Interactive Website Launched to Help Louisiana Children with Developmental Disabilities


Contact: Mukul Verma, mverma@braf.org, (225) 387-6126

Parents and caregivers throughout Louisiana can now easily find services they need to support their children of all ages with autism and other developmental disabilities. A free interactive website provides two things for them. One, step-by-step “how-to” guides to maneuver through complicated and often overwhelming processes that affect all aspects of their child’s life, and, two, a Resource Directory that provides information on more than 1,000 resources statewide.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation launched the website—La.ExceptionalLives.org–this week for families and professionals across Louisiana. The website is one result of a two-year project led by the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to improve autism services in the capital region.  Though the autism project was focused in Baton Rouge, the Exceptional Lives platform includes information on resources and services throughout Louisiana for autism as well as other developmental disabilities.

Other foundations across Louisiana have supported the launch of Exceptional Lives. These include the Northshore Community Foundation in Covington, the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana in Lake Charles, the Community Foundation of North Louisiana in Shreveport, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Acadiana. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has pledged to underwrite continual updates to the site.

“We started this project because more and more children were being diagnosed with autism or other disabilities,” said John M. Spain, executive vice president who oversees the Foundation’s long-term projects for civic good. “One of the first things we learned is that families need a helping hand after receiving a diagnosis. They are starting a journey that requires them to make difficult choices and find and interact with education, health and human services professionals.”

“Families have a constant need for trustworthy assistance. The website is designed to give them customized information on what they need to know so they can act on behalf of their children,” said Dan Bevan, president, CFO, treasurer and trustee for the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation.

This interactive website was underwritten by Matt and Sherri McKay of All Star Automotive through a generous donation. The McKay family has been deeply involved in increasing the availability of autism services and educational opportunities in Louisiana.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation hired Exceptional Lives to build the platform. Based in Massachusetts, Exceptional Lives uses innovative web software to create personalized guides for adults with disabilities and parents and caregivers of children and young adults with disabilities. Each guide asks parents simple questions about their family, then uses their answers to display relevant, actionable information.

“If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, you can’t help your child,” said Natalie Sequea of Massachusetts. “After using an Exceptional Lives Guide, I know which services we can be getting, and how to get them. These guides bring all the information you need in one place. They show you where you need to start, and where you need to go. They’re very easy to use. Exceptional Lives has the most parent-friendly site I’ve ever seen.” Popular Guide topics include “What to Do When Your Child is Diagnosed with Autism;” “How to Get Started with Early Steps;” “Medicaid Waivers;” and “Getting Special Education Services from the School System.”

The website also has an interactive resource directory that lets users filter results by zip code, age of their child, disability type, services they need, and whether providers accept Medicaid. The Resource Directory also shows where the providers are located on a map. Data will be updated at least every quarter to ensure it is always current and accurate.

Parents can access the free guides and directory at any time through any device connected to the Internet. Those who have a question while using the guides or directory can get free phone or online support from Exceptional Lives’ professional staff.