Exceptional Families Conference Recap

Community EngagementBlog

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This fall, IRC held the Exceptional Families Conference, a bilingual conference for Inland Regional Center (IRC) parents. The conference, held at the DoubleTree by Hilton in San Bernardino, hosted more nearly 200 parents for a day of training, support, and resources.

Parents Help Bring Back Conference

Historically, IRC has hosted conferences for parents throughout the years. Some were held in English and others in Spanish. For the past few years, however, IRC was not been able to host a parent conference. In the spring of 2018, a group of passionate parents asked to meet with IRC staff to discuss the idea of bringing these events back. The conference idea was enthusiastically approved by our Executive Team. Only this year IRC would do something it had never done before. Host a bilingual parent conference!

Conference Committee Forms

After receiving approval from IRC’s Executive Team, a conference planning committee was formed. The committee included parents, IRC staff, and IRC Service Providers Exceptional Parents Unlimited and In-Roads Creative Programs. The team met frequently to plan every detail of the conference from logistics to interpreters to breakout sessions and guest speakers.

IRC Director of Children and Transition Services, Felipe Garcia said, “Inland Regional Center believed that relaunching our own conference would be a benefit to our community. The novel thing this time around was that it was bilingual: English and Spanish. Our Community Engagement team and the parent-led committee came together to create a cohesive and comprehensive variety of topics for the conference. IRC values the input of our community and hopes to continue to bring this conference to our families on a yearly basis.”

Conference Treats Parent to a Day of Support and Resources

The Exceptional Families Conference kicked off with a continental breakfast and a powerful presentation from Keynote Speaker Kristin Wright. Ms. Wright is the Director of Special Education Division for the California Department of Education. She spoke about the work she is doing at the state level to better include students with disabilities and how we should have high expectations of them and our schools. She shared her personal experiences of raising a daughter with a severe developmental disability and how her experiences as a parent led her to her work in public policy. Her address was a highlight for many parents who attended the event.

After the keynote address parents attended breakout sessions in a variety of topics. The sessions, presented by professionals in disability services, were tailored specifically for IRC parents.

Breakout sessions included: Transition: Empowering Families, Working with Students, The Secrets of Autism—What We Can’t See, California’s Self Determination! A Parent’s Perspective, Person-Centered Planning, Immigration, Video Modeling, Managing Stress, and Special Education Updates 2017 and Beyond.


Of the conference, EPU’s Education Resource Specialist Alejandra Rivera said, “Parents have expressed positive feedback about the Exceptional Families Conference.  They were very pleased with all the topics that were offered.  IRC having a parent-led committee that is cognizant of what families experience and what topics would be of interest, help tremendously.”

Conference attendees were also treated to a delicious lunch which also featured entertainment by pianists who have autism. Attendees also had the opportunity in between sessions to visit 15 resource booths hosted by community organizations who provide support and service to people with disabilities.

Of the conference, In-Roads CEO and event sponsor Sharon Barton-Maggio said, “In-Roads is delighted to assist IRC with the planning of the Exceptional Families Conference. It was an excellent opportunity for families to receive valuable information and resources.”

Thank You Planning Committee

IRC would like to thank the planning committee for their hard work, dedication, and passion for this project. The planning committee included:

  • Daisy Felix and Lilliana Garnica of Inland Regional Center
  • Sharon Barton-Maggio and Karen VanZitteren of In-Roads Creative Programs
  • Alejandra Rivera of Exceptional Parents Unlimited
  • Dimpna Rodriguez, Mario Rodriguez, Maria Elena Hernandez, Indy Hernandez, and Enrique Camacho – Parent Volunteers
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Community Engagement

Inland Regional Center's Community Engagement Unit can be reached at [email protected]

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