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District Five hosts annual Community Services Fair

IRMO, SC - Over 150 parents turned out to the Lexington-Richland School District Five Community Services Fair held at Irmo High School on February 28. The fair targeted families that have students with disabilities in hopes of connecting them with service providers and a plan for the future. More than 30 local vendors were on hand to inform families about the services they offer. “This is such an important night for us as a district to ensure that our parents are aware of all the resources available to them,” said District Five Director of Special Services Angie Slatton. “It is not only important for the parents, but the educators and students as well. We have made it a priority to build relationships with these different vendors because they make a difference just like we do here in District Five.” The message from service providers all had one common theme: convenience. Having over 30 vendors in one place gave families a sense of calm. “When parents are looking for services for their children, it can sometimes be overwhelming because there are so many offerings out there,” said Sara Webber, District Five Special Education Behavioral Specialist. “Parents can spend time calling this person and that person, but it can potentially end up causing them to spend so much time just spinning their wheels that it becomes difficult for them. We hope that having so many services here at once makes things easier for them.” The South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) was one of many organizations in attendance. The DDSN is a state agency that plans, develops, coordinates and funds services for South Carolinians with severe, lifelong disabilities. “We have a wonderful relationship with District Five,” said Laura Elder, DDSN’s Director of Transition. “It is so important for us to be here tonight because the DDSN supports students right after they leave school, and it is important that we meet with them before they finish with their education so that we are already connected.” District Five Coordinator of Special Services Jinni Friend discussed the importance of the night and how critical meeting a student’s needs early on can be. “What we have learned over the years is pretty obvious. The earlier families apply for services for their children, the better off they are in the long run,” Friend said. Slatton added, “We encourage our parents to become involved right away and sign their children up because with services such as the DDSN, there can be a waiting list. That’s why it is important for us to target our elementary students so that they have those services when they are older, and are not stuck waiting.” Shelly Nowicki with Family Connection of South Carolina knows first-hand what it is like to have a child with a disability. “Most of our employees at Family Connection are parents with children that have disabilities and I happen to be one of them,” said Nowicki. “Sometimes as parents, it can feel like you don’t know who to call or reach out to with questions regarding medical, support groups, interventions, etc. Having a fair like this is so beneficial, and we cannot thank District Five enough for having us!” For more information on District Five and their Special Services program, visit http://www.lexrich5.org/Page/909

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