Special Needs Resource Expo to be Held in West Orange on March 14

February 17, 2013 at 10:05 AM

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Parents Advocating for Special Services in Education, or PASSE, is happy to announce their 2nd Annual Special Needs Resource Expo. Last year we started with about 16 different organizations who came to share information on how their programs included and accommodated children and young adults with varying abilities. This year, we have revamped and improved our model, with a few surprises. Approximately 40 tables of various organizations will be available to share valuable information and answer any questions families have. And, we are proud to have Pediatric Martial Arts as our partner this year!!

As a parent of special needs children, I can tell you it is very difficult to find time to do the research it takes to find resources for my children out there. There are a lot more options now; than say, when I was a kid. There are camps, extra-curricular classes, social skills groups, learning centers, etc. It is amazing what you find when you do an internet search and call around. But that's just it, we don't necessarily have the time to put into researching. Many special needs children need to go for therapy, or to be monitored often by specialists, and some need round the clock care. Parents are just doing what they can living day to day life, without having the added stress of finding say, a basketball or baseball team for their kids to participate in.

The average parent does not have to go any further than their local PAL, community center, or recreation program to register their child up for sports or a cooking class. Me on the other hand, I have to stress about whether my child is socially adept to interact appropriately in this setting without a "shadow" or trained assistant. I have to think about how overwhelmed my child will become in a group of more than just a handful of kids. I have to worry if my child's dietary needs will be met, that others may be put off by my child's tics or stimming behaviors, or a host of other things.

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This sparked the idea for our Special Needs Resource Expo. I knew that others in PASSE and in the Special Needs Community at large, have similar fears and stresses. I knew I was not alone. In our community we share information like it is scripture. Who has a good recommendation on a specialist? Where can I go to find gf/cf macaroni and cheese that my child will actually like to eat? Who knows of an orthodontist that is experienced with sensory issues and can accommodate my child? etc. When we find something that works for our children, we shout it from the rooftops like the Hallelujah Chorus!! This information sharing is worth its weight in gold.

PASSE is a group for parents and caregivers of all children receiving any special services in the West Orange public school district. PASSE provides information, resources, and assistance to these parents.

Last year, PASSE started this Expo as a way to bring all these resources to one place. It is like going to Target...one stop shopping. You can get clothes, gardening tools, electronics and a loaf of bread. Likewise, at the Resource Expo, you will be able to find a Music Therapist, a Karate Studio, a Chiropractor, a Learning Facility, and an Advocate all under one roof. It is a way for us to share this valuable information with other families in NJ/NY, while also assisting the organizations by getting their name out there. It is a win/win situation.

Not only has our Expo grown in size, but we have some new highlights for the evening. We are providing childcare with entertainment. Parents can bring their child to our Child ID stations to get a professional card made up. Caregivers may also get a quick massage to relieve some stress! They can bring gold and sell it for cash. Get paid on the spot and help raise funds for our scholarship fund that benefits graduating seniors with Special Needs. And last but not least, we are giving away amazing prizes valued up to several hundred dollars, just for gaining important information from each vendor!

The Expo will take place on Thursday, March 14th, from 7-9pm @ West Orange High School (51 Conforti Ave., West Orange, NJ 07052). It is FREE and open to the public. Go to www.wopasse.org for more information on how to RSVP for the event.

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