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Children’s Special Needs Conference inspires families

Children’s Special Needs Conference inspires families

Parents of children with special needs received helpful tips and had the opportunity to network with other parents at the Children’s Special Needs Network’s annual conference, held Oct. 13 on the UMHB campus.

The conference welcomed approximately 200 parents, caregivers, teachers, and people in the community. Classes ranged from how to navigate through the school system to accessing service when a special needs child becomes an adult.

As the parents participated in classes, the children spent quality time with UMHB students. Before helping with the conference, about 70 students participated in the training necessary to prepare them to care for children with special needs. Assistant Professor of Education and conference coordinator Dr. Kris Ward said the experience benefited students majoring in many different disciplines.

“Our education majors had hands-on experience with the kids, while nursing students had opportunities to care for people with special needs. The students learned that people with special needs are not that different from others in our community. You experience people with unique abilities and disabilities everywhere you go,” Ward said.

The children were entertained with face painting, arts and crafts, sports, a Home Depot workshop, and other engaging activities.

Ward was humbled by the stories she heard about how the conference brought people together. She recalled one family with two blind parents and a child with multiple disabilities. The family, who had just moved to Killeen from out of state, had spent nearly a month trying to coordinate a way to get to the conference. A stranger volunteered his time to bring the family to campus, and a student offered to guide the parents around campus while another student took care of their child.

“That’s what the conference is all about—serving families,” Ward said. “Whatever their needs are, we’re going to do everything we can to meet those needs. That is true community.”

-Nicole Johnson ’13