“There hasn’t been any kind of special needs conference in this area in quite a few years," notes Linda Marino, critical/special needs coordinator for Jewish Family & Children's Service in Squirrel Hill. "It is long overdue.”
"Spring into Action: A Special Needs Conference and Resource Fair for the Community" will be held on April 27
, sponsored by JFCS as well as the Agency for Jewish Learning, Friendship Circle, Jewish Community Center, Jewish Residential Services and Rodef Shalom in Oakland, where the event will be held.
Attendance is open to everyone (at a $15 cost). One breakout session is focused on welcoming kids with disabilities in synagogues and on holding a successful bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, but the rest are about more general topics. "Let's Get To Work!" offers workplace entry ideas for teenagers and adults with disabilities, while "How Can I Become an Effective Advocate?" helps people get the right education and other services. "Siblings Matter Too: What is it like to grow up with a brother or sister with a disability?" will explore the effects of this family situation.
The keynote speaker is psychologist Dr. Laura Marshak, who is a professor in the Department of Counseling at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and co-author of Married with Special-Needs Children, A Couples' Guide to Keeping Connected
. “When a family has a child or adult with disabilities, it does affect everybody in the family," says Marino. "How to turn that positive is the theme.”
All the agencies involved plan to follow up with attendees after the conference as well.
“You can go online and Google just about anything, but that doesn’t teach you how to use the resources, or how to manage them, or where is the best place to go,” she adds. “We want to engage families and help them to understand that there are
services out there.”
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Linda Marino, Jewish Family & Children's Service