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Partner Spotlight

Partner Spotlight: Donna Ross Jones, Campaign Champion
Special Needs Network Inc., California


(L to R) Special Needs Network founders and their sons: Areva D. Martin, Esq., Ernest (“Marty” ), Donna Ross Jones, and NicholasDonna Ross Jones knows firsthand the importance of tracking a child’s development. Her son, Nicholas, is an example of the difference that early detection of developmental delays can make.

“Nicholas was 20 months old when he suddenly stopped talking and began to lose interest in things around him,” explained Donna. Suspecting that something was wrong, she contacted his pediatrician who then referred her to a neurologist and a developmental pediatrician. After several visits to the doctors’ offices, Nicky was diagnosed with autism.

“The journey forward was difficult, but early diagnosis has truly improved Nicky’s outcome,” said Donna. Today, Nicky has finished the second grade, is fully immersed in his classroom and is able to speak. “Not only is he a great reader, but he is really good at math, too,” said Donna.

Now, Donna aspires to make the journey easier for other parents as they cope with identifying and addressing their child’s developmental delays.

In 2004, Donna co-founded the Special Needs Network Inc. (SNN). SNN is a nonprofit, Los Angeles-based organization created to bring resources and education to under-served families with special needs children. SNN provides intensive parent training and education, and connects more than 400 families to resources regarding their child’s development.

Shortly after founding SNN, Donna discovered the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign. With information about important developmental milestones, she has identified the campaign as a primary resource for her community and has incorporated the campaign messages as a part of SNN and its mission.

Reaching out to organizations to increase awareness of developmental milestones and the importance of early intervention, she has distributed campaign materials to local churches, social work offices, preschools, and daycare centers. Donna has touched hundreds of families, teachers, health care professionals, and leaders in her community.

SNN hosts public forums that educate the community on early identification of potential childhood delays, and “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” materials are always available at these events.

Donna uses local media to drive awareness in her community as well. She has participated in live radio interviews and works with television stations to alert the community about SNN and the importance of early intervention.

While Donna is continuing to reach out to her community, she has accomplished her original goal of providing a place where parents can go to find help.

“People who come into SNN don’t know where to go. We help them cope and give them the information they need to get through,” said Donna. “When parents are concerned, it is important that they learn everything, ask the tough questions, and not be afraid to find out the answers.”

To learn more about the Special Needs Network, visit www.specialneedsnetwork.net.

For more information on how you can reach out to health professionals in your area, visit the How to Get Involved page of the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” website.

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