Thursday, 27 October 2011 by Matthew Girard
Parents with children with special needs got some helpful tips and had the opportunity to network with other parents last weekend at the Children's Special Needs Network's annual conference.
The conference, which was held on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, was attended by more than 200 people and featured nearly 45 vendors to help parents with children with special needs during the day-long event.
"It's the 19th annual conference and we are hoping to provide resources and networking opportunities for families to learn so they can be able to help their children with healthcare and other various needs they have," Children's Special Needs Network Executive Director Stacy Rodriguez said. "Our goal is to keep our children within the community instead of in institutions."
Along with vendors providing information on everything from healthcare to participating in Special Olympics, the conference featured key-note speakers Seth and Melanie Fowler.
The Fowler's presented "Navigating the Special Needs System," geared toward parents who have children recently diagnosed with a special need.
"To come and have access to all of this information in one day is tremendous," said Melanie, whose 6-year-old son was diagnosed with Autism three years ago. "We were very fortunate and blessed to hear about this conference three years ago when our son was diagnosed. We received just a wealth of information and in turn, we were here to give back."
Along with her husband, the Folwer's authored a book entitled "Look at my Eyes" to help parents with living with a special needs child.
"What we wanted to have people leave here with was encouragement and empowerment, and realizing that they are not the only people out there who are struggling with some sort of special needs child," Seth said.
Rodriguez said bringing all of the information together in one place was important.
"We feel it is very important to fill those gaps, the communication and resource gaps to help align all the agencies together," Rodriguez said. "We serve 30 counties, so our goal is to bring all these counties together so we can be able to let everyone know what resources are out there."
Child care was also provided for families attending the conference.
"The team that puts on this conference is amazing," Melanie said. "There is so much helpful information that's free and having the child care is so wonderful."
For more information about the Children's Sepcial Needs network, visit www.special-children.org.