By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
One of the most daunting things about living in a small town can be finding others with the same challenges you are facing. That is especially true in the education of special needs children.
While there are many organizations and resources in Las Vegas to help families with special needs children, most do not travel to Moapa Valley. Thus, finding out about them can be overwhelming for parents.
A group of local moms have banded together to form a group of volunteers called Resource Education Awareness Community Help, or REACH. Their goal is to raise community aware of the educational resources available for families and caregivers of children with special needs.
The group aimed to gather as many resources as possible into one place where parents could learn what was available to them. Thus the organization’s first Special Needs Resource Night was held on Monday night, October 2, in Moapa Valley High School cafeteria.
Organizations traveled to the event from Las Vegas, Moapa Valley, Mesquite, and St. George to attend. With over 20 different agencies in attendance, the wealth of knowledge and opportunity gathered in one place was immense.
The evening began with a brief introduction the REACH organization. Founding member Erika Whitmore said that the goal of the evening was to erase feelings of aloneness, letting people know that they are supported and that there are resources to help.
Another founding member, Jennifer Adams, spoke next. She said that the organization is discovering what activities would be of greatest benefit to local families. She explained that group members hope to be able to offer classes and is currently planning a Christmas party that will bring special needs kids together in a fun atmosphere to make friends.
“Let us know how we can help you,” Adams said. “Let’s unite and do good together.”
Each agency was invited to make a quick introduction and present a brief overview of programs they offer so attendees would know which booths would be of most value to them.
Many of these were local organizations or had services available in Moapa Valley.
Melissa Andersen is offering ASL classes for both those with special needs and their caregivers or anyone who wants to learn. Classes begin on October 10 from 6-7pm and are $20/month or $5/class. Register by calling Melissa at 702-413-2489.
Special Olympics is also active in both Mesquite and Moapa Valley for disabled kids.
Kaelynn Pendleton spoke about Permanent Learning Solutions, which helps kids reconnect physical and neurological pathways to help them in school situations.
CCSD Safe School Professionals program was presented by Norita Espinosa. The program provides social workers in schools. “Sometimes students can’t focus and succeed academically because there are things going on at home that are distracting them,” Espinosa said. “We are here to do what we can to make children successful in school.”
MVHS student Reanna Lyon, spoke about the “Circle of Friends” club at the high school. The group befriends and does activities with the special needs kids.
Cooperative Extension can provide classes and activities that can benefit families of all types, especially through their 4-H program. They have a facility that is available and will work with requests.
Melina Proffit introduced more services provided by CCSD in the form of IEP assistance, adapted PE, and speech therapy.
Paralympic sports night is held on the 3rd Wednesday of every month, with the next meeting being October 18.
John Stastny from Moapa Valley Parks and Rec also pledged a willingness to offer recreational developmental classes as needed.“We just need ideas,” he said.
Other agencies from Las Vegas and St. George also attended. These included information about Miss Radiant Pageant, The Autism Treatment Assistance Program, Danville Services after school programs, Desert Regional Center, Easter Seals, Nevada PEP parent training programs, the Down Syndrome Organization of Southern Nevada, Rise Education Resource Center, the Department of Welfare and Support Services, the Katie Beckett program, Families for Effective Autism Treatment and the Southern Nevada Centers for Independent Living.
With such a vast group of resources assembled, attendees were pleased with the evening.
“I came to learn more about the resources that are available to the community,” said local teacher Jessie Bush. “It is valuable for me as a teacher to know where I can reach out for help or what I can recommend to others.”
Whitmore was pleased with the large turnout. “People need to know they are not alone,” she said. “We worked very hard getting these agencies out here and it took lots of calling. We really appreciate them coming.”