Parents took advantage of a rare opportunity to meet with disability service providers from state, federal and local agencies all gathered in one place Saturday, Sept. 12, for a Transition Resource Fair at Indiana University South Bend.

“It’s amazingly resourceful for so many people,” said Cheryl Speheger, co-president of Michiana Down Syndrome, whose son Matthew is a junior in high school.

“We’re interested in seeing what all is here,” she said as she and Matthew headed down the first aisle of exhibitors, stopping to pick up brochures and chat with professionals.  They also paused several times to greet friends they hadn’t seen in awhile.

“There’s a better parent turnout this year than last year,” said Barb Schmitt, one of the organizers.

Viv, Barb and Michelle

Barb Schmitt (center) from Down Syndrome of Michiana, stands with Viv Blakeslee (left) and Michelle McGuin of ADEC at the Transition Resource Fair. The three women worked together with IUSB to organize the event.

Besides browsing the 63 exhibitor booths, participants also got to sit in on nine breakout sessions covering topics ranging from entering the system and getting a waiver from the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services (BDDS) to planning for a son or daughter’s financial future.

ADEC, Michiana Down Syndrome and the social work program at IUSB teamed up to present the fair for parents, caregivers, educators and anyone else advocating for someone with a disability.

One mom from LaGrange stopped by ADEC’s table inquiring about services for her  21-year-old daughter who still lived at home and needed transportation before being able to get a job or join a day program.

Another mother sought help for her 47-year-old stepson who works part-time but doesn’t qualify for disability services through Social Security. “He has qualified for a waiver with BDDS,” she said. She didn’t know what her next step was or how to use the waiver. She found someone at the fair who could answer all of her questions.

A father whose twin sons are juniors in high school talked with folks representing Project Search, a school-to-work transition program.

Scenarios like that played out all morning during the fair.

Project Search

Representatives from ADEC and Project Search talk with visitors to their table.

Michelle McGuin, Director of ADEC Family Services, and Viv Blakeslee, ADEC Transitions Coordinator, would have liked to have seen a bigger turnout. However, both realized it wasn’t as much about the numbers as about giving people that one-on-one attention.

“If just one person who came today found the answers they were looking for, it was a success,” said McGuin.

Based on that, the Transition Resource Fair was an overwhelming success.

Article and photos by Nancy Miller/Mission Advancement Manager