University Park, IL,
16:45 PM

Youth With Disabilities Looks Forward to First-Ever Conference For His Community

Jaylen Echols has a sweet smile that brightens his face when he talks about being a miracle.

Born at just 26 weeks, Echols was less than a pound at birth and not given much of a chance to survive an assortment of neurological and developmental challenges, he says.

He didn’t walk until he was four years old and cognitive difficulties linger, but today Echols plays basketball and is lending his voice to a chorus calling for more services for people with disabilities in the South Suburbs.

“I like telling people about my disability,’’ said Echols, following a Temple Grandin movie screening at Governors State University. “It will make them comfortable when they find out I’m a miracle child,” he said.

The movie screening was one of a series of events leading up to a March 9 daylong workshop at Governors State, after which Grandin, a noted autism spokesperson and advocate, will be speaking.

The GSU College of Health and Human Services 50th Anniversary Conference: Fostering Educational and Vocational Success for Young Adults with Disabilities will welcome educators, health professionals, students, and others who support young adults with disabilities. The first-ever conference of its kind at GSU will provide education and networking on topics to facilitate success for students with autism, such as promoting self-regulation in the classroom, supporting high school students transitions to college, teaching students about self-care and risk management, and strengthening transitional programs for college-bound students.

Echols, who has cerebral palsy, is part of a District 205 program to transition adults with disabilities from high school to adulthood. He says he is looking forward to the Governors State conference and sharing his own story as part of an advisory panel planning the event.

“I want us all to be together so I can be helpful to people. I want to be a leader,’’ said Echols.

He is one of a growing number of people with disabilities who report having lower employment rates than persons without disabilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“With our conference, we hope to learn about the sources of these disparities and work to build partnerships and community resources to improve the health, education, and work outcomes for GSU’s students and community,’’ said Catherine Balthazar, Dean of GSU’s College of Health and Human Services, which is presenting the event.

For more information on the conference, click here.