Family Stories, Uncategorized, What's New|

My name is Mary Mikus, I am an Early Intervention Technical Assistance (EITA) Consultant for the PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL).  I arrived at this position almost twenty years ago as a parent of a child with a disability.  Here is a little about my family engagement journey.

In 1997 when my son was an infant, I jumped right into family leadership training and signed up for the first class of Competence and Confidence: Partners in Policymaking (fondly known as C2P2) for Families of Children in Early Intervention.  I learned about C2P2 EI at a support group meeting.  It was my first and only disability related support group I got the info about family leadership training, and I ran with it.  At the time I was director of a small nonprofit with an environmental focus.  It was a bit of shifting gears, but then I was driving a brand-new vehicle and I need help with maintenance and navigation.

During the 8-month C2P2EI training my mind expanded.  Blown-up might be a term to explain it.  I learned so much about the law, policy, service systems, key players and MORE. My newly acquired knowledge, the support of other families and the confidence I gained in this process enabled me to be a strong advocate for my son. 

Bigger than acquiring all this new information and feeling competent as a parent advocate, I met and connected with so many wonderful families.  These families shared tips and resources but also provided emotional support in a way that was needed and unique.  We exchanged stories and became affirmed through sharing our experiences.  I became part of a strong network. I had my own sense of belonging at a time when I was uncertain what was next. My confidence was strengthened

Our families connected. Our children with disabilities became friends.  Older children became mentors for younger ones. Siblings developed friendship and began to feel more secure in knowing that there were others in their age group that had the same feelings and the similar experiences.

I am still connected with these families but have picked up many more families along the way.  All of these families have truly been biggest inspirations in my life. 

At the end of the C2P2EI training, the program facilitator asked us what our biggest takeaway was.  I said I think I have a new career path.  She said, well we have a job for you.  So, while I was an emerging family leader, I also became a professional in the field.  I actually helped run the program the following year. In this position, with the family advocacy training in my skill bank, I was in a wonderful position to mentor new family leaders, to understand their needs and develop family leadership training that expanded our cadre of family leaders.

I stayed at that position for seven years until the opportunity to be an EITA Consultant came up.  As a family leader and a professional I was familiar with EITA.  The best part of this almost two-decade experience has been seeing the spark ignite in new family leaders, watching them grow in their own confidence and competence and supporting them in taking on roles that fit their strengths and interests.   

In my current role, I have facilitated the process of family leaders in sharing their stories perspective and expertise with professionals, administrators, and service providers in the field as well as college and graduate students. This family contribution has advanced practice and has impacted the learning of emerging teachers.

Being a family leader has so many benefits.  We each have our own story.  In my sharing, I hope I have highlighted some of the gifts I have given and contributions I have made first as a family leader, then as a professional.

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