Cindy Gladden, correspondent
A group designed to help parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities is making its debut in the region and providing answers to tough questions.
The Warren County Family Inclusion Special Education Support Group can offer support and resources to Warren County families who have a child currently on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and are receiving special services such as such as physical, vocational, speech therapy or behavioral therapy.
Laura Vrabel, a parent of a child with a disability, and Crystal Norman, a special education teacher with the Wright City School District, launched the group last year, offering in-person informational programs and a private Facebook page for members of the group to communicate.
“The band currently has 30 members,” Vrabel said. “This includes parents, paraprofessionals and teachers. We live in a rural town. Sometimes it’s hard to get resources.
Vrabel said the overall goal of the group is to work cooperatively with local school districts to help parents overcome some of the obstacles and challenges their families may face. She said parents can struggle to understand the details of their children’s education plan and often don’t fully understand the process offered by school districts for students with special needs.
Several parents attended a support group meeting on Saturday, April 16 at the Wright City Scenic Regional Library. Sally Knox, program coordinator with Missouri Parents Act (MPACT) was the guest speaker and offered resources for parents.
“We are working to strengthen community and school relationships and focus on low-level resolutions,” Knox said.
MPACT is a federally funded parent education and information center. Its mission is to “empower families so that children with special educational needs can reach their full potential in education and life.” MPACT is just one example of the resources that will be made available to parents by the SPED/Inclusion Parent Support Group.
“The support group helps me understand my child better,” said Beth Neldon.
“It helps me understand my rights and what the school can do. I find that I am not alone,” added Melissa Fitzgerald.
Vrabel said that as their children get older, the situation becomes even more difficult.
“You have a very lonely world,” Norman said. “People can’t know what we’re going through. The parents in this support group understand.
Vrabel said that historically children like theirs were sent to institutions. She believes this is why society is ill-equipped to understand what parents are up against.
Norman said many disabilities in children only become apparent as they get older. She said she believes society is in a better place than it was, but these kinds of challenges are very difficult for parents to overcome and the solutions are not easy.
For more information about the support group, visit the Warren County Family Inclusion/SPED Support Group page on Facebook.