo a functional screen process to determine eligibility. Contact your Local ADRC to find Family Care organizations serving your region.
  • IRIS: IRIS is a self-directed long-term care option. The participant manages an Individual Services and Supports Plan within an individual budget and the guidelines of allowable supports and services to meet his or her long-term care needs. The participant has the flexibility to design a cost-effective and personal plan. People who are eligible for long-term care have the choice of IRIS or managed care. Must first undergo a functional screen process to determine eligibility. Call the IRIS Service Center 1-888-515-IRIS (4747).
  • Family Care and IRIS Ombudsman Program: Supports people experiencing problems with the Family Care, Partnership, or IRIS programs through independent ombudsman resources. 800-928-8778
  • Save IRIS: Save IRIS, Wisconsin’s Self-Direction Advocates” is a non-partisan grassroots movement dedicated to preserving and promoting self-direction in Wisconsin.

Mental Health Supports

  • Grassroots Empowerment Project (GEP):  A statewide organization controlled and directed by mental health consumers/survivors helps people seeking mental health, recovery and wellness. (715) 310-2280
  • was launched in early 2020 to play a role in the social work education pipeline, as well as help others in need. Resources include a Student Mental Health Guide that outlines some of the most common mental health issues experienced by students today and provides suggested resources for support and treatment. The Remote Mental Health Guide was designed to present some new alternatives and resources during these unprecedented times when traditional ways of accessing mental health services are not available, and to provide resources for people to find remote mental health support.
  • Mental Health America of Wisconsin: Provides information about mental health and mental illness to individuals, professional organizations and the community. 866-948-6483
  • NAMI Wisconsin: Promotes public education and understanding of mental illnesses. Provides follow-up advice and counsel; educational and training programs and materials; access to financial resources as appropriate; and offers conferences, seminars, and presentations. 800-236-2988
  • Wisconsin Department of Health Services- Mental Health Partner/Provider Resources
  • Wisconsin Family Ties: Information, resources and support for families with children who have emotional, mental health or behavioral disorders. 1-800-422-7145

Recreation & Social

  • Local Chapters of The Arc: Wisconsin chapters of the Arc offer a variety of recreational and social opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Best Buddies Wisconsin: Offers One-to-One Friendship and Leadership Development programs connecting individuals with and without disabilities in Wisconsin. 414-271-1470
  • Look for opportunities in your local community. Ask about accommodations for programs available to the general public.

Rights and Discrimination

  • Disability Rights Wisconsin: Helps people with disabilities gain access to services and supports through its advocacy and legal expertise. Training and rights protection. Toll Free Number for Consumers and Family: 800-928-8778
  • Adult Protective Services: Aid for elder adults and Adults-at-Risk who have been abused, neglected, or exploited. There are agencies and elder agencies in every county in Wisconsin.
  • The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice & Disability: A national clearinghouse for information and training on the topic of people with I/DD as victims, witnesses and suspects or offenders of crime.

Self-Advocacy and Leadership

  • People First Wisconsin: A statewide self-advocacy organization for people with disabilities. Regional groups. 1-414-483-2546
  • Wisconsin Partners in Policymaking: A six-session advocacy and systems change training program designed to develop leaders working to support the full participation and inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all aspects of life.
  • Wisconsin Youth Leadership Forum: A week-long leadership training and career awareness program for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors with disabilities.
  • Wisconsin LEND Program: The Wisconsin Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Program provides interdisciplinary and disciplinary leadership training to improve systems of care and assure access to family-centered, community-based services and supports for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families.


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