‘WeCAN’ empowers parents of special-needs children

By Ruthie Robison The Webster Progress-Times

The Webster County Action Network, “WeCAN,” meets for the first time Tuesday, June 26, at the Mathiston Public Library from 6-7:30 p.m.

The newly established advocacy and educational organization provides a setting for parents of special-needs children to gain information, learn about available resources and participate in group communication.

WeCAN was launched by local coordinator Tabitha Fulgham of Mathiston and state coordinator Leslie Junkin of the Mississippi Parent Training and Information Center. Fulgham, mother of five, got the ball rolling for the creation of the Webster County Action Network as a result of her search for outreach services offered locally for her 14-year-old daughter, Ruthie, who has Down syndrome.

After noticing the lack of outreach offered in northeast Mississippi, Fulgham contacted the Mississippi Parent Training and Information center in Jackson and was referred to Junkin, the northeast Mississippi training coordinator and parent adviser.

“I’m so excited about parents of special-needs children in the area getting to know each other and having someone to contact and help find resources.” Junkin said. “They don’t have to suffer in silence.” The mission of WeCAN is to help enric h the community with information and education, resources, events and activities, and support. Junkin will present a workshop titled “Effective Advocacy Skills for Parents” at the first WeCAN meeting. She will help parents learn skills to stay better organized, keep records and effectively communicate. In addition, the workshop will present ways for parents to support and have a more active role in their child’s Individualized Education Program and therapies.

“This class will teach parents how to set up a process so communication can be more effective.” Junkin said. “The IEP process doesn’t work as well when communication is bad.”

WeCAN is committed to informing and educating parents of special- needs children of all ages. Some of the other classes offered will target early intervention, while other classes will talk about children with special needs post-school, such as adult services, employment, community participation and group living. In addition, a class that gives parents a better understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and an explanation of basic special education laws will also be offered.

WeCAN not only plans to provide education and resources to parents, but also provide events and activities for special-needs families in Webster County. These events and activities will be coordinated to cater to local special-needs families. Fulgham hopes to plan a “park day” for the children and their families, and anticipates involving parents to share ideas for upcoming family events and activities.

Another feature of WeCAN will be support for families; providing parents an outlet for communication. “Sometimes as a special-needs parent daily life can get hard,” Fulgham said. “We can listen to one another’s needs and struggles, pray for one another and figure out a solution if need be. To be blessed with a special child shouldn’t mean feeling lonely.”

WeCAN has a group on Facebook where parents can interact, communicate, post and find information, as well as ask Junkin questions.

“Our purpose as a group is to encourage and empower parents to help their children lead successful lives,” Fulgham added.

For more information about WeCAN call 263-5152 or email tcfulgham@gmail.com. To join WeCAN’s Facebook group, go to www.facebook.com/groups/210541092396840/.

For more information about the Mississippi Parent training and Information Center call 662-251-5599 or go to www.mspti.org.