Parents, educators and caregivers recently came together to identify resources and offer support for special needs individuals of all ages at a unique gathering on the Newton campus of Project Self-Sufficiency.
Titled “Special Needs Across the Lifespan” the event addressed issues impacting education, nutrition, health and wellness, housing, workplace, and recreation opportunities for infants, children, teens and adults with special needs. Workshops, seminars, guest speakers and activities for children were available to participants. The event was co-sponsored by the Sussex County Family Success Center and Project Sussex Kids, the Sussex County Council for Young Children.
“Caring for a special needs child or adult can be complicated and overwhelming,” commented Project Self-Sufficiency Program Coordinator Haley McCracken commented. “Through our work with social service organizations and schools in the community, we identified a need for a one-stop resource center to help parents and caregivers navigate the wide variety of emotional, logistical and financial situations they encounter on a day-to-day basis. This resource fair is a great place to start that process.”
Motivational speaker and life coach Diane Lang kicked off the event with a discussion about the dual practices of Positive Parenting and Mindfulness when parenting an individual with special needs. Project Self-Sufficiency staff member Haley McCracken, along with Kathy Baklarz, Sussex County Special Child Services, and Jennifer Escala, DAWN Center for Independent Living, offered a presentation for those with preschool-aged children which focused on the incorporation of a Medical Home Toolkit for record-keeping and the development of Individual Education Plans.
Issues to be expected during the school years were discussed at a break-out session by Tammy Miller, Hopatcong School District Director of Special Services along with education experts Ria Smith and Kathy Nauta. Challenges faced during adolescence were addressed by Patti Nugent, Sussex County Community College, Heather Church, DAWN Center for Independent Living, and Rena George, New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. The group touched on supportive programs for those with developmental disabilities which are available at area high schools and colleges. Janis Woersching, SCARC, and Carrie Parmalee, Intensive Family Support Services, discussed the resources available in the community for adults with mental health issues and vocational needs.
“We are fortunate to have significant resources in our community for children and adults with special needs, and this inaugural event helped parents, educators and caregivers to access the information they need to make informed decisions about the health and welfare of the individuals in their care,” noted Project Self-Sufficiency Executive Director Deborah Berry-Toon. “We are grateful for the involvement of the social service agencies and businesses who attended, and we are looking forward to expanding on this event in years to come.”
Participants received valuable information from local businesses, schools and social service organizations including Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc.; Atlantic Behavioral Health; DAWN Center for Independent Living; Disability Services and Advocacy, LLC.; Division of Developmental Disabilities; Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services; East Coast Behavioral Health; Equine Tranquility Wellness Center; Family Intervention Services; Family Partners of Morris & Sussex Counties; Family Support Planning Council #1; Intensive Family Support Services; NAMI Sussex; Peace by Piece NJ, Inc.; Project Self-Sufficiency; SCARC, Inc.; Shop Rite of Newton/Shoprite of Franklin; Special Child Health Services; Sussex County Disability Services Advisory Council; Sussex County Library System; Sussex County YMCA; Sussex Macaroni Kid; TOP Soccer; and the Youth Advocate Program.
Project Self-Sufficiency has improved the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey for more than 30 years. The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children through the achievement of personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability. Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 25,000 families. For more information about the programs and services offered by Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org. Information about the Sussex County Family Success Center can be found at www.sussexcountyfamilysuccesscenter.org. Information about Project Sussex Kids is available at www.projectsussexkids.org.
Photo Above: Project Self-Sufficiency staff member Haley McCracken discusses issues faced by special needs preschool-aged children at the recent Resource Fair.
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