Thursday, February 26, 2015

Library to Host Resources Fair for Individuals and Kids with Special Needs

Parents and caregivers of children with special needs are invited to meet other families and connect with local support resources at the Special Needs Resources Fair on Saturday, March 28 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Sharon Forks Library at 2820 Old Atlanta Road, Cumming. The event is free and no advance registration is required.

While parents and caregivers are learning about resources available to address special needs, their children are welcome to participate in storytime and other creative activities led by library staff. Teens and adults with special needs are also invited to attend the Resources Fair.

Several groups dedicated to helping those with special needs will be available to share information with parents and caregivers, including Forsyth Autism and Special Needs Support Group, Forsyth County Schools, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Special Needs Awareness of Public Safety (S.N.A.P.S.) Program, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and Special Olympics.

“As a parent of a child with special needs, I’ve noticed that many caregivers and individuals with special needs discover resources through word of mouth,” says Jennifer Forbes, Information Specialist at the Sharon Forks Library and the event’s organizer. “The Special Needs Resources Fair will hopefully highlight community resources that many of our residents may not be familiar with,” adds Forbes.

Forsyth Autism and Special Needs Support Group was founded in April 2013 by Sharon Howell, a mother of teenage twins with Autism, and Mary Kathryn McDonald, a speech-language pathologist. The purpose of the group is to connect parents, grandparents, and caregivers of individuals with special needs to each other to share ideas and support one another by sharing information. Forsyth Autism and Special Needs Support Group meets monthly at The Vine Community Church.

In an emergency situation like a fire or an accident, it is common for individuals with special needs to feel uncomfortable and to resist being spoken to or touched by first responders and public safety personnel. The S.N.A.P.S. program led by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office meets second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m at the Public Safety Training Center to allow individuals with special needs to interact with uniformed public safety personnel in a casual environment. Participants can talk with officers and first responders, role-play emergency scenarios, or just watch until they feel more comfortable.

Volunteers from Special Olympics Forsyth County will present information on upcoming sporting events and how athletes with special needs can get involved. In addition to local, regional, and state sporting competitions, Special Olympics also hosts outings the first Friday of each month at Stars and Strikes that allow participants to socialize and meet new friends.

Representatives from Region One of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities will distribute information about services such as: mental health care; crisis intervention and stabilization; peer support; supported employment; occupational, physical, and speech therapy; respite services; specialized medical equipment and supplies; and transportation services. Staff from the Special Education department at Forsyth County Schools will share information about programs available within the school system to support students with special needs.

The library also offers multiple accommodations for patrons with special needs and information about a new special needs storytime program will be available during the Special Needs Resources Fair.

“We have large print books, audiobooks, mailbox books for our homebound patrons, and ADA computer stations. Patrons can also reserve items from home to pick up all in one location at their branch. If someone needs a specific accommodation, we invite that patron to contact us and we will make every effort possible to accommodate that need,” explains Forbes.

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