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Grant Supports Wyoming Children with Special Needs

May 28, 2015

As a parent who raised two children with special health care needs, Sandy Root-Elledge is well aware of the importance of a grant to the University of Wyoming that will support Wyoming families of children with special needs.

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) extended a three-year, $292,000 grant to the Wyoming Family to Family Health Information Center, a project of UW’s Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND). Funding for the center was extended through fiscal year 2017.

Root-Elledge, interim director of WIND, recently spoke with the families of two kindergarten-age children, one who received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and another who was diagnosed with a form of leukemia. Reflecting on their experiences compared to what she and her husband experienced 20 years ago, she was struck by some of the similar needs that parents continue to identify. 

“While there has been a vast improvement in the information provided by the Internet and by specialists who provide pediatric care, parents and guardians point out that they need parent/family support, informational resources and community structures to support the inclusion of all children in all activities,” she says.

The Family to Family Health Information Center is a statewide, family-led initiative that provides information, education, training, outreach and peer support to families of children with special health care needs and the professionals who serve them. The website ( includes videos on several different health topics, a series on transitioning to adult heath care, health tips and a list of additional resources. Daily health tips and news are provided on Twitter (@WYF2F).

“Family to Family Health Information Centers served nearly one million families of children with special health care needs last year alone,” says HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae. “Ninety-six percent of the families the centers served reported they were key in helping families find and navigate additional community resources and care for their children.”

Sara DiRienzo, WIND senior project coordinator, says the statewide centers are staffed by trained family leaders who themselves have children with special health care needs, such as cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, autism, developmental delay and other health chronic conditions, and are linked to health professionals who provide care. The centers provide education, training, peer support and expertise in navigating federal, state and local public and private health care systems.

“In addition to providing needed support for families, last year approximately 400,000 physicians, nurses and other health professionals tapped these centers’ resources, making information regarding the needs of these children more widely available than ever before,” says Michael Lu, HRSA associate administrator.

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