Transition Fair aims to answer questions

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County’s Transition Fair is for anyone going through a life transition and could benefit from community services.

The fair, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. on April 16 at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in Woodstock, is aimed at individuals with physical, emotional or educational disabilities; educators; caregivers, family members and anyone else hoping to help those in their care seamlessly transition into a new group of services.

A transition can happen after the loss of a caregiver or when an individual ages out of other services, said Gina Stetter, director of special education for Shenandoah County Public Schools.

“We’re trying to make sure that we get the message out that it’s for the whole birth ‘to’ age range,” she said.

In fact, she said, more adults are likely to benefit from community services than children in the school system.

“Perhaps the most important thing is just to know and then to ask,” Stetter said. “I think that it’s that awareness piece that we’re trying to put into place. Do you even know what you don’t know yet?”

She said the community might not realize how many organizations are partnering on the Transition Fair.

“What we’ve tried to do is bring together a diverse group of business, organizations,” Stetter said.

From public and private schools to law enforcement agencies to health clinics, the list includes, among others, Commonwealth Autism Service, Crossroads Counseling, the Department for Aging and the Division of Rehabilitation Services, the Department of Social Services, Lutheran Family Services, Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, the ARC of the Northern Shenandoah Valley and James Madison University’s Office of Disability Services.

The idea is to offer a catch-all example of all the community can offer individuals with disabilities or those in need of behavioral health services, said Heather Jennelle, vice chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee, or SEAC.

Community representatives and health care providers will talk with visitors about the types of services that can best help them or their loved ones — a task that normally might require a few phone calls before reaching the proper service.

“Really [the fair is about] how all these pieces come together for our community with anyone who has any type of need,” said Jennelle.

“This is your opportunity to learn and to come with questions,” she said. “How would this benefit me or my child? This is it.”

Because special education can impact anyone, Jennelle and Stetter stressed that no one should feel unwelcome to come and learn from the Transition Fair.

Teachers outside the special education field, those who live outside of county lines and clergy — often the first to learn of a family’s need for special care — can take home information to better help those they serve.

“You don’t have to be in special ed to help somebody else,” Jennelle said.

Contact the Shenandoah County Public Schools Special Education Advisory Committee at 540-459-6716.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com