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Learning Matters: Many programs are available for parents, particularly those with children with disabilities

“Button, you must wander all day long.” Those are the words of a music game I’m singing these days with a group of second graders.

As with similar folk tunes, it’s used to teach basic rhythms and intervals, but I keep thinking about the story of the wandering button.

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The words work on me, as songs often do, and evoke a variety of feelings and impressions. I laughed at the thought of the button being me, wandering among the obligations I’ve taken on or meandering toward a column’s conclusion.

But the image that stays with me is that of a parent as the button, looking for help and not knowing where to turn.

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It’s an issue I’ve addressed before. Too many people live with worry, unaware of the wide variety of educational and social resources our community offers.

Despite enormous strides in our collective ability to share opportunities through websites and Facebook, email blasts and Twitter, barriers to information on programs and resources persist.

Websites aren’t updated or their links fail. Emails go unread in the daily barrage of an overloaded inbox. Impersonal invitations are easy to ignore. Stressed, working parents may not have the time or resources available to search the internet, or they might not know where to start.

Parents need names and contact information for people who can help them. It’s time we do what former Glendale resident and PTA volunteer Peg Russell told her friends years ago, before she moved out of the area. We need to reach out to friends and acquaintances with help, whether it’s requested or not, because the most troubling worries are often the ones people are embarrassed to share or unwilling to admit.

Parents of children with disabilities are among those who worry a lot, especially as their children enter adulthood, struggle to gain employment and try to establish their independence.

The good news is that education and training programs for such individuals are on the rise, along with training for employers to accommodate the special needs of employees. Anyone knowing adults with disabilities can now reach out and let them know of at least three programs being offered in the coming months.

The Verdugo Jobs Center has scheduled information sessions every Tuesday at 10 a.m. to learn about hands-on training in high-demand jobs in information technology.

Caseworker Tina Hartyon is the primary contact for that training, and she is eager to talk to interested individuals at any time, not just on Tuesdays. Hartyon can be reached by phone at (818) 937-8080 or by email at thartyon@glendaleca.gov.

The Garfield campus of Glendale Community College also has new classes for adults with disabilities and will soon be hosting an open house to promote them.

GlendaleLearns, a consortium of teachers and counselors from GCC and Glendale Unified School District and representatives of the Verdugo Workforce Development Board and the Department of Rehabilitation, among others, designed the classes to prepare students for transitioning to employment or moving successfully into career pathway classes on the main campus.

Jesse Holm is the lead counselor for those classes and can be contacted at (818) 240-1000, Ext. 5027, or at jholm@glendale.edu.

GCC’s Uniquely Abled Academy, “training people with special skills for specialized needs in the workforce,” is accepting applications for its next class of students.

Described on its website as “A first-in-its-kind collaboration between machine technical educators, specialists in education for those with autism, representatives from state and local agencies, [and others],” the academy is dedicated “to train, place in the workforce and provide ongoing support for qualified students seeking skill-specific. well-paying jobs within the manufacturing industry.”

Hartyon at the Verdugo Jobs Center can also provide information on Uniquely Abled, or visit www.uniquelyabledproject.org.

Parents of middle and high school students who missed this week’s Special Education College Night at GCC should mark their calendars for next year’s event.

For more immediate information, contact Tina Anderson-Wahlberg, GCC’s director of disabled student programs and services, at (818) 241-3111, Ext. 1510, or email Rick Saunders at rsaunders@gusd.net.

Personal finance, a big worry for many families, is another topic gaining attention here and elsewhere, as increasing numbers of individuals and families struggle with housing and other costs.

Family Promise of the Verdugos, a local nonprofit serving homeless families, recently partnered with HUMI, an organization dedicated to homeless prevention.

In an emailed update, Albert Hernandez, executive director of Family Promise, reported on the monthly classes that helped a family develop a plan to save for “a cushion in case of emergency.” (www.familypromiseverdugos.org.)

Glendale Communitas Initiative, another local nonprofit, has been offering similar workshops to both adults and students, in collaboration with community partners like the Glendale Library, Parks & Recreation, the Glendale Youth Alliance, local churches, and Wellness Works, an organization serving veterans.

Upcoming “Money Matters” series will be posted at www.glendalecommunitasinitiative.org or contact Jason Schlatter at (818) 477-0792.

We’ll never get all of the information needed to all of the families that need it, but with the help of informed community members, maybe we can minimize worrying and wandering for some of our neighbors.

The button song continues: “Bright eyes will find you, sharp eyes will find you….”

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