Resources available to those with disabilities in our area

Speech Therapist Megan Hand, left, and Selena Rhoades, preschool services coordinator for Shenandoah County Public Schools, wore costumes for the Transition and Disabilities Resource Fair on Tuesday. They handed out free balloons while informing parents and teachers about the benefits of preschool. Kaley Toy/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Students, parents and teachers attended the Transition and Disabilities Resource Fair hosted by Shenandoah County Public Schools on Tuesday afternoon.

The Special Education Advisory Committee for Shenandoah County Public Schools brought in over 30 different organizations to speak about resources available to those with family members who have a disability.

The organizations set up booths to discuss topics such as self-determination and independence, post-graduation training and employment, and parent and family resources.

Exhibitors included schools, camps, transitional programs, vocational programs, parent support groups, educational supports, financial and estate planning, behavior intervention services, residential programs, social skills programs, medical and therapeutic services and recreational and creative arts programs in Shenandoah County and neighboring regions.

One group, Strength in Peers, was present to showcase their work for the first time at the fair.

Rachel Lewis, community engagement coordinator, said Strength in Peers is a peer support organization based in Woodstock that provides mental health services to residents of Shenandoah and Page counties.

“Our peer support specialists have experience in mental health issues like anxiety, depression and substance abuse and so we can provide one-on-one counseling,” she said.

She added they also provide mental health first aid training.

“It’s an eight-hour course that gives the lay-person skills they need to respond to a mental health crisis,” she said.

Grafton Integrated Health Network’s Infant and Toddler Connection of Shenandoah Valley was also at the fair to provide information about services available.

Sharlene Stowers, director of early intervention with Grafton, said they provide early intervention services to over 260 families that are in the program.

She said the organization mentors families of children up to age 3 who exhibit a developmental delay or mental condition that can delay their development, and families are never turned away because they can’t pay.

Shenandoah County Fair queens were also at the fair to look after children as their parents walked around the booths and spoke freely with exhibitors.

Gina Stetter, director of Special Education for Shenandoah County Public Schools, said they have been holding this fair for at least the past five years and it continues to grow and showcase a broad range of services available in the area.

She said that over the years they have shifted their focus from being a transition fair for those entering the workforce to a fair that provides services for those of all ages with many forms of disabilities from birth to adulthood.

She said along with parents and community members, teachers also attend the fair for professional development to pass along information they believe a student in their class may benefit from and can later sit down with the parents and discuss services available.

Following this year’s fair, she said, the Special Education Advisory Committee will set a date for next year’s event and determine how it can expand the fair to be more inclusive.

The committee is an organization that provides parents with guidance and information for students with disabilities, and they hold monthly meetings to discuss community resources and support for these individuals. They also discuss ways to improve the direction of special education within the county’s public schools.

Heather Jennelle, committee chair, said they will be holding a seminar, “Collaborating with Schools for your Child’s Success: Making the Most of IEP and Other Meetings” with guest speaker Tracy Lee, a family engagement specialist with the Virginia Department of Education, at 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at Central High School.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com.