Fair to provide options for special needs students

PARKERSBURG – A free informational services fair will be held April 10 to assist youth with special needs and their families with options and opportunities following high school.

The fair is being offered at no charge to students between the ages of 16 and 21 years old with special needs and their families from the area throughout the day in the Jack Stephens Gym at Parkersburg High School, 2101 Dudley Ave.

This is the fourth time for the event, which has traditionally been held in the autumn and is organized by the Transition Committee of the Mid-Ohio Valley. The committee consists of various professionals involved with individuals with special needs who would like to learn more about working, training, self-advocacy and support options.

“We have added a number of organizations and made some changes to better help those who attend,” said Sara Rose, employment specialist with Jackson County Developmental Center.

The additions include The Center for Excellence and Disabilities as well as the Wood County Resource Network.

“We are very excited for the different time and larger demographic for this transition fair from the others we have held,” Rose said.

By holding the event at Parkersburg High School and throughout the day, the fair is being broken into three times with residents of area counties being allowed in between 9 and 11 a.m., Wood County residents from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and any others who were unable to attend earlier between 4 and 6 p.m.

“We are hoping this will be more positive for those seeking help by holding the fair during the day and at a school venue,” said April Pennell, director of development and rehabilitation at SW Resources.

Pennell said there will be a variety of vendors on hand to provide information and answer questions.

“Our goal is to bring together organizations that serve people with special needs and youth with special needs who are looking for what their next step is when they graduate,” Pennell said. “The agencies included in the fair are support services, employment, advocacy and colleges to help these individuals decide what move is best for them.”

The fair is designed to show options, provide information, answer questions, and raise awareness of what is available in the Mid-Ohio Valley to those with special needs.

Along with holding the event at the high school, the Wood County Board of Education has allowed the transition committee to coordinate the fair with other schools and organizations to be able to bring those from outlying counties in, said Marsha Spiker, Mid-Ohio Valley transition facilitator with the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts Division of Rehabilitation Services.

“By holding this during the day and at a school, we hope to reach a lot more students and help them find employment and resources to help them move into an adult life,” Pennell said.

The committee held a smaller, similar event in October and hope to reach more students with the spring event.

“The time of year is important because this is when they are thinking about the end of their high school career and where to go and what to do next,” said Rose. “Right now they have motivational factors and we hope more peer support as they attend with their friends.”

High school students with special needs and their parents or anyone who falls in 16-21 age range who may have barriers to employment, education and/or training can attend this free event.

Vendors at this year’s event are The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley/The Arc of West Virginia; Consumer Credit Counseling; Jackson County Developmental Center; REM Community Options; SW Resources; Title XIX/Medicaid Waiver Providers; Workforce West Virginia-Youth Advantage and Job Service; Wood County Schools; West Virginia Advocates; West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services; West Virginia Parent Training; West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities; Wood County Resource Network; Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department; Social Security Administration, and West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services.

Those with questions can contact Spiker at 304-420-4580.