Toni Modglin, mom to a son with an autism diagnosis, knows what it is like to be the parent of a special needs child - challenging and stressful, but also beautiful. She is NorthShore Health Centers’ Special Needs Parent Liaison, and her job is making sure that parents like her get the support they need.
“It’s kind of a broad umbrella,” she said. “I help kiddos who are diagnosed with things like ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, asthma, or anything extra where they might have needs outside of our clinics.”
Those needs range from school evaluations, arranging referrals to outside specialists, even down to helping find basic necessities like food, clothing, or shelter.
“Sometimes raising a child with extra needs can be a little overwhelming,” Modglin said. “Whatever a family needs at any moment, I’m there to make sure they have the resources and support to fill those needs.”
One of the most important aspects of her job is finding out what makes every family and story unique.
“Though I’m the parent of a child with special needs, I always try to be respectful of knowing that our story is just one story,” she said. “Each child is an individual, and every family comes with different challenges and priorities unique to them. I go where the family leads me.”
Modglin’s current position is actually her second at NorthShore. She originally served in a role that offered similar services to families with newborns. It was through that work that she saw how much of an impact a Special Needs Liaison could have.
“It’s a unique program; I’m not aware of any other facility that provides the same level of support,” she said. “I’ve heard from families I’ve helped that people weren’t really understanding them before, and they’re glad they finally have someone who can empathize. It’s nice to know we’re providing that service here.”
Some of Modglin’s favorite aspects of the job are the conversations she shares with kids and their families.
“Since many of the kids are adolescents, I can talk directly with them and encourage self-advocacy skills,” Modglin said. “It’s teaching them how they can advocate for their needs at school or away from the clinic.”
The other thing she loves about her work is NorthShore’s mission – ensuring that everybody has access to quality health care, regardless of their gender, race, social status, or ability to pay.
“A lot of the families that I work with do have barriers like transportation, insurance, or even just time,” she said. “Our mission is really what guides everything that we do, and it’s been pure joy to be a part of it.”
To learn more about NorthShore Health Centers, visit northshorehealth.org.