Melanie Patton, Parent, firstname.lastname@example.org
Our family moved to SE Iowa in late 2008. Our previous school experiences in another state had been little more than “glorified babysitting” for our daughter who suffered with frequent seizures. Due to the seizure disorder and medical difficulties, she had many learning disabilities and delays. It was difficult getting to know the area and the services available for our 11 year old special needs daughter, LuCasey. We didn’t even know what an AEA was. We looked around at a variety of schools and decided on Mt. Pleasant, where LuCasey finished her school year at Harlan Elementary. It was then recommended that she move on to the Middle School.
The teacher at the Middle School, Tiffany Menke, was phenomenal and she and the AEA staff were very helpful in assessing LuCasey’s needs and providing appropriate services. For the first time in LuCasey’s school life, we felt that she was receiving an appropriate education and support services to help her grow into the child she was supposed to be, even with the disabilities that she faced. Not only did we find support for our daughter’s education, we also found the school and AEA supportive of our family and LuCasey’s behavior challenges.
During this time, I met the PEC Coordinator for our area, Kelly Wallace. Because of the difficulties we initially had in finding out about services, both in and out of school, I had a desire to help other parents. Many times, valuable information I received came from other parents. Kelly encouraged and assisted me and last spring I started a Support Group for Parents with Special Needs Children called Our Special Kids – Southeast Iowa. This group is open to all parents and families dealing with any type of special needs. The group’s mission is to share information, and provide support and encouragement to one another. We meet regularly and also stay in contact via email and our FaceBook Page (Our Special Kids Southeast Iowa). Kelly and the AEA have been an invaluable support to our family and I wouldn’t have gotten this group going without their help.
Our daughter is now 15, in High School and very successful under another amazing teacher, Kathy Holtkamp. The teachers, paraprofessionals and the AEA Staff in Southeast Iowa are amazing! Outside of the regular school day, they have taken her to afterschool functions, including middle school dances and this year, the High School Homecoming Dance and activities. Recently the staff accompanied LuCasey and her whole class to the movies on a Saturday night so that they could all feel like their “typical” peers. We have been so blessed that everyone that has been involved in our daughter’s education has been supportive and willing to contribute to her success. We have also been treated with respect and dignity and as a part of the team, since parents are the “Specialist” for their child. Having come from another state where the services weren’t meeting our needs, we are grateful to the Mt. Pleasant School District and the Great Prairie AEA for all they have done to ensure that our daughter is successful and grows into her full potential.