A Gift to Parents: Opening the Door to a World of Possibilities

As 9-year-old Jacob played a game of bean bag toss, he smiled with glee, and his grandfather coached him on his next move. Next, he studied animal specimens, like a scientist before constructing Legos while his grandfather filled out information on a tablet.  

All the activities set up inside the Wheeler High School gym had Jacob beaming and hugging his grandfather. Jacob’s grandfather was grinning for a different reason.  

“I want to thank whoever put this together because it is what we needed. This is going to make our lives so much easier,” gushed Ricklund Harvey, Jacob’s grandfather.  

Harvey was talking about the Cobb Schools annual Community Connections Resource Fair for students with disabilities, which is organized by the District’s Special Education Parent Mentors. More than 50 representatives from Atlanta and Cobb county attractions, organizations, and businesses were on hand to share information about their accessibility and sensory-friendly offerings for families of students with disabilities.   

From Fernbank Museum, the Center for Puppetry Arts, and Alliance Theatre to Six Flags over Georgia, the Tellus Science Museum, and Camp Twin Lakes, there were representatives from all and many, many more who engaged with parents and chatted about the opportunities available for their students.  

Cobb parent Gigi Garcia had never seen anything like it. There definitely wasn’t anything like it in Las Vegas where her family lived just last year. 

“I think it is a great resource to have. You don’t have to go searching online. Everything is here,” Garcia added. 

For Garcia, the Resource Fair is just an extension of what she has seen the District staff provide her children in the few months they have lived here.  

“They didn’t have a lot of these activities or resources at the [prior] school. It was very difficult. I had no parent advocate. [In Cobb], I feel like I have real support, with the school, with the teachers, as well as, with other resources,” Garcia praised. “My children have learned a whole lot. The people care, and they want you to have the information and have access to it, and I appreciate that.” 

Garcia’s son attends North Cobb High School, and her daughter attends Barber Middle School. She came to the resource fair looking for specific connections for each of her children, connections she found. 

Parents who have attended the Cobb resource fair in the past keep coming back because, like Garcia, they find programs that support their children with special needs.  

“I come because I get a lot of different information about summer camps and different experiences specific to special needs students,” explained Cobb mother Alicia Page. “Considering that I have two [children who] are on the spectrum, that is important. This is all the services in one place, and I don’t have to work as hard to find the information.” 

Page appreciates the diversity of services offered at the Resource Fair, including fitness, music, and technology-focused programs. She was also excited by the opportunities she found for her child who is about to turn 18.  

A lot of parents, according to Page, think that the number of services diminishes as the children get older, but the fair gave her hope that there are programs available for young adults too. 

Jacob’s grandfather was also excited and surprised to find information to help his older grandson. 

“[Jacob] has a 25-year-old brother who has ADHD, and we didn’t have much help or information for that, and I have run into two specific booths that are going to help me with him,” the Cobb grandfather beamed.  

Even the vendors were excited by the opportunity the Resource Fair provided parents and students with special needs.   

“I wish they had something like this for my son when he was in Cobb Schools,” said Becky Matthews, whose son graduated from North Cobb High School.  

Matthews was at the fair, helping parents like herself, connect with Erin’s Hope for Friends, a social club for teens and young adults on the High Functioning Autism Spectrum. 

Some of those in attendance traveled from other cities to learn from Cobb Schools so they can provide a similar resource to their community.  

As one parent at the event explained, the word is getting out about the resources and support Cobb Schools provides.  

With praise from people like Jacob’s grandfather, there is no doubt that the word has spread. The Resource Fair is just one more way that Cobb Schools helps students with disabilities succeed.  

“Sedalia Park, Powers Ferry, and Sope Creek have helped [Jacob] so much,” Harvey applauded. “It’s the attention from the teachers themselves. That’s 99% of it. Sedalia Park is very special to me because of the results that they have achieved with Jacob.” 

The way the teams of teachers work together to help students amazes him. If he had a million dollars, he insisted that he would give every one of the special needs teachers a bonus.   

“Ms. Morrow at Sedalia Park and Ms. Brown at Sope Creek, I want to hug them every morning,” declared the thankful grandfather. 

Some of the Companies and Organizations that Support Families of Students with Disabilities:

Aerie Experiences Cobb County Therapeutic Recreation McKenna Farms 
Alliance Theatre Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame NCG Cinemas 
Alternative Baseball Elm Street Cultural Arts Village Parent-to-Parent 
Aqua-Tots Engineering For Kids of Metro Atlanta Pinnacle Climbing Team 
ARC of Georgia (Wings 4 All) Erin’s Hope for Friends/E’s Club ReClif 
Art Station – Big Shanty Fernbank Museum Safe Kids Cobb County  
Atlanta Braves Exceptional Fans Focus + Fragile Kids Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse 
Autism Improvised Georgia Aquarium SHINE Sports @Johnson Ferry 
Beyond Limits Georgia Ballet Six Flags Over Georgia 
Bounce U Georgia Symphony Orchestra Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History  
BSD Tae Kwon Do Girl Scouts State Farm Arena 
Camp Dream GOALSoccer Special Olympics 
Camp Twin Lakes Hand, Hoof & Heart Special Pops Tennis 
Center for Puppetry Arts House of Artists Foundation Studio Movie Grill 
Children’s Museum of Atlanta  Inneractions Therapy Services Tellus Science Museum 
CK Danceworks Kennesaw Parks & Recreation Therabeat Inc. 
Cobb Aquatics Children & Family Programs at KSU Zoo Atlanta  
Cobb County Library Lekotek of Georgia   
Cobb Energy Centre Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta