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CLOQUET - A new program soon to launch in the Northland that will help parents of children with disabilities, officials say is the first of its kind.
"We're hoping we can identify a mentor that can hold their hands and help them," Carlton County Human Services Development Disability Social Worker Jim Kneeland said.
It's called the “Parent Support Mentor Project.”
A mentor will visit the home of a child with a special need and assist their parents with identifying and filling the needs and services for that child.
"Many times you'll have an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, speech clinician and a special education teacher all coming in and doing home visits," said Kneeland.
Project officials say it can be challenging for parents who are new to the world of special education or having a child with a disability.
"That experience will take you places emotionally that most people never get a chance to go," said Kneeland.
On top of that they have to sort through medical and educational acronyms and jargon while in the process of trying to find help for their child.
"All of the professionals know way more than you do,” said Kneeland. As a parent it can be incredibly intimidating and overwhelming.
The goal of the parent support mentor project is to sort out those acronyms, give the parents support and help them navigate through unfamiliar territory.
"We can really meld the different worlds of social services and health services and special education together for these parents," Northern Lights Special Education Cooperative Special Ed Director Cathy Tryggestad said.
The program is for children ages zero to five in rural communities ranging from Silver Bay to Two Harbors.
More than one hundred and fifty special education cases have been reported in the last year, a number officials say is rising.
"Its huge, its huge, its growing fast," said Kneeland.
Officials say the project will not only help parents and children but also schools and other agencies."
"Having the teams working together in a very effective manner opens up the lines of communication and the resources for the parents," said Tryggestad.
It's a project providing special services to parents and children with special needs.
The program set to launch July 2012.