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OICC Hosts Conference for Children with Special Needs

Date Posted: 1999-11-19

The Okinawa Interagency Coordinating Council is conducting its 4th annual Community Conference this week. The conference will take place at the US Naval Hospital on Thursday, November 18th and at the Kadena Officers’ Club on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th. The conference will meet with the goal of sharing information regarding the care and education of children and youth with special needs. It will offer a chance for families, military community members and educators to exchange knowledge and ideas pertaining to children with special needs.

The Okinawa Interagency Coordinating Council (OICC) was formed in July of 1995 with the objective of representing programs on Okinawa that meet "the unique medical and educational needs of children ages birth through five on Okinawa". Mandated by federal law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the OICC aids in education, communication and collaborative efforts of several programs on Okinawa, consequently assisting both young children with special needs and their families.

To achieve its purpose of "inter-agency communication", the OICC is directed to have a diverse membership. Members of the OICC include groups such as the Parent to Parent Support Program, Friends of the OICC, services from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps/Navy and DoDDS.

The OICC has held three community conferences in the past, all with the same goal of increasing public awareness and community involvement. Projects and accomplishments include the development of the Friends of the OICC (FOICC) and the Parent to Parent Support Program, both of which are extremely vital to the OICC in providing support and raising money for conferences and childcare during training sessions and OICC meetings.

This year, the conference will consist of presentations such as "Autism", "Parent Support" and "Behavior Management for ADD/ADHD". The conference will also include panel discussions for sharing ideas and answering questions from attendants. In a society that often mistakes a disability for bad carriage, such a conference can make a difference - knowledge of both the disorder and the stress that accompanies disabilities can lead to a better understanding for all.

For Cindy Hampton, the Secretary of OICC, the conference is very personal. Mrs. Hampton has two children with special needs; her 6-year-old son, Mike, has an Auditory Processing Disorder and ADHD, and her 5-year-old daughter, Sara, has Autism. According to Mrs. Hampton the OICC sponsored conference "will be very helpful because you meet the people who are involved with your children. You can also find out more information on the services provided to children with special needs".

Quite often, parents find out that their child has a special need while stationed overseas. The support structure within the military community is vital, as people in the military rely on one another, especially while the Active Duty spouse is away. "Military life compounds the stress; while living overseas without family, and surrounded by local nationals, one can feel isolated," Mrs. Hampton said of the unique situation that military families must cope with. "This support system can really help them. Just knowing that there is a support system gives families piece of mind.”

By Educating parents about the different services available not only do they get much needed emotional help but they also gain a sense of involvement. Mrs. Hampton has also dedicated herself to helping families similar to hers. Through the support of all OICC member organizations Mrs. Hampton started up the Parent to Parent program in Okinawa. Parent To Parent (PTP) is a support program that offers information for parents who have children (from ages 0-21) with disabilities. When requested, PTP matches new members with parents who have had experience dealing with a particular special need. Together with the Friends of the OICC, a separate body that supports the OICC, Parent to Parent asks volunteers to give workshops on common issues such as toilet training and parent stress. It is also working on a newsletter to send out to members. Both the FOICC and Parent to Parent act as fundraising units for the OICC.

Recently, the Parent to Parent program received a large donation from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the advancement of military medicine. Close to $10,000 was given to developing the program pacific-wide within Marine communities. Ms. Hampton is looking for parents from Marine Bases in Iwakuni, Guam and Korea to initiate a PTP in their respective communities.

Registration for the current conference will take place at 17:30 on Thursday, the 18th of November, at 08:30 on Friday, the 19th of November and 08:30 on Saturday, the 20th of November. Anyone who would like more information about the conference, the OICC or the Parent to Parent Program should contact Cindy Hampton at 646-4172. For information about the Friends of the OICC please call Melissa Strickland at 633-4238.

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