Do you have friends? Not co-workers. Not neighbors. Not acquaintances. Genuine friends. People you can call or text and will be there in a flash. People who have celebrated your best and carried you through your worst. People who get you, understand you, and know you well. We all long for that kind of support system. It’s more precious than gold and can be hard to find. And, if you have a child with a disability, it can feel downright impossible. That’s where the Outreach program at South Sound Parent to Parent (SSP2P) comes in.
“I want to meet parents where they are at,” says Katie Cole, South Sound Parent to Parent outreach coordinator. Katie has only worked at SSP2P since April, but she knows firsthand the incredible impact this organization has. SSP2P exists to provide support and resources to families with children with disabilities. Their mission is that no parent walks their journey in isolation.
“I have a child with autism,” Katie shares. Katie had a friend who was involved with Parent to Parent’s early intervention program. When she heard that SSP2P was hiring, she told Katie she should apply. Katie was shocked! She had no idea that there was even a program out there to help people just like her.
And she doesn’t want that to happen to anyone else. “It’s hard to find resources and friends, so we’re trying to find them,” Katie says with a smile. She wants to be out where parents are, getting to know them and their children, making sure every family who has a child with a disability knows they are not alone.
Spring brought growth to their family. As word spreads, more families in need are connected with the support and resources they’ve so long desired but not known where to find. Knowing how much their outreach is cultivating a network like no other, Katie has big plans to keep it going.
This summer and fall, expect to see SSP2P at district back-to-school events, community festivals, the Shelton Farmer’s Market, ORLA, and at PTA meetings. These beautiful summer months have already brought park meet ups and hikes so families can stay connected and supported while school is out.
And, as many of these families will tell you, managing the muddy waters of education with a child with a disability can be confusing, daunting, and downright scary. As summer turns to fall, that’s where Sylvia Davenport, helping parent coordinator, starts to get busy.
“We want to connect parents to the right person in the right district,” Sylvia passionately states. She, like Katie, has a child with a disability. “We want to educate and empower parents to know what’s next.”
Sylvia matches parents who are on similar journeys. These matches often turn into lifelong friendships. Sylvia can’t help but tear up as she thinks about these precious life-changing relationships.
Sylvia has plans to offer an IEP 101 course in October to help parents know how to advocate for their children in the school system. She believes family education is a big key to helping parents feel like they are strong and capable of the task before them.
They will also participate in an autism conference in Lewis County this fall, followed by a Fragile X/Down Syndrome conference. SSP2P will also bring in DDA (Department of Disability Administration) caseworkers to help parents learn how to utilize their services.
Sylvia and Katie both know first-hand what this kind of connection and support can mean to a parent of a child with a disability. “It helps us understand frustrations and joys when things go well,” Katie nods.
Sylvia adds, “I believe every person in this community is an asset. It’s just our job to find where they fit.”
SSP2P finds this fit through a myriad of ways. One of these are the activities planned specifically for their families. Kim Smith, South Sound Parent to Parent director, will rent out a movie theater or the Hands On Children’s Museum for an afternoon of fun just for their families. “Our families and kids can have the enjoyment of going out without the stress,” Sylvia shares.
Sylvia loves working at SSP2P because they’ve supported her so much through her journey, it gives her a chance to give back. And she’s not the only one.
Sylvia has a story about two girls who went through SSP2P’s Sibshops program. Sibshops offer support for siblings of children with disabilities. Once these girls turned to teens and graduated from the program, they – on their own initiative – called Sylvia and asked how they could come back and help.
South Sound Parent to Parent’s mission is simple but powerful: meeting parents where they are at, making sure no family walks alone.