Parents gather for SELPA conference


Paige Atkison

Tammie Fanning and Lee Knopts-Martin address the audience

Paige Atkison, Reporter

The parents and guardians of special needs children gathered together at Hodel’s Country Dining for a conference early Friday morning on Jan. 26. The conference, entitled “Specially Yours,” is the second annual conference hosted by the Kern County Consortium SELPA (Special Education Plan Area). The conference featured food, drinks, vendors, and a keynote speaker.

The conference focused on providing desperately needed resources for parents of children with special needs.

“We want to bring parents into the equation as far as having access to trainings and different tools to use in the home,” said event coordinator Lee Knopts-Martin. “Organizations and schools are given access to those trainings, but that’s not always available for parents themselves.”

The keynote speaker, Amanda Nicolson Adams addressed precisely these issues in her speech today.

“My main focus is social skills training and equipping parents to aid them from preschool all the way through their lifespan,” said Adams. “Another topic is addressing the most common behavioral issues special needs children have, from tantrums to trouble sleeping and sleeping.”

Shannon Wilson, the mother of a child with special needs, has struggled to find the specific care she needs for her family.

“My son does okay in his classes, but it’s much more difficult when he’s home,” said Wilson. “My mom helps me take care of him, but mostly I’ve cared for him alone. We tried behavioral [therapy] at the Kern Regional Center, but it didn’t address the issues we were having at home.”

Similarly, Carla Burch, a mother of a 6-year-old with down syndrome, has found success in finding resources through the school district, but is still looking for resources that will help her at home. She believes the conference will help her find comradery with the other parents and lead to new resources.

Adams offered a message of hope for parents frustrated with searching for ways to help their families.

“Keep looking,” said Adams. “It’s too important to give up.”

“I think the resources are coming, Adams continued. “There are never enough resources, but they’re coming. The resources in Fresno have developed significantly over the past ten years. It is the same here [in Bakersfield.] I’m trying to find the gaps in services. Afterschool care is generally hard to find, but it gets worse as the children age. After early intervention ends it can be a difficult resource for people to find. I know there are other people like me who are trying to fill these gaps.”