Campus hosts conference for parents of special needs children

This is the second year the university will host the annual InKidAble conference in collaboration with the Children’s Special Needs Network Oct. 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event provides free childcare while parents of children with special needs attend informative breakout sessions where they will learn a variety of useful tips, such as what government resources are available to them and how to navigate the special education program in public schools.

Instructor in the education department Kris Ward thinks the conference provides both opportunities for learning, as well as a chance to connect.

“The families that come here, sometimes they just learn information that they didn’t know, but other times they just get to network with other parents, and get ideas from those parents that are dealing with the same kinds of situations they are dealing with,” she said.

Volunteers care for more than 100 special needs children and their siblings while their parents get a small break.

“These are families that deal with issues daily that those of us who are typically developing don’t deal with, so it’s  just an opportunity for them to come learn some more, and not have to worry about finding a babysitter,” Ward said.

Ward is seeking more students to volunteer with childcare.

She thinks it will provide a great avenue for them to both give to others and to gain experience.

“It’s an opportunity for service, and that’s part of our mission at Mary Hardin-Baylor, to serve. So we want this opportunity for students to serve,” she said. “Secondarily to that, the students learn things that are relevant to their majors. Nursing students learn about caring for children. Education students learn about working with kids, and I’m sure other majors would benefit as well.”

At last year’s conference, junior education major Michael Gomez took care of a young boy for the day.

He enjoyed the time he spent with him, and saw how much enjoyment the children get from the experience.

“The kids just get to go and have fun. It’s really about them, and all we’re here to do is have fun with them,” he said. “My experience last year was a blast. It’s not too structured. It’s just fun.”

Gomez encourages students to help with the event.

“Even people who aren’t going into special education or education or if they have other majors or other interests, they should volunteer for this stuff and see what it’s like to gain a little understanding or some insight,” he said. “It benefits everyone in the long run.”

Hardware engineer for the Information Technology department Angela Baker decided to use her previous experience working with those with special needs to help at last year’s conference. She believes that it benefits not only the parents who come, but the university and community as a whole.

“I think UMHB’s education department only benefits from recognition of holding this type of conference,” she said. “Usually large campuses do this type of event, so for somewhere like UMHB to host, I think it’s sending the message to the community that we’re here, and we can help also.”

Author: JC Jones

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