A disability conference took place at Southeast High School in February, 2016
The keynote address that author and blogger Courtney Westlake gave Saturday at a conference on disability at Southeast High School gave college student Abigayle Jankauski a parent’s perspective.
Jankauski, a University of Illinois Springfield elementary education major, said she was interested in Westlake’s story of how welcoming students in the Williamsville School District were to her 4-year-old daughter, Brenna, who has the rare skin disorder harlequin ichthyosis.
The genetic, incurable condition causes Brenna to be the size of a 2-year-old and her skin to be deep-reddish in color and constantly peeling. She has very little hair.
“I think anytime you get to hear from a parent’s perspective, it’s helpful,” said Jankauski, 22, a junior at UIS. “The thing that I found most interesting was how she felt the other children were doing in the class with her student and that she was willing to present information on her child’s diagnosis and kind of accommodate that with the parents.”
The 8th annual Disability to Possibility Conference at Southeast was sponsored by District 186, Springfield Parents for Students with Disabilities and Sangamon County Transition Planning Committee.
Breakout sessions offered information on behavior, advocacy, conflict resolution, community resources, assistive technology and more.
Westlake’s address offered attendees her experience as a parent of a special needs child who doesn’t have cognitive delays but who receives occupational, physical and speech therapies.
“We’re only a year into this journey of special needs education. We’ve had two IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings for Brenna so far, but she is really thriving in her school system,” said Westlake, who added Brenna has a one-on-one aide. “The school system was very nervous about taking her. Even the nurse a year into it, she said, ‘I wasn’t sure how this was going to go, but it’s going better than I thought.’”