We live in a time of transition. It happens to each of us, in every walk of life, and we take for granted our ability to accept change and live with it. For those with special needs, transition in life is difficult, not understood, and cannot be taken for granted.

As their name suggests, Transitions for the Developmentally Disabled, a local Ahwatukee Foothills agency, helps transition individuals with special needs to become more independent and deal with life's transitions while improving their quality of life.

Transitions was founded by Pamela Twitchell and Dennis Karp to help "transition" Pamela's daughter, Jennifer, a 26-year-old young lady with Down syndrome, into a fuller, more independent lifestyle and integrate her into the community. They will be celebrating their five years of serving the special community this October.

Pamela, an LPN and single mother of two, had been raising Jennifer on her own when Jennifer was nearing her high school graduation. Pamela worried about what would happen to Jennifer if something were to happen to herself. Transitioning under such circumstances is difficult for anyone, but even more so for those with special needs. She didn't want Jen to be placed in a state licensed "group home" or encumber other family members with her care.

To help Jennifer become more independent and able to deal with transition better, Pamela and Dennis created an agency to care for individuals with special needs, find them their own private residences and roommates, and provide quality care-giving.

Transitions offers the unique perspective of a parent - what a parent feels, needs and expects in the care of their loved ones - in their programs, family support and care-giving.

The program teaches valuable life skills while having fun. Pamela and Dennis are intimately involved in the day-to-day affairs of the organization, which now number more than 120 clients and 130 caregivers, and continue to run their organization as an extended family.

They not only provide individually designed housing for their clients, they also provide care to those who live with their parents or guardians. Transitions also acts as advocates for their special needs clients and families in their relationship with the state of Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). Transitions helps clients get the services they need, they deserve and are entitled to, and help families navigate their way through the complex and often confusing DDD system.

The age range of the organization's clients range from 3 to 57 years old. Transitions runs effectively due to their trained staff of caregivers who not only help with caring for the needs of the clients, but also teach life skills needed for the clients to function in society.

The program arranges weekly activities for their clients, including cooking and baking classes, "Mr. Manners" classes for young men, musical "jam sessions," movie nights, art classes, monster truck shows, free concerts in the park, community plays and they participate in the Special Olympics. There is also a Tot n' Toddlers program that is offered Monday through Friday, where main stream children are integrated with special needs children, and a Summer Daze Program on Fridays in the summer where they go to museums, the planetarium and other community events.

Transitions services are Valleywide. They are a 24/7 operation located in Ahwatukee Foothills at 17018 S. 26th St., and their hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They can be reached at (480) 940-7915, or e-mailed at dkarp88@msn.com and pamelasdaz@msn.com.


Carol Lazarescu is co-owner of The CoffeeBuzz at 4804 E. Chandler Blvd. She can be reached at (480) 393-3430.

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