Over 70 students from 5 high schools across Fayette, Greene, and Washington Counties attended the 2023 Disability Awareness Summit at PennWest University California on Wednesday March 22, 2023. The students, who have voiced an interest in continuing their education after graduation in the Special Education field, spent the day attending breakout sessions where they participated in group activities, listened to professionals speak, and learned about all the different facets of working in Special Education.
“Career Presentation” was led by Intermediate Unit 1 employees that are currently working in Special Education, who explained the various duties that their jobs entail, and all the qualifications necessary to hold those positions. “Voices from the Field” was led by current PennWest California students who are pursuing a degree in the special education field. They were able to speak on what it’s like to be actively enrolled in the program. “Disability Stimulations” allowed students to be immersed in possible situations by means of simulated scenarios. Lastly “Educational Technology” with Dr. Peter Heh focused on integrating assistive technology like iPads and talking calculators into classrooms.
Following the breakout sessions, a panel discussion was held, led by a parent of a child with a disability, Special Education teachers, and a former IU1 student who attended the IU1 Special Education Program. Adam Blank, the former student, spoke on his time in the program, and how it led to him to where he is now - employed by Intermediate Unit 1, giving back to those who helped him realize his passion for Special Education.
The day wrapped up with a presentation by disability rights activist Dan Habib and his son Samuel, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Dan, the creator of award-winning nationally broadcast documentary films like Including Samuel, chronicling the family’s efforts to include Samuel in every aspect of their lives, spoke on inclusion and assistive technology that Samuel uses every day. The father-son duo advocate for education and knowledge on disabilities and are champions for those who strive to live their lives just like those without a disability.