The Secret is Out! Cobb Event Connects Families with Resources for Students with Disabilities
“Wonderful,” “amazing,” and “phenomenal” are some of the words that parents used to describe the recent Cobb Schools event that connected families with the resources they need for students with disabilities.
This year, more than 1,000 participants registered to attend the Cobb Schools Community Connections Resource Fair held at North Cobb High School. Families, from inside and outside Cobb Schools, shopped the activities provided by 50+ vendors to find the activity or activities just right for their children. Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Tellus Science Museum, Six Flags, and Georgia Ballet were all there to welcome families and explain the extracurricular opportunities available for students with disabilities.
“Families absolutely love this, and they have learned so much. What they really appreciate is that everything is in one place. They do not have to search the Internet and go to 40 or 50 different websites to find out what’s out there. They can see it all right here and find out all the great opportunities that are available in our community,” explained Dominique Terens, Cobb Schools Supervisor of Special Education Compliance.
That is precisely why Cobb Schools parent Shalleewa Hurst did not want to miss the District’s resource fair. Before the resource fair, she felt that other parents knew the secret to finding the extracurricular activities that would be perfect for her daughter. Thanks to Cobb’s resource fair, the secret is out.
“I’ve learned we have lots of resources that I am so glad you guys have put together because it’s been hard finding. This is wonderful because there’s not a whole lot of stuff online. It really isn’t a lot. If you don’t know where you’re looking, you can get turned around,” explained Ms. Hurst, whose daughter attends Hendricks Elementary School.
Parents in other area school districts are not able to shop for resources at a similar event in their district, so they come to the Cobb Schools event.
One parent from Marietta City Schools said, “This is amazing because I was never really able to find opportunities for [my son] for the summer. So, I’m excited about this because I see so many things that cater to him, things that he likes and things that can help him progress.”
One of the vendors at the fair was the Cobb County Public Library.
“We offer sensory-friendly movie programs, sensory hour, where you can come and visit the library hour at a time, just a plethora of resources. We’re always looking for ways to connect and make sure our patrons have access to all of the resources,” explained Renate Elliott, Inclusive Services Supervisor for the Cobb County Public Library.
Cobb County students can use their student ID to access Cobb County Public Library resources. Access is made easy through a partnership called PASS: Public library Access for Student Success. Cobb students can access public library resources through their school’s Cobb Digital Library or directly at www.cobbcat.org/librarypass/.
Another vendor that captured the attention of parents and students was Aerie Experiences.
“We’re a wilderness-based summer camp, and we work with special needs students on the spectrum with ADHD, a lot of different developmental issues. We provide wilderness-style summer camp for kids that typically don’t get to go this year, offering a lot of outdoor adventure opportunities from shooting bows and arrows to making food over campfires to learning at a school night,” detailed Dustin Graham, Aerie Experiences.
During the fair, Mr. Graham demonstrated how to make a fire the old school way using flint and steel—the same method student campers will use to cook their own food.
“They get to bond over the around the campfire and making their own food, sleeping in their hammocks, and getting hit by the same bugs. They come back, and they give their parents a hug and say, ‘I want to go back next year, and I made a friend there along the way.’”
According to Ms. Terens, hosting a fair that showcases the sensory-friendly and fun opportunities for students with disabilities is just one of the many examples of the tremendous support the District provides students and their families in Cobb Schools.
Parents who attended the fair agree.
“One thing I love is the communication,” added Ms. Hurst about her experience at Hendricks Elementary. “I don’t feel left out of anything. I can ask the same question four different ways, and I’m going to get a positive, not a no answer. Everyone from the principal to her teacher to the teaching assistant, they all listen, and again, they’re so patient. I tell them all the time thank you so much, just so [they] know how much I appreciate that. They’ve been so great, and I love it. It’s so wonderful.”
Cobb parent Libby Longacre started working in Cobb Schools, so she could learn how to best support her child with special needs.
“I think Cobb does phenomenal. It’s there for the parents to take advantage of it. They do very well with promoting things,” explained the North Cobb autism paraprofessional. “I think the earlier that parents are getting this information and getting into it, the better off they’re going to be. [Cobb has done] just a fantastic job of providing this information.”
Ms. Longacre has used the training she received in Cobb Schools to not only help her child but also help other students with special needs.
“It has been my passion and my calling,” she said. “I look at [the students] as my own. I want them to be treated like I want my son’s teachers to treat him. They’re all my children.”
Like other parents at the resource fair, Ms. Longacre was browsing for resources to help her son. She was joined by her husband, Marlon Longacre, who recently helped install a new sensory room at Chalker Elementary School and has plans with Piedmont Church to build sensory rooms at other Cobb Schools.
For parents who missed out on the resource fair, Ms. Longacre suggested they reach out to their Cobb Schools parent liaisons to find the resources they need.