GREENFIELD — When Teresa Waskom and her husband adopted two young boys nine years ago, they knew the challenge ahead.
Both boys have disabilities and trouble communicating. There are days of utter difficulty, Waskom said, of tantrums resulting broken glasses and even bloody noses on occasion as they’ve gotten older. But the Waskoms brought Joe and Elijah into their home and love every bit of them.
They also know where to go for help.
Once a year, Waskom visits the Families United for Support and Encouragement (F.U.S.E.) Inspiring Abilities Expo, an event that gives parents the opportunity to connect with service-providers across central Indiana.
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But the expo is more than that, she said. It’s a time when she’s able to visit with professionals, therapists, teachers and other parents of children with disabilities to ask questions, share stories and perspectives.
“It’s nice because you know you’re not the only one; there are other families out there in the same boat,” Waskom said. “And it’s important to come and keep yourself educated about things going on (in the disabilities community).”
F.U.S.E. was created almost 20 years ago by Denise Arland, who serves as the organization’s executive director today. Saturday was the Hancock County nonprofit’s ninth expo, held at Greenfield-Central High School.
A total of 61 vendors from across central Indiana turned out to connect with families of children who have special needs. Leaders in the disabilities community gave four lectures throughout the day, which focused on hot topics and common questions parents have.
Connecting people is the main purpose of F.U.S.E., Arland said. When she started the organization after her quadruplets were born 12 weeks early, it was more of a social or support group.
But as F.U.S.E. grew and added members, it became apparent that it could do more to connect families facing similar challenges to the area resources that can help, she said.
The expo is one means of accomplishing that mission.
Arland said parents are usually surprised to find out how many groups in the area cater to children and adults with special needs.
“It’s one thing to get a call from someone and try to explain the services over the phone, but coming here to actually visualize it is so much better,” Arland said.
The Inspiring Abilities Expo is successful with the help of dozens of volunteers, including a group of high school students and professionals that provides child care while parents talk with vendors and attend lectures.
Alexis Zill, a freshman at Greenfield-Central, helped look after the children Saturday. She enjoyed being able to play with the children so their parents could have some free time.
“It’s nice that they have those skilled professionals here to handle (watching the kids),” Waskom said. “And I think it’s really good experience for the teens who help.”
Waskom’s family already was taking advantage of many of the vendors present Saturday. Waskom said she attends each year mainly for the lectures.
“They have lessons each year about trust and communication,” she said. “There are always good suggestions that you can take right home and start using.”
The Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities helps organize events around the state every March in celebration of Disabilities Awareness Month.
According to the council, people with disabilities make up 19 percent of Indiana’s population, and events conducted during Disabilities Awareness Month promote understanding and, hopefully, lead to independence.
“The Council develops a unique theme for this annual event and produces campaign materials that are available free of charge to Hoosiers who want to help make a difference,” the organization’s website states.
This year’s theme is “Love Where You Live.” Visit indianadisabilityawareness.org for more information about the 2015 campaign.