Living in such a digitally advanced world, you would think you can google the answers to just about anything. But when Caroline Bilal’s son was diagnosed with Syngap1, a rare genetic disease, and she was looking for answers and resources, the internet was not as helpful as she expected. She found herself spending hours on end navigating the difficulties of accessing information that she thought would have been readily available.
With the advanced state of today’s technology, it is both shocking and disappointing that this information is not easily accessible. Bilal was surprised that a platform that aided people in identifying resources for children with special needs didn’t already exist.
“I found it odd from the get-go that there isn’t a technology platform… that helps to connect parents and families to information, and also more systematically to other parents who have kids with similar profiles,” said Caroline Bilal. While Facebook groups can be helpful, there is no emphasis on the quality of information. And while word of mouth is another effective strategy, what works for one family often does not work for another. And so, with no existing efficient solution, Bilal set out to create one herself.
With the help of countless dedicated volunteers, Bilal and her co-founder, Faradjine Laurore, launched MyConnect on March 2, 2022. The website contains both a private social network, or a community feature, and a directory that provides well-researched special needs programs, providers, and resources in Westchester County.
The directory provides an efficient approach to finding resources and shares the quality thereof. If you were to google “special needs schools and educational programs in Westchester,” you would obtain approximately five results.
However, in reality, there are over 50 private schools and out of district schools for special needs students in Westchester. MyConnect provides an easy and free way for parents to access the information needed to best care for their children and to connect with other parents going through the same situation. “We want all parents to have access to this information and access to one another always,” shared Bilal. The platform provides a “one-stop” method with various helpful resources that would otherwise take a tremendous amount of time and effort to collect from countless different sites.
The ultimate goal is to make the research process as easy for parents of children with special needs as possible, so that they can focus on supporting their child and optimizing their potential. Parents and families should be able to focus on doing what is best for their child without being burdened by a time-consuming, inefficient, and sometimes expensive process.
“It is my deep belief that parents, regardless of their socio-economic status, have free access to the information that enables more successful advocacy for their special children. While I was fortunate enough to have the skillset, the time, the financial resources, and the endurance to pursue the research that ultimately helped my son… all parents should be given the tools that affords them this chance,” said Caroline Bilal.
Bilal expects to continue to grow MyConnect and reach the families and parents that need assistance. With roughly 28,000 families in Westchester having kids with special needs or disabilities, it is clear that there are an abundance of families who would benefit from resources and assistance. Fortunately, MyConnect is now here to provide that assistance to any families in need.
For more info, please visit MyConnectUSA.com