New Braunfels resident Brandy Gray realized that when it comes to educating families about special needs, people had to leave the area.
“Everything that I go to is either in San Antonio or Austin,” Gray said. “It’s generally expensive to be able to go to these big conferences where you're able to hear experts on these topics.”
These topics involving special needs include identifying symptoms of dyslexia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, transitioning into adult programs.
Since Gray lives in New Braunfels, she said she knows the familiarity of the area and learned about the dynamics of the family here and the resources that the city has.
“So, it was just something that I felt like we could get together locally so that people could be able to attend, and I wanted it to be free,” she said.
Thus, she reached out to people in the community about getting involved, as well as speaking to Any Baby Can, an organization that helps families with kids facing health and developmental challenges. Together they worked on the inaugural Special Needs Resource Symposium to be held on July 20.
“It was a project I wanted to put together right,” Gray said. “I've been really fortunate to have good support around me doing it. We're launching it this year and hoping that we have a great turnout and continue to grow.”
She said she would like to think about being able to do this in a similar area where people are in that same spot: there a lot of resources but may be too far or expensive to travel to.
“We want to be able to get that information to others as well, have it more accessible,” she said. “For a lot of the families, it’s a little too challenging to get child care and all that to be able to go if they have to stay overnight.”
Add to that the cost of conference tickets, which can start at $125, and accessing special needs information can be impossible for some families.
“That to me wasn’t okay,” she said. “I wanted it to be something that we can take all that information and be able to share it for free.”
Gray said when parents or guardians learned their child has been diagnosed and are trying to learn more about subjects such as autism, it can be overwhelming.
“What is autism?” ‘How does it work?’ ‘What's making it effective?’ ‘What does it look like?’” Gray said. “It’s breaking that down for the family and being able to ask questions that are specific to their child.”
She also doesn't want the symposium to be exclusive to families who have a child who's been diagnosed with special needs. If a family member who might be suspect, doesn't seem to be meeting a milestone, or they have some concerns and they want to know what to look for.
The symposium will have panels of experts on topics such as ADHD, autism and more. Additionally, parents can learn how to set up a will to ensure their child is being take care after they’re gone.
“We’ll have two to three people specifically to focus on those activities and issues, and then have (questions and answers), and not feel so overwhelmed with all that information,” Gray said.
Gray is also a developmental manager for the Cole Pediatric Therapy. CPT provides speech, physical and occupational therapy services.
At this point, she said the Special Needs Resource Symposium will have 35 exhibitors, all of them nonprofit or supportive organizations relating to these topics, such as the New Braunfels Police Department’s Project Lifesaver Program.
While no RSVP is required, Gray does want potential attendees to visit the Facebook event and click whether they’re going to give them an idea of what many people to expect.
For more information regarding the Special Needs Resource Symposium, contact Gray at (512) 820-6408, or Kasey Chenault of Any Baby Can at (210) 547-3019