City of residence: Perry
Occupation: God’s Green Earth -- Landscaping, Painting, Handyman
Q: Your group is sponsoring a fairly unique seminar Feb. 24. What is it?
A: It’s called All Grown Up, and it’s for parents, guardians, grandparents -- anyone raising special-needs children. It’s about planning for your children as they transition into adulthood.
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Q: What’s the name of your group?
A: Middle Georgia Puzzle Pieces Autism and Special Needs Family Support Group, which started four years ago.
Q: What’s your connection to special needs?
A: I have three daughters -- twins, 12, and a daughter, 10. My 10-year-old is non-verbal autistic. I’m co-founder of the group with two other parents. Support is our number one thing, but we provide a lot of information of different kinds to others both personally and on our website. We have a lot of experience and information among all the group, and if there’s something we don’t know, we help find it out.
Q: What’s the site?
A: It’s kind of long, but it’s www.tobar5.wix.com/middlegapuzzlepieces.
Q: What’s the need for the seminar?
A: We want to help inform families about some of the challenges facing them and their children as they turn 18. There are all kinds of ins and outs you just don’t think of, like providing future medical care, organizing financial resources, trust funds, powers of attorney, continuing guardianship -- all kinds of things that can get really complicated.
Q: No doubt navigating all of that can be daunting.
A: Really. Especially since you’re already facing what can be enormous daily responsibilities raising your child and caring for their well-being. It’s too easy to get caught up with today and not think about the future and what can happen. Each day slips by, and then one day it’s, “Oh my, now look at the situation we’re in.” It takes time to prepare some of these things so I guess our main message is start early for the transition.
Q: The sooner the better?
A: One parent told me their horror story of their child turning 18 and everything changing except their special needs. They no longer had the same control over services, finances, medical care and medications, things like that, but they still had the same role of wanting to see the best for their kid. Yeah, it can be tricky. They told me it cost them about five times more to set up taking care of everything after their child turned 18 than it would have prior to their turning 18. There are smart things you can do and not-so-smart-things, but the thing is to get information, start early and try to avoid pitfalls.
Q: Who’s actually doing the seminar?
A: Veronica McClendon, a Macon attorney who lives in Byron. She did some work in special needs while she was a student and developed an interest and became an expert in these matters.
Q: To be clear, the seminar isn’t selling a particular product or financial package, but sharing information about needs and possibilities, right?
A: Absolutely right. We just want to help.
Q: When and where is it? Is there any registration or cost?
A: There’s no cost and no registration, but if you need child care please contact us so we can adequately provide it. It will be Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. at 2288 Moody Road in Warner Robins. Christ Chapel is letting us use their facility. We have contact information on our website, and people can call me at 904-229-7223.
We hope people who know people with special needs kids will tell them about it. I think they’ll really appreciate it.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.