CONYERS - Families and their special-needs children are invited to a resource fair that will provide valuable information for managing their lives.
"If you are disabled, it's sometimes hard to get your hands on all of the resources in your community," said Kay Rogers, the parent mentor for special education students at Rockdale County Public Schools. "A lot of times it's word of mouth. ... This is the opportunity for individuals in our area to find out what's available for them in Rockdale and Newton, but also around metro Atlanta."
Several area organizations are coming together this weekend to provide resources to families of children with disabilities from birth through age 22 and older. It is sponsored by the Newton/Rockdale Interagency Transition Council, Newton Rockdale Interagency Coordinating Council, ASPIRE and the Newton/Rockdale Navigator Team, all of which provide special needs services in Newton and Rockdale counties.
"We thought this year that we'd try to get these organizations who serve the communities all together to focus on one event," Rogers said.
The resource fair is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Rockdale County Government Annex, located at 1400 Parker Road in Conyers.
It is free and open to the public.
Previously, the event has targeted older students, but this year, event organizers want to attract a wider audience, including younger students, children, and even older adults and all those in between.
"We are trying to reach as many people as possible," Rogers said.
Although it targets school-aged children and those transitioning to after-school life, she also said adults who have been disconnected would find useful information.
More than 50 area agencies will be at the fair to provide information about recreation, child care, education, health care financing, medical equipment and services, assistive technology, insurance, employment, home and community-based services, support groups, rehabilitation, independent living, transportation and others. The Vocational Rehabilitation Center at the Georgia Department of Labor also will be on hand to provide employment information to students who are planning to graduate.
"This is one of the largest we've ever had," Rogers said. "It's even larger than what Atlanta has."
The fair is set up like a career fair, and Rogers said attendees don't need to bring anything with them - they will be given a bag for handouts at the door.
"We'll have tables set up where people will have their displays and give out takeaway information" like brochures, she said. "We want to try to capture all of this information in one place, like a one-stop shop."
She said the time families spend at the fair varies.
"It depends on what you find and how long you spend with each agency," Rogers said. "It's a drop-in type thing, but you could breeze through there in an hour or so."
She said people who do not have the time to visit with each agency also will receive a booklet that lists each agency and its contact information.
Rogers hopes the event attracts more families this year than it has in the past, although it has always been well attended.
In the past, the fair was held on a weekday - students were bused over from their schools and often only accompanied by the teachers.
This year, event organizers felt it was best to hold it on a Saturday.
"We're trying it for now," Rogers said. "We absolutely thought it would encourage parents to be there. ... Parents are the ones who are going to be in it for the long run."
She said she hopes this event will become an annual one, but she said it all depends on the community response.
More information about the fair is available by calling Rogers at 770-860-4244 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Floyd can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: If You Go
What: Newton/Rockdale Resource Fair for Special Needs
Who: Families of children with disabilities from birth through adult
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Rockdale County Government Annex, 1400 Parker Road, Conyers
More information: Kay Rogers, 770-860-4244 or firstname.lastname@example.org