Special needs program suspended in Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Newport News City officials said they have no choice but to halt an after school program for special needs students because they have no qualified instructors.

The Therapeutic Recreation Program at the Courthouse Community Center has helped children with autism, ADHD and even more severe disabilities for years. The city has offered the service for about $80 a week, which is about three times cheaper than many similar programs.

But at the end of this year, parents, guardians and special needs children will have to look elsewhere for help.

“These children have nowhere else to go, once doors close December 31st … At the end of the day the kids are the ones who suffer because they have no voice,” a viewer wrote in an email to WAVY.com.

On Monday, 10 On Your Side went to Newport News to get answers from Kay Summer, the superintendent of cultural arts and youth programs for the city.

“Right now we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, that we don’t have any qualified staff to actually administer the program,” Summer said. “In October, we had the on-site supervisor, she resigned, then just a couple of weeks ago the senior coordinator resigned.”

Document: TR program closing memo to parents

The city sent a letter to parents last week, notifying them that they no longer have a certified therapeutic recreation specialist who would be able to assess participants and diagnose disabilities. The letter said they have no choice but to suspend the program, but Summer said they’re committed to doing everything they can to bring it back soon.

“There’s been a lot of growth for them, so it’s certainly heartbreaking to have to tell a parent that we’re going to suspend the program,” Summer said. “We are on the phone talking to agencies just to see if there’s something we can temporarily do, but as of today, we have not found someone to partner with us.”

Summer said none of the current staff members are losing their jobs. They’re just being moved to other programs that the city offers.

If you or someone you know has certification as a therapeutic recreation specialist and you’d like to help them save this program, they want to hear from you fast — click here to apply.

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