The Liberty County School System hosted its first resource fair for individuals with disabilities Saturday.
According to Mindy Yanzetich, executive director of LCSS’ division for exceptional learning, more than 50 vendors turned out to provide information for parents and caregivers regarding available resources.
She also said Fort Stewart’s Exceptional Family Member Program and the Reaching Milestones organization helped with the fair.
“The EFMP is a comprehensive, multi-agency program that is here for soldiers who have family members with special needs,” explained Victor Garcia, Exceptional Family Member Program manager. “Our primary reason for existence is to make sure that soldiers get assigned to locations where the services are available to their families.”
Garcia said soldier stationed at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield are assessed by EFMP to determine their family’s needs, if they have a family member with disabilities.
“We look at everything they need, and based on that, we start connecting them to resources – state, federal, local, military, all the resources that are available,” he said.
Christi Martin, a services coordinator with Reaching Milestones, explained that her organization specializes in applied behavior analysis.
“We primarily work with kids with autism, but ABA is really for anyone you don’t have to have a disability,” she said. “Basically, (ABA) is behavior modification … we work on reducing problem behaviors like tantrums, throwing things, physical aggression.”
Reaching Milestones is based in Jacksonville, but has offices in Hinesville and Richmond Hill.
Thirty-minute presentations were held throughout the four-hour fair. Topics included academic accommodations for students with disabilities, resources for infants and toddlers with special needs, supporting exceptional children through transitions and children’s safety.
“(LCSS) has never done a resource fair before, so I asked (Yanzetich) if I could put one together, and she said, ‘go for it,’” said Lisa Vaughn, a parent mentor who works in LCSS’ division of exceptional learning.
Vaughn said the fair is the third parent-awareness session her department has hosted this school year. A fourth is planned for April.
“We’ve had a very good turnout, and we do plan to make this an annual event,” she said.
Gale Dent, facilitator for the Unique Puzzle Pack, said her organization acts as a support group for families with autistic members.
“We help them to do a better (individual education program) so they can advocate for the child better, (and) we work with the school,” she said. (Our members) enjoy being able to talk, to share their experiences or to just ask for help.”
Garcia also emphasized that some agencies charge families for the same services they can receive for free through the EFMP.
“There’s no need for (families) to go and spend all this money for services that are available to them for free,” he said.
Vaughn said she felt the fair was a success, based on reactions from family members and from vendors.
“I’ve actually heard from several of the vendors who said, ‘I like this. I learned some information that I can share with my families.’ And that’s the ultimate goal,” she said.
To learn more about the Exceptional Family Member Program, contact Victor Garcia at 767-5058 or visit www.stewart.army.mil/info. More information on Reaching Milestones can be found at www.reachingmilestones.com.
To find out more about the Unique Puzzle Pack, which meets the second Tuesday of every month at Connection Church in Hinesville, contact Gale Dent at 492-3060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.