Like organizations and individuals around the world, March 2020 brought many surprises and challenges for Raising Special Kids.
As always, our primary focus is serving families of kids with disabilities and, pandemic or no pandemic, that is what we are determined do.
In mid-March, when COVID hit, our spring edition of Connecting was close to heading to the printer. After assessing the situation and hearing from families their need for accurate, credible information, we changed our focus. Within 11 days we put together and published a COVID-specific issue of Connecting.
But information was changing at a rapid pace. We recognized the importance of making up-to-date, reliable information available to families. We quickly created a repository of COVID information on our website as a one-stop resource for families.
The staff at Raising Special Kids had begun working from home as soon as the threat from the virus was recognized. This meant reconfiguring the phones, setting up laptops, setting up Virtual Private Networks and, of course, welcoming staff and families to the wonderful world of online meetings.
Within weeks we had a cadre of trained online presenters and hosts and a system for providing what were once in-person workshops, virtually for families across the state.
We also added two COVID-specific trainings: Special Education During COVID-19 and Health Care During COVID-19. During the months of April, May and June 2020, Raising Special Kids offered more than 50 online trainings.
Being parents of children with disabilities, the staff were experiencing the stresses of trying to adjust to the rigors of working from home, assisting children with their online schooling and therapies, and just generally dealing with the challenges of navigating everyday life with children, many of whom are at an elevated risk for infection, during a global pandemic.
The staff knew other families were feeling the same levels of stress and began increasing How Are Things (HAT) calls to families we've served. Calls just to check in and let families now they are not alone and that Raising Special Kids is here assist in whatever way we can.
Raising Special Kids turned to social media to further reach out to families and our community in general holding our first Facebook Live event on April 10. Each week, Family Support Specialist Brittany Miller engages families on different topics either solo or with guest speakers such as the May 1 event with Angelo Odom and Lori Bird from the Arizona Department of Education. Ceci Hartke hosted our first Facebook En Vivo on April 22 to engage our Spanish speaking families. In addition, Raising Special Kids has invited experts to address various topics through a speaker series. All of our speaker series, Facebook Live and Facebook en Vivo events are recorded and available on our website at raisingspecialkids.org and on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/RaisingSpecialKids1/videos.
Regardless of the surprises waiting in the wings, Raising Special Kids is ready to nimbly tackle any challenges and continue to assist Arizona families just as we have for over forty years.