Katie Reeb-Reascos walked away from Parent Network of WNY’s ‘Buffalo Parents & Caregivers Virtual Panel’ feeling connected with parents who “share common realities within the special education system and larger society.”
The panel session, which took place on June 18, provided an open forum for parents and caregivers in the Buffalo area to discuss practices that helped them support their family members with disabilities during the pandemic. Parent Network Family Support Specialists Kim Hernandez and Lizarelis Ali facilitated the session.
Katie, a visually impaired mother of two sons with speech and behavioral challenges attended the session to gain insight into the world of servicing, if and
when her sons need extra support.
She said the panel allowed her to connect with other parents who experienced virtual learning obstacles, as well as those who felt side effects of the pandemic such as mental health issues.
Katie described Hernandez and Ali as “outstanding in their presentation and approach.”
“Both women personalized the chat by providing the group with their own experiences. Doing this made the session comfortable and safe,” she said.
The panel format of the session proved successful for Katie because she was able to hear from parents and caregivers who spoke on specific challenges they faced, which opened up the session to a broader discussion.
“The format illustrated how parents have distinct experiences, but often share common realities within the special education system and larger society. The tactics used by the presenters created the supportive and caring environment needed for us to open up, while maintaining a structure for facilitating the meeting, and sharing resources,” she said.
Katie said the panel also provided her with insight into how other parents of children of color are grappling with the unrest over racial injustice.
“My children are biracial and race has been a topic at my house for years,” she said. “Lately, I have been listening to other parents, so I can better support my kids with these topics. Parent Network’s recent chat session gave me an opportunity to hear others’ approaches and connected me with specific resources such as websites, books, and related seminars. After attending this session, I feel confident in my ability to speak with my kids about racial inequality and overall differences.”
Moving forward, Katie plans to utilize many of the tactics shared in this session which led her to create an “action plan” for her children. She plans to continue to have an open dialogue with her sons about racial injustice and plans to purchase the books about race that were shared in the session.
“In addition, I have learned that I must advocate for my kids early, often, and in writing. As the school year approaches, I will be reaching out to both of my kids’ schools in order to initiate a formal dialogue. I have done so already in informal ways, but given the emphasis placed on formal communication, I realize I have to do better with this. Had I not attended this session and others, I would not have had the courage to move forward in this way.”