Beyond all doubt, every child is special. But what do we mean exactly when we talk about ‘children with special needs’? Maybe you know a child who needs a wheelchair, uses aids for walking, or has sight, speech or learning problems. Those kids have special needs. They need extra help because of a physical, sensory or cognitive disability. They need not only a special care service, training, or the right mobility equipment, but also social support and equal opportunities – or simply someone to lift them up.

APNEEF, the Association of People with Special Needs of Ibiza and Formentera, was created in 1998 with the objective of fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. For the past 20 years APNEEF has promoted the development and autonomy of children and adolescents with special needs. The association is dedicated to improving their quality of life and integration into society, with the help of comprehensive and innovative programmes as well as skilled staff; thus, opening the path to a better future.

The mission, vision, and values of APNEEF arose from the desire to offer quality service as a social right. Enhancing the dignity of people with disabilities. Fighting for their rights. Encouraging full and effective participation and inclusion in society. Fighting against discrimination. Working to achieve the greatest personal autonomy. And last, but not least, promoting equal opportunities. These are the association’s main objectives.

But how does the non-profit organisation manage to meet these proposed objectives and help children or teenagers with special needs and their families? APNEEF offers therapeutic interventions, rehabilitative and preventive treatments for children and adolescents with special needs. These include logopaedics, physiotherapy, cognitive stimulation, aquatic therapy, hippotherapy, and psychotherapy. However, they not only support persons with special needs, but also family members by offering fun programmes and leisure activities, including weekend excursions, as well as spaces for family respite.

In addition, the organisation arranges workshops and events for the general public to raise awareness. APNEEF provides information and education on the different needs of people with disabilities. They also offer volunteering and other specific training services for people who are interested in supporting the organisation. Everyone can help a little.

All therapies, programmes, and activities are aimed at helping children and teenagers with special needs and improving their quality of life. Any family with children between 0 and 18 years that have some type of disability – be it physical, sensory or cognitive – can request the association’s services and participate in programmes and activities. From the very start, families receive the comprehensive support of a multidisciplinary team, consisting of 38 people – including specialist therapists.

During their 20 years of work and dedication many well-known personalities and celebrities have supported the association, including Paris Hilton, model and actress Ana Vide, and Ricardo Urgell, the ex-owner of the Pacha Group. His support has meant a lot, both economically as well as with parties and events that have given APNEEF more visibility, explains Carmen Boned Ribas, social educator at APNEEF.  

Besides the famous people who support the association, sponsors are very important for APNEEF. There are entities that collaborate by providing a service and people who volunteer or donate to help families that cannot cover medical costs. In other cases, donations are used for purchasing materials or for maintenance. From public entities to small businesses or individuals who buy the organisation’s charity calendar, they are all essential to the continuation of APNEEF.

OK Rent a Car is one enthusiastic supporter. The company has recently established a collaboration agreement with APNEEF, with the objective of supporting the non-profit organisation’s work by providing transportation to more than 300 families who must travel regularly for medical reasons outside of Ibiza or Formentera. What seems like a small contribution can be a great help for those families.

Life can be quite challenging for a child with special needs. The good news is that we all – parents, doctors, therapists, teachers and others – can help these children be as independent as possible. How? By becoming a friend, a helper and supporter. You’ll fill a very special need everybody has: the need for acceptance, independence, and good friends.

How to help people who have disabilities:

  1. Speaking to someone with a disability: Be respectful, patient, slow down your speech, and listen well. Ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. Don’t use childlike vocabulary, labels, or offensive terms. Treat the person as you would want to be treated.
  2. Interacting appropriately: Offer genuine help either by opening a door, respecting a reserved seat on public transport, and not parking in areas designated for people with disabilities. Don’t interact with service animals. Treat disability equipment, such as a wheelchair or walking devices, with respect.
  3. Educating others: Share information. Address prejudice. Speak up if you hear people making disrespectful comments.
  4. Volunteering: Find volunteer opportunities in your area. Raise or donate money to support organisations like APNEEF that help people with special needs.

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