A North Texas mother is opening the first after-school program for teenagers with special needs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Emma's House is tucked in a quiet street in Irving just off of Loop 12 near Shady Grove Road.
The teenager whom the house is named after enjoyed taking pictures of her mom while she worked on Friday morning.
"She is 14 and has special needs, has an intellectual disability and so it's in tribute to her," said Debbie Elizondo, her mother and Emma's House executive director.
Elizondo said she has thought of creating a place like this for years. She said she knew it was time to act when her daughter and her friends were getting too old for traditional day care.
"I was approached by several other families who were going, 'Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you're right. My child is aging out, too. What are we going to do? What are we going to do?'" Elizondo said. "And I said, 'You know what? This is what I'm going to do.'"
The 1,800-square-foot space includes a small kitchen area and several themed rooms where students can lounge or play video games.
Throughout the summer, volunteers from all over DFW helped to put the place together. Teachers from the Irving and Grand Prairie school districts painted the walls.
Throughout the school year, high schools students from Irving will drop by to volunteer and help.
Suzanne Stuyvesant, a caregiver, said she looks forward to providing proper care to those who can be easily overlooked.
"We need to make sure that there is always a place for them to go, as well," she said. "And I think so many times, these kids really do fall through the cracks and people just forget that they're out there."
Emma's House opens Monday to teenagers and young adults ages 13 to 21. Its caregiver to teen-young adult ratio is about 2-1.