The Special Needs Support Center: Serving Upper Valley New Hampshire & Vermont

 February 6, 2014
Posted by M&LAdmin4

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC is committed to providing quality services and support to families with special needs. As a part of that commitment, our financial and life planning experts strive to remain abreast with the latest legal & financial developments that can affect our clients, and are up to date with the latest government policies, studies, research and information related to individuals and families with special needs. Another very important part of providing quality services to our clients is – in our opinion – involving ourselves in the special needs community, and becoming active members of special needs advocacy and support groups.

We feel that support and advocacy organizations play an essential role in the lives of families with special needs, and offer much needed support and services that families may otherwise not be able to receive. So, when M&L owner and founder Maedi Tanham Carney CFP(R), CWIC was invited to sit on the board of the Special Needs Support Center (SNSC) in New Hampshire, she jumped at the chance. Today, we want to share with you a little bit about this amazing organization and the incredible services that they offer – we hope that you are as inspired by this fantastic organization as we are.

What is the SNSC?

The SNSC is a support and advocacy group serving families and individuals with special needs in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont. According the organization’s website, the SNSC is “a grassroots family organization” that “believes that parents often find their greatest support in other parents who are in a similar situation.”

The SNSC offers information, referrals, emotional support, and networking and community building services. Many of these services are offered via telephone and email, and offer parents the chance to connect with each other, and obtain advice, guidance, education, and mentoring opportunities. The organization’s mission statement is, “to help children and adults with special needs, and their families” and as a result of the SNSC’s services, many families are more productive, more satisfied, have greater independence, and are better able to contribute to their communities.

SNSC – A Brief History

The SNSC was founded in 1979 by Geraldine North. North, whose child with special needs was receiving services from outside the community, was cut off and felt disconnected from service providers in the Upper Valley area. As she writes on the website, “This sense of isolation became the catalyst for finding other parents who might support us and pass on information about local services.” As a result, North asked the medical professionals and service providers to give her contact information to any other parents who were seeking support and help in the area. According to North, the phone started ringing in 1979, and over the next 12 months, interest in a parent support group continued to grow.

It was in 1981, however, that the organization truly began to take shape and grow. Like many of the incredible support groups that exist in the United States, the SNSC was developed and fine tuned at the kitchen table, fuelled by coffee and the need to help other families with special needs. North and four other parents all gathered together to develop a structure for the support group, to determine how the group would be identified in the community, and to determine what services and supports the group could provide to others. It was decided that the group would initially provide support and information, as well as training in educational advocacy. At that time, the SNSC was called the Upper Valley Support Group (UVSG), to reflect their commitment to providing services to individuals with all types of disabilities, and to serve parents of children with both visible and invisible disabilities.

In the summer of 1981, the UVSG (SNSC) became a full fledged non-profit organization, operating out of a single roomed office on the grounds of the Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital. The founders couldn’t have known it then, but the organization would later grow to offer many more services to families in the Upper Valley area, and would be shaped by a series of executive directors into an organization that has filled a valuable niche by offering support, services, information, education, and advocacy to families that have no where else to turn for guidance.


According to the SNSC’s current Executive Director, Phillip Eller – a man who has done incredible educational advocacy work for the organization – the SNSC is unique because it offers a holistic approach to services for individuals with special needs, and also in that it offers its services to everyone that needs support. As Phil said in a recent conversation, “Many organizations have a narrow focus – they offer services to individuals and families of individuals with specific disabilities. At SNSC, we offer programs and services to families of children with any kind of special need.”

The SNSC’s services are categorized into two program areas, Family Support Services (FSS), and Community Partners (CP):

Family Support Services are directed primarily towards parents and families, and include many services such as offering emotional support, information, referrals, educational advocacy, and general and individuals support. Specific programs offered under this area include help with developing and facilitating support groups (of any type, as identified by parents/professionals), the Quarterly Newsletter, which sees information and education delivered to more than 700 people and agencies, and access to the Nathan Hall Library, where more than 1200 titles on a wide range of specials are available to loan to parents and professionals. The FSS also provides a respite child care program, for parents of children with special needs who “need a break”; this program provides financial assistance to help parents pay for a respite care provider, and if necessary helps parents find one.

Community Partners services and programs are intended to directly serve the child (of any age) with special needs. The services and programs offered include Happenings, (scheduled social events) and other programs such as Art Lab (a weekly art group for individuals over the age of 21 with any kind of special needs), Aspire (a weekly playgroup for children with Autism) and the STAR Program – or, Steps Toward Adult Responsibility, a group which matches teens and Dartmouth College Students, both with chronic health conditions, for monthly events and social outings.

How Can You Can Become Involved with the SNSC

If you are a parent or an individual in the Upper Valley, New Hampshire area and you would like to access the different services and programs offered by the SNSC, you can contact them by email,, telephone at 603-448-6311, or by visiting their website.

The SNSC is currently looking for volunteers to support a number of their programs and services; they are always on the lookout for teens and young adults to attend their Happenings events, and for help with communications and mailings at the organization’s headquarters. Volunteers are needed for their Playhouse, to act as puppeteers for their Kids on the Block, and to act as educational advocates to assist parents of children needing special needs educational services. The SNSC is also looking for Dartmouth College Students for their Connections and STAR programs. As well, parents who would like to volunteer respite hours for other parents “needing a break” are always welcome. For more information on volunteering for the SNSC, please call 603-448-6311.

If you would like to financially contribute to this organization, please visit the SNSC website for upcoming fundraisers. The next fundraiser being hosted by the organization is being held March 9th, at the Simon Pearce Restaurant – kindly made available by the Pearce family. Tickets are very close to being sold out, however donations can still be made via mail (SNSC, 12 Flynn Street, Lebanon NH, 03766), or via paypal. The Special Needs Support Group is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and all donations are tax deductible.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read our blog today; we hope that you have learned a little bit about the SNSC, and the important role that this organization (and all support and advocacy organizations) play in the lives of the families that they serve. We strongly suggest that you visit the SNSC website, as it contains a wealth of information – we simply couldn’t write a blog long enough to talk about all the fantastic programs and services that they offer.

Have a great Thursday, everyone! See you next week.

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