Fall Education Classes for Caregivers of Kids with Special Needs

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Fall Education Classes for Caregivers of Kids with Special Needs

The Des Moines Metro has a variety of organizations designed to help support families of children with special needs. Many of these organizations provide free or low cost webinars, classes and support groups. Here are the resources provided for Fall 2023 and a little about each organization that supports them.

Bookmark these other resources for inclusive places/events for Fall:

ASK Resource Center

ASK (Access for Special Kids) Resource Center is a parent training, information, and advocacy center for families of children with special needs across the state of Iowa. ASK is a family-driven 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. They offer many resources to families including a FREE series of webinars and families can register here. These include:

1. Ask an Expert Webinar: Iowa Medicaid Q & A

October 9th from Noon to 1 p.m.

Join Director Matney for state updates and a question and answer session about Iowa Medicaid. Participants will learn about the outcomes and recommendations from the Iowa Waiver Services Survey, will explore questions and answers from families around Medicaid & Waiver services and supports and will gain knowledge on how to engage in the conversation about Medicaid changes.

2. Ask an Expert Webinar: Iowa Medicaid Notice of Decision Making and Appeals Process 

October 16th from Noon to 1 p.m.

Join Emily Ehlers, staff attorney with Disability Rights Iowa to learn about the process for appealing a decision from a Managed Care Organization (MCO) or Fee for Service (FFS) through Iowa Medicaid.

3. Ask an Expert Webinar: Medicaid Unwind

October 23rd from Noon to 1 p.m.

Join our national Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) partners to learn about the Medicaid Unwind and the specifics to Iowa. Participants will learn what is needed to have continued Medicaid coverage and to help understand your options if you’ve been told you’re no longer eligible for Medicaid and CHIP.

4. Ask an Expert Webinar: Brain Health with Iowa Safe Schools

November 20th from Noon to 1 p.m.

All students need a safe, supportive atmosphere in which they can learn. This includes students that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ+). The mission of Iowa Safe Schools is to provide safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ+ and allied youth through education, outreach, advocacy and direct services. Learn how to get involved. 

Autism Society of Iowa

This Iowa chapter of the Autism Society services the local Autism community through advocacy, community programming, and creating a more inclusive world.

2023 Fall Conference & Resource Fair

October 27th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Sheraton Hotel Wet Des Moines

Families of autistic children can attend a full day of sessions with a variety of topics such as challenging behaviors, writing social narratives, toilet training, understanding sensory needs, developing executive functioning skills, question time with a physician and more. This will be followed by a silent and live auction.

Cost is free for those with autism, Autism Society of Iowa member is $50 and non-member is $75. Social Workers and Speech Language Pathologists can earn continuing education units.


Childserve provides services for children and young adults with special healthcare needs including developmental delays, disabilities and injuries through clinical, home and community based programs and services.

1. Sibshops

October 28th from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sibshops is a fun and engaging support group for children ages 6-12 who have a sibling with special needs.

At ChildServe‘s Sibshops event, your child will enjoy games, crafts, snacks and community with others who understand the unique relationships they have with their sibs! Each event is delivered in a 3-hour format on a weekend and led by ChildServe‘s team members who have received Sibshops facilitator training to provide this uplifting, fun event. Register here to attend for $25.

2. Webinar: Waiver 101

November 15 from 4 to 5 p.m.

The Iowa Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver programs are Medicaid programs that provide service funding and individualized supports to help your child and family be more successful in the community and home setting. There are currently four waivers that children are eligible for in Iowa: Brain Injury (BI), Children’s Mental Health(CMH), Health and Disability (HD) and Intellectual Disability (ID).

Join this training led by ChildServe’s Director of Access and Care Coordination, Gaye Johnson, to learn if your child may be eligible and to better understand what the waiver program provides. To register for this FREE class and receive the zoom link, please email learnwithus@childserve.org.

Fi and Friends

Fi and Friends works to create an inclusive environment for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. They partner with the community to provide access to events and services.

1. Parent Support Community

Every last Tuesday of the month from 6:30-7:00 p.m. and 7:00-7:30 p.m.

Google Meet

This parent/caregiver support group for those with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder is a safe place to share experiences, coping strategies and meet other families. Email Contact@fiandfriends.org to join.

2. Autism Safety Event

October 19th 4 to 7 p.m.

MidAmerican Energy RecPlex (Activity Room)

Learn about top safety risks for autistic individuals and the importance of safety plans. Families can also register for a variety of programs and services. From 5:15-7:00 p.m. there will be a trick or treat event with local community organizations. Costumes are encouraged but not required.

Heartland Area Education Agency (AEA)

Coffee & Conversations

Heartland AEA’s Family and Educator Partnership invites you to our online parent support group!

Parents are encouraged to come enjoy the company, support and conversation from other parents of children with special needs.


  • Sept. 28, 2023
  • Oct. 26, 2023
  • Nov. 30, 2023
  • Jan. 25, 2024
  • Feb. 29, 2024
  • March 28, 2024
  • April 25, 2024

Time: 7-8 p.m.

Join zoom meeting (no registration required)

Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS)

IVRS provides expert, individualized services to Iowans with disabilities to achieve their independence through successful employment and economic support

Open Forum for Parents and Teachers

  • 2nd Thursday of every month
  • 6:00-7:00 p.m.
  • Join by Zoom or phone

Topics vary each month and are determined by attendees top questions. These can be asked during the session or emailed prior to the event. Topics may include social security, guardianship/conservatorship, Medicaid/Medicare and parent’s choice. Join by ZOOM or phone.

Click on the link to Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/92004351957 or call 1-312-626-6799, Meeting ID: 920 0435 1957

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L is an occupational therapist turned (mostly) stay-at-home mom. She has worked with adults to young toddlers and has a special interest in early childhood development targeting fine motor skills, feeding, sensory processing, and coordination. She loves incorporating this knowledge with her own two little boys through play. When she’s not running after her little ones she enjoys traveling, cooking new recipes and eating chocolate from her secret stash.

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