Whether a child is diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome, Rett syndrome or any other special need, it’s difficult for parents to know where to turn for information and support. That’s where the Macomb ISD special education offerings can make all the difference.
This was the case for Sterling Heights mom Shelley Petty and her husband when they learned that their daughter, now 17, was multiply impaired.
“When I first had our daughter, our world was rocked. We got the worst news ever,” says Petty, a representative with the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) of the Macomb Intermediate School District. “As a special needs parent, you are really alone on an island until you find your tribe,” she says.
Her “tribe” helped her overcome obstacles related to her daughter’s diagnosis – and today, through her work with PAC, Petty gives back to Macomb County families and their children with special needs by providing guidance and support.
“I swore I would always continue that as long as I could, because it made an impact on me as a new mom,” says Petty, who is also the PTO president of the Glen H. Peters School in Macomb Township. “It’s rewarding for me because I get to help parents find their voice, help their child and teach them how to advocate.”
That’s why, each year, PAC and the MISD join forces to present a Special Education Fair. The 2019 event – which takes place 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Macomb ISD in Clinton Township – features Glenn McIntosh, the vice president for Student Affairs at Oakland University, as the keynote speaker.
McIntosh will deliver valuable information tailored to families and students with special needs. He will provide knowledge and support that will help families and students navigate their community to ensure student safety through community supports.
“Mr. McIntosh will give the conference participants the tools needed to build strong collaborations to advocate more effectively for students with special needs,” Michalak says.
The Special Education Fair is free to attend and open to families both in and out of Macomb County.
In addition to the McIntosh’s keynote speech, which takes place from 8:45 to 9:45 a.m., there are five different sessions, Michalak says. Parents are able to choose two to attend. Sessions, which are focusing on health and safety, include:
Children With Special Healthcare Needs and Emergency Preparedness presented by the Macomb County Health Department. The session will discuss children with special health care needs and their unique needs during disasters and emergencies. “I have a child with complex health care needs and I am really looking forward to this session,” Petty says. “So often families like mine only have minutes to get the life-saving help our special family member needs. As a mom, I will do everything I can to make sure I can get my daughter the help she needs in an emergency and that may mean having to take extra steps in order to prepare her, my family and my local first responders.”
AWARE: Heightened Risk of Abuse for Children With Special Needs presented by the Autism Alliance of Michigan. Learn of the heightened risks of abuse for children with special needs and the unique challenges in identifying red flags and responding effectively. “Many of our children and consumers with special needs are nonverbal or have a difficult time communicating with others,” Petty says. “It is so important that parents, families, school staff and caregivers learn to recognize the red flags of abuse and learn how to help their children and this session will give them the tools need to do so.”
Fire Safety and Preparing for First Responders presented the Clinton Township Fire Department. Steve Dalton, a firefighter paramedic and dad to a child with a disability will present this session, which is new this year. “I think that a great opportunity this year is how the expo is really focusing on the needs of the families and students with reaching out to first responders,” Michalak says.
Sexual Health Education for Students With ASD presented by SZ3 Consulting. “Another important component that is overlooked at times is sexual health education for students with ASD,” he adds. “Parents are going to get feedback from Maureen Ziegler who is an expert in the area of autism and has worked with the Start Program out of Grand Rapids for years.”
SMART Ways to Navigate in Your Community presented by SMART. The SMART Bus system is crucial for students with disabilities and their families, Michalak adds. During this session, attendees can receive insight on the bus system.
Also, meet with representatives from 28 local organizations and businesses that work with the special needs community. Resources that will be on-site include:
- AYSO VIP Program – Soccer for Special Needs Players
- Disability Network Oakland and Macomb
- Euro-Peds Center for Intensive Therapy
- Families Exploring Down Syndrome (FEDS)
- Hope Network
- Macomb County Health Department – Children’s Special Health Care Services
- MCFARES – Michigan Coalition for Fetal Alcohol Resources, Education and Support
- Michigan Alliance for Families
- Usborne Books & More
“I am so excited about this conference and what we have to offer to our families. In this day and age, the safety of all our children is paramount. When trying to keep their kids safe, families who have children with complex medical needs and children with disabilities face additional obstacles that typical families just don’t encounter,” Petty says. “Not only does our conference offer education on these subjects, but it also lends attendees an opportunity to network with other parents in the same boat and to gain different perspective on these subjects, our world and our amazing children.”
While the event is free, registration is mandatory. Click here to register for the 2019 Special Education Fair.
For those with additional questions about the Special Education Fair, contact Monika DeLuca at 586-228-3458.
To learn more about MISD’s special education offerings, visit the Macomb Intermediate School District’s special education web page.