HAMPTON-Jenell Brown established William Is Artistic during the pandemic in January 2020. The nonprofit provides special education advocacy to parents and caregivers as well as an artistic creative outlet and social support to children with special needs.
“As a parent and special education advocate, I want to empower and encourage parents and caregivers as they advocate for their children’s education,” said Brown.
A first sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Brown was living in Nevada when her four-year-old son was being suspended from school for aggressive behavior in the classroom. She began reaching out for assistance, but to no avail. Brown initially faced obstacles while attempting to enroll him in special education classes and obtaining a medical diagnosis because he was so young.
She needed an advocate to guide her through the process of early intervention assistance, education records review, and an Individualized Education Plan.
“A teacher heard my cry and thankfully had the background and experience as a special education teacher to tell me exactly what I needed to do to request an evaluation,” said Brown. The second time through the process, her son was deemed eligible for special education.
Now 11 years of age, Brown’s son, who has been diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is enrolled in the special education program at York County School Division and Brown is active with the Special Education Advisory Committee within the school system.
Brown published a new book this month titled William Is Artistic.
“I wrote the book in the form of a poem because of the challenges my son has with reading,” said Brown. She said the repetitiveness of the stanzas would allow her son to read a book from start to finish. “I know he isn’t the only one who has trouble reading, and I want children to be able to read the book,” she said.
Through her son’s journey, Brown has utilized art as a form of expression for her son. “Our artistic creation social support is where we empower our children through art to build social relationships with their peers,” said Brown. Due to the pandemic, the program isn’t being held in person. Currently, Brown is mailing out art packages to eligible children.
William Is Artistic provides parents with advocacy strategies and tools through virtual parent-support groups once a month. November’s meeting will feature a presentation on early intervention by an early childhood education professional. “I try to bring in valuable training or resources to our families so they can utilize these tools through their journey,” said Brown.
She remembers the feeling of despair of not knowing where to turn for assistance seven years ago and doesn’t want to see other families go through the unknown alone. Formally trained as a master IEP coach, she’s now equipped to lead the way one-on-one with families to provide special-needs educational guidance and support.
For more information, please visit www.williamisartistic.org.