Kristen Columbus, Parent Mentor for the Michigan Alliance for Families for Lenawee, Monroe and Washtenaw counties, knows firsthand what it’s like to navigate special education within the school system. “I have a 14-year-old son who receives special education services,” Columbus shares. “When he was a toddler, I became a parent representative on an advisory group for Early On.” Early On is an educational service agency that offers early intervention services for infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities. In 2011 Columbus began serving as a parent mentor for the Michigan Alliance for Families, and now serves families in the Ann Arbor area as Washtenaw County’s contact for the organization. Columbus talks to families about numerous topics related to special education, most often regarding Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), behavioral concerns at school, eligibility for special education services, and transitioning from school to adult life.
The Michigan Alliance for Families offers services, free of charge thanks to grants from the U.S. and Michigan Departments of Education. “This year, we’re collaborating with Ypsilanti Community Schools on a project meant to increase parent involvement, so a lot of trainings are going to be held in that area,” says Columbus. We also have many webinars available 24/7 on our website.”
Columbus aims to empower parents and children to succeed – “One of the best parts about my job is when a parent I worked with calls me and says that the information and support she got from me made a difference… public education is a really complex and overstressed system these days. Our job as parents of kids with disabilities is to advocate for their needs within this system.”
To connect with Kristen about topics related to special education, contact her at 734-662-1256 x203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about training opportunities, visit www.michiganallianceforfamilies.org