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Why Watson for Respite?

  • Events and schedules are designed with each child's special needs in mind
  • Programs have a high staff-to-child ratio and a nurse present at all times
  • Services are for children with autism, developmental disabilities and neurological impairments and their siblings

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Watson Life Resources

Learning and Information for Families and Educators

A comprehensive, research based resource for families and educators of individuals with disabilities.

CareBreak and Respite Programs


CareBreak is a gift of time and energy given for a few hours a week by a committed volunteer to a family caring for a child with special needs. CareBreak provides an opportunity for children and volunteers to become close through fulfilling, one-on-one experiences, while allowing the family to regroup. Typically, CareBreak is provided in the family’s home.

Who is eligible to take part in CareBreak?

Families of children (birth to 16 years old) who have been diagnosed with a variety of disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy and other neurological impairments from Allegheny, Beaver and the southern portion of Butler counties in Pennsylvania.

Why volunteers?

CareBreak volunteers are caring, compassionate people from all walks of life who enjoy children and want to make a difference in the lives of others. They understand that supporting a family in need is one of the most powerful ways to improve the quality of lives in their community.

By giving their time, volunteers become close with the entire family and form long-lasting relationships. Also, by choosing to volunteer, these individuals have made a commitment to the child and the family---often being the first unpaid person in the child’s life to do so.

Why do these families need a break?

Because CareBreak kids require constant care day in and day out, the only relief from providing care that a parent may get is if their spouse or other family member watches the child. This does not allow parents to spend time together or with their other children. The CareBreak volunteer gives the family a much needed break while their child with special needs is involved in social/recreational activities with a competent, caring person.

I am the parent of a child with special needs under the age of 16 and and would like more information on matching with a CareBreak volunteer.

I'd like to make a difference in the lives of children by becoming a CareBreak volunteer!

All CareBreak volunteers are provided with training prior to being placed with a family. Volunteers must have Act 34 and 151 clearances.

For more information regarding the CareBreak program, please contact MaryJo Alimena-Caruso, CareBreak Coordinator, at (412) 749-2863 or via email:


Day and Overnight Respite Program

The Watson Institute has developed an inclusive respite program that creates a camp-like setting for children with and without disabilities. Events and schedules have been designed with each child’s special needs in mind. From check-in to departure, children will participate in small and large group activities, such as arts and crafts, music, nature hikes and sports. There are also quiet indoor activities available for those who choose not to participate in the outdoor events. The Day and Overnight Respite Programs have a high staff-to-child ratio and a nurse present at all times. The Overnight Program also consists of staff that remain awake to ensure the children are supervised at all times.

Who is eligible to attend?

This service is designed for children with autism, developmental disabilities and neurological impairments as well as their siblings. Children dependent on medical technology are not eligible for this experience. All school age children with disabilities ages of 3 to 21 and their siblings ages 3-13 are eligible to attend the day respite.  Children with disabilities ages 5 - 21 and their siblings ages 5-13 are eligible to attend the overnight respite. There are a limited number of spaces open for each respite program to ensure that each child receives the proper amount of attention.

When are the programs?

There are 6 sessions per year. The day sessions are held on Saturdays and the overnight sessions are Saturday mornings through Sunday afternoons.

Where are the programs held?

Three of the respites are held at The Watson Institute in Sewickley, located on our 70 acre main campus.  This completely accessible facility includes a large activities building, outdoor playground areas, walking trail, gymnasium, art room, music room, library with Smartboard technology and many additional activity rooms.

Three of the respites, including the overnight program, are held at The Woodlands, located on a beautiful 32-acre site near Wexford, PA. The completely accessible facility includes a large activity building, indoor swimming pool, sports court and a full-service dining facility.

Why was this program created?

The main purpose of this program is to give children with disabilities the opportunity to interact with other children of similar ages and different abilities in a fun, but supervised setting. Also, the level of care provided gives parents an opportunity to tend to some of their own needs, such as working or relaxing, while their children are safe and having fun.

For more information on our respite program please contact Lisa Husar at 412-749-6415 or via email at

Affiliate Respite Programs

The Watson Institute is affiliated with other organizations associated with respite care.  For more information on these programs, click on the following links:

The Alliance for Community Respite Care connects family caregivers to respite resources -

The National Respite Locator/State Points of Contact helps caregivers find resources in their community based on their specific respite needs -