Families Together is a statewide organization that provides educational and support services to families with disabled children.
The organization informs parents of disabled children through seminars on topics such as educational rights and family living issues.
These services help parents learn to take care of their child's needs and demands at home in addition to helping them cope with the stress and added responsibilities of having a disabled child.
``Instead of doing the work themselves, (we) teach the parents how to do it,'' says Donna Collins, the Lawrence area coordinator for Families Together, ``Support and encouragement are what keeps kids out of institutions and in the community.''
Educational advocacy is one of the topics that Families Together seminars focus on. The seminars teach parents the laws and rights that effect their child's education. By knowing their child's rights, the parents are better able to insure that they are receiving the education they are guaranteed.
``EDUCATIONAL advocacy teaches them what their child's educational rights are without teaching them to be too aggressive assertive but not aggressive,'' Collins said.
Other topics include the transition for the child from high school to adult, and money management problems such as how to budget medical bills.
All of the seminar topics have a practical purpose in that they either teach skills or offer support.
Families Together helps families in many other ways, including a literature and video library and the Families Together enrichment weekends.
The enrichment weekends are designed for the families to have fun together but also for each member to receive one-on-one attention. They are usually held at a hotel, in different locations statewide.
The parents are able to attend workshops and talk with each other with the secure knowledge that their kids are ``close by but not underfoot,'' Collins said.
MEANWHILE the kids, the disabled children and their siblings, are playing games and enjoying the special attention of their individual volunteer companions. The children's agenda usually includes activities like swimming, face-painting, music time and occasionally horseback riding.
In February, Families Together is having a statewide conference for parents and anyone else interested. The conference will center around the topics of educational law, family issues and non-restrictive school environments.
Reed Martin, a nationally known leader in special education law, will speak at the conference which will be held at the Kansas Expo Center in Topeka on Feb. 1, 1992.
The central office of Families Together, the Training and Resource Center, is in Topeka. They can be contacted at (913)272-6343 or (800) 332-6262.