Parent University provides support for family challenges

Holiday behavior focus of Nov. 14 Mustang event

By Traci Chapman
Staff Writer

An effort by employees at three area school districts provides an educational resource aimed at helping not only their students, but also the parents guiding and shaping their behavior.
That effort is Parent University, and it’s a labor of love for behavioral specialist teams from Mustang, Yukon and Moore Public School districts. A program designed to offer resources to parents facing challenging situations and behaviors, Parent University offers activities and events geared specifically for their needs – and those of the children they love and nurture.

Mustang Public School behavior specialist Julie Atwood is a driving force behind Parent University, a collaboration between Mustang, Yukon and Moore public school districts. The effort assists parents dealing with challenging behaviors find the resources and support they need to help them meet and overcome those challenges. (Photo by Traci Chapman)

Parent University was founded through friendship and collaboration – one of the hallmarks of the program overall, Mustang Public School District’s Julie Atwood said. The then-newly hired behavior specialist and her friend, Amanda Bowers, who also just started a similar job at Moore Public Schools, knew they could help their districts better if they collaborated and shared resources; during the 2017-2018 the pair reached out to Yukon Public School District behavior specialist Kaitlin Sagar Smith.

“That really provided a great new outlook and energy for our collaboration group, and that school year (2017-2018) we began with four Parent University events, split between Mustang and Moore,” Atwood said. “In 2018-2019 we had another four events – split between Moore, Mustang and Yukon, and this year the three in Mustang and Yukon.”

As the first in their respective positions, Atwood and Bowers discovered firsthand how important knowledge and resources could be to parents trying to cope with unique behavioral situations. The team designed a strategy, gathering monthly to create events aimed at doing just that; this year that encompasses three sessions – two hosted by Mustang and one Yukon, Atwood said.

“We rotate which district will be hosting, so we can make every event better and as relevant to families as possible,” Atwood said.

Among the first of those events during the 2019-2020 school year is Challenging Behavior: Surviving the Holidays. Set for Nov. 14 at Mustang Educational Resource Center, the training will seek to help parents address – and prevent – behavior challenges during school breaks, when the normal school-year structure is on hiatus. The session provides both informational aspects and practical items to help achieve that goal, Atwood said.

“Parents and families will be able to learn about and take home visual supports for use in the home and community,” she said. “We will also be making community bags to help with community outings. – these are novel items and activities used by parents only when they’re out in specific locations; they contain a variety of items they’ve chosen, things like activities, toys, fidgets and other things they’ve found that meet their own individual needs.”

The Nov. 14 event is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; the district resource center is located at 609 S. Mustang Road.

In February, Parent University will return to the Mustang administrative complex for Parent Resource Night, a come and go “vendor fair-style” event that provides parents the opportunity to meet and talk with vendors who can provide information, resources and other services helpful to their children and family’s specific needs.

“In the past we have had representatives providing information on SSI, TEFRA, Autism resources, transition planning, employment, counseling services and similar services,” Atwood said.
Special needs students and their families will be the focus in April, as Parent University presents Special Education Kids Safety Night in Yukon, which in the past included presentations from Yukon police and fire department representatives, safety signage and visual supports, swim information and more, Atwood said.

Parent Resource Night is planned for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at Mustang Educational Resource Center; Special Education Kids Safety Night will be hosted by Yukon Public Schools and is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. April 15.

Word has spread about the unique opportunities offered by Parent University, administrators said – and last year about 20 people took part in Surviving the Holidays, while about 55 attendees gathered for Resource Night.

As interest in Parent University has grown so too have the teams administering the program, Atwood said. Joining the effort in Mustang is Pam Shade; Christina Browder in Yukon and Breanne Martin in Moore also now collaborate efforts with the original trio of Attwood, Smith and Bowers.

“We are very gratified to be able to help parents and families with the resources they need, and it’s encouraging to see attendance go up every year,” Atwood said. “We are hoping this school year is the best yet.”

More information about Parent University can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/480987225965364/ or by calling Atwood at 405-376-7302.

Cutline:
Mustang Public School behavior specialist Julie Atwood is a driving force behind Parent University, a collaboration between Mustang, Yukon and Moore public school districts. The effort assists parents dealing with challenging behaviors find the resources and support they need to help them meet and overcome those challenges.

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