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Parent to Parent Program Featured on TV Show

BOONE–Raising a child with special needs can be challenging and at times frightening. Kathy Reed, whose 13-year-old son A.J. has Down’s syndrome, says a crystal ball showing what A.J. would be like at each age would have helped her cope as a new parent.

A program called Parent to Parent Family Support of the High Country offers a “crystal ball” by connecting families raising children with special needs with other families in similar situations. Parent to Parent is featured on the latest episode of “Appalachian Perspective,” which airs locally Jan. 29 through Feb. 15.

“Appalachian Perspective” is the cable television show of Appalachian State University and is hosted by Chancellor Francis T. Borkowski. “Appalachian Perspective” can been seen locally at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays on Charter Communication’s cable channel 39, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays on channel 2 and at various times on MTN’s channel 18.

“Appalachian Perspective” also airs in Raleigh, Charlotte, Kannapolis, Newport, Winston-Salem and Hickory.

In the episode “Parents Helping Parents,” Parent to Parent Director Kaaren Hayes says, “We take the expertise and knowledge that families have from the experience of living day to day with their children and use that to help others.”

Those special needs include Down’s syndrome, autism, learning disabilities, behavioral and emotional challenges, health concerns and metabolic conditions.

Renee Scherlen, whose son has autism, received help from Parent to Parent and now gives back by being a support parent to others whose child has just been diagnosed with the same condition. have no idea what’s going to happen in the future (with my son Nicholas) and one of the ways I can feel better about this is to help other people,” says Scherlen. “I remember when I first found out and how nice it was to have other people there.”

“Sometimes it’s an overwhelming and lonely process,” Jeannie Wellborn, Parent to Parent’s volunteer coordinator, says about living with a family member with special needs. Wellborn, a single mother with cerebral palsy, also serves as a role model to parents concerned about their child’s life as an adult.

“When I was born in the 1960s, my parents were told I’d never walk, never talk and should be institutionalized. You know, I have a college degree. I exceeded their expectations, and it’s important that parents and children believe in themselves,” Wellborn says.

Parent to Parent, begun in 1988, is sponsored by the university’s Reich College of Education, with local funding from the High Country United Way, Watauga County Commissioners and the Ashe and Very Partnerships for Children. Parent to Parent is affiliated with the Family Support Network of North Carolina, which is part of the University of North Carolina of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

For more information about Parent to Parent, contact Kaaren Hayes at 262-6089 or hayeskl@appstate.edu.

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