Providing relief: Graduate student establishes respite night for caregivers of children with special needs at Noblesville church


Hanna Rose’s graduate student capstone project is designed to benefit Noblesville United Methodist Church and caregivers of people with special needs.

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A graduate student at the University of Indianapolis, Rose said she wanted to develop a respite program for caregivers of children with disabilities ages 5 to 18. The program is open to children with mild to moderate disabilities, such as behavioral or medical issues, autism or Down syndrome.

“The overall goal is to reduce the caregiver’s stress and burden,” said Rose, a Fishers resident. “There are two nights planned with the pilot program. Caregivers drop their child off and they would have three hours of designated respite time to go on a date night or have time to themselves at home without the caregiver responsibilities.”

The first respite night was March 6. The second is planned for 6 to 9 p.m. April 3. Siblings can attend. The program is open to families throughout Hamilton County. Rose said she did a needs assessment that showed more than 80 percent of caregivers of people with disabilities experienced moderate to severe stress. The assessment also showed there was not a respite program in the Noblesville area.

“I identified that some larger churches have had a respite program and that there wasn’t a church in the immediate surrounding area that had a respite program,” Rose said.

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One of the respite night stations was a handheld music playing area, which consisted of a variety of musical instruments. The children created beats with the instruments and volunteers tried to repeat the beats back to them, and vice versa.

During the respite night, children with disabilities spend time with trained volunteers playing games and doing other fun activities for three hours.

There are a lot of stations during the respite night targeting fine motor skills, gross motor skills and social skills. I wanted to incorporate aspects of occupational therapy in the stations we set up,” said Rose, who is studying to be an occupational therapist.

NUMC Pastor Jerry Rairdon said the goal is to continue offering respite nights even after Rose completes her capstone project.

“The goal is to get this started to identify that there’s a definite need for it, and hopefully establish enough volunteers that it can be carried on,” Rairdon said. “It falls in line very much with our vision. Sometimes, children and adults with special needs get holed away and are not seen as part of the community, and our goal is to try to get to the point where they’re embraced by the community and seen as a benefit to the community.”

Rairdon said NUMC has had a program for more than 30 years that meets once a month for adults with special needs. Also, NUMC has conducted a Sunday school class for adults or children with special needs for the past five years.

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One of the respite night stations was a physical activity area consisting of a large parachute that the children shook up and down while trying to keep inflated balls on top of the parachute. The children counted how many times they could shake the parachute before the balls fell off. (Submitted photos)

“It’s a small group, five to six people at a time, but it’s been very valuable to those in the church, and it’s been a way to draw others,” Rairdon said of the Sunday school program. “It’s something we’ve experienced with church members that have kids with special needs, just knowing the challenge they have. It’s a constant stress all the time, and this is a real opportunity to give them a break once a month. It fits very much with what we’re doing.”

When she graduates, Rose wants to work in outpatient pediatrics or in a skilled nursing facility as an occupational therapist.

Caregivers wanting to register their child with special needs for the April 3 respite night must do so by March 18. The program is free. To register, email Rose at [email protected].

Partnering with Janus Developmental Services

Part of Noblesville United Methodist Church’s ministry of serving those with special needs is a partnership between the church and Janus Developmental Services, an organization in Noblesville that provides adults with disabilities an opportunity to participate and contribute within the community.

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“People move to Hamilton County because of Janus services, because they work to get adults with special needs employed and self-sufficient,” NUMC Pastor Jerry Rairdon said. “People see Hamilton County as a place to move to make sure their children or adults have the services they need.”

For the past three years, NUMC has conducted a Christmas program fundraiser for Janus Developmental Services.

“They have a choir (at the church) and they did an art show,” Rairdon said. “Before COVID hit, we would have around 500-plus come to the concert.”

The event has raised $3,000 for Janus during the past few years.