Event targets parents, educators of special needs kids

By CHRIS KIEFFER / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – As the mother of an autistic son, Arlitha Harmon knows firsthand about the challenges special needs children face in the classroom.
As a result, she has organized a conference designed to help both parents of children with special needs and the educators who work with those students.
That conference will be Saturday from 8:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. at the Hancock Leadership Center in Tupelo.
Harmon organized the conference as part of Parents for Public Schools’ Parent Leadership Institute, which informs parents about their schools and encourages them to undertake a project that makes them better.
Saturday’s event is cosponsored by the Tupelo Public School District.
“We want to make sure we give parents the tools they need to help their children be successful in school,” Harmon said. “It gives parents and their children’s educators a chance to meet.”
The conference is for any parent of children with disabilities and for general educators, special educators, administrators, counselors and others interested in the success of children, Harmon said.
She said it is focused on children with any type of disability.
The keynote speaker is Sharon Boudreaux of the Autism Center of Tupelo who will speak at 9:30 a.m. about what parents wish teachers knew and what teachers wish parents knew.
“She is an ex-educator who is working with parents now, so she sees it from both sides of the coin,” Harmon said.
Other breakout sessions will focus on services available to children ages 3 to 14 and on helping those over age 14 transition to adulthood.
“It is an often neglected segment of our student population,” said Sally Gray, parent coach for Parents for Public Schools. “If parents aren’t being advocates for our kids, sometimes those kids can be under served and their needs not met. This is a really good opportunity for parents to find out how to better serve their children and be advocates for them.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.