For several summers I have had the privilege of participating in I’m Determined Youth Summit at JMU. This has become one of the highlights of my year. This year, however, I got to experience a new unique twist on the summit by working with the parents. For me, working with parents is always a tremendous thrill. Why? Because I can be an example for both the parents and their children. Specifically, parents with children who have special needs often wonder if their child can live independently, attend college or achieve a dream they may have. For some parents the fear of the unknown diminishes their ability to see their child’s full potential. While working with parents I try to help them realize that dreams can be accomplished through accommodations and supports. This year I was able to reach parents in ways that I have not been able to do before at previous summits. How did I do this?
First, I was able to serve as a vendor at the resource fair. This was an opportunity for me to explain, not only to the parents, but also to my fellow vendors what we do at 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC. This was also a great way for me to initially meet the students and their parents and start to make some connections with them.
Next, I was tabbed as an expert (I know I felt really special) on self-determination, youth transition, and entrepreneurship. The experts were asked to sit at tables and address questions from parents relating to their topics. I was able to have parents come join me and ask questions about to how they could help their son or daughter. I love these one-on-one interactions because I can really help parents understand that they don’t have to have that fear that I previously mentioned. These are the interactions that truly make me enjoy my work. If I can help one parent feel more comfortable and not worry so much, I have done my job.
In addition, my mom and I had the privilege of serving on a youth/parent panel where we discussed and gave tips about how to refuel in your advocacy journey. One of the things that I find most important about refueling, and this could be for both parents and students, is that you must allow time for yourself to do things that you enjoy. For me that could be something as simple as getting caught up on the latest TV shows or hanging out with friends. These types of activities help you maintain a level of centeredness.
I think for parents with young people with special needs one of the other most important things they can do, even though it can be tremendously difficult, is to learn to give your son or daughter freedom to make their own decisions and to trust of those decisions. I am so grateful for my parents’ willingness to let me be free and experience different things. For example, they allow my friends to drive our van so that I can spend time with my friends outside of the house. These choices have allowed me to grow and become independent both physically and in my decision-making. I hope my mom and I conveyed that message during our time on the panel.
I learned a lot from the different perspective of working with parents at this year’s summit. Mainly, the parents know how to get down when there is alcohol and dancing involved. Seriously though, I was grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences with the parents and I hope they took as much out of it from me as I did from them.
I want to thank Dana Yarbrough from the VCU Center for Family Involvement for allowing me to be a part of the parent’s summit and I hope I get the chance to return again in the future.
As always stay connected to us on social media and be on the lookout for new and exciting updates from 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC.