–by Svetla Tomanova
A child’s education begins at birth and giving parents the support they need could be vital. The Parent Support and Information Center is a resource of the division’s Office of Programs for Exceptional Children. It provides parents of students with disabilities information and training so they can easily navigate the labyrinthine state and federal regulatory processes.
From Fall Fairs, Family Engagement Network meetings and Parent and Peer Support groups to community or school events, and Facebook groups, the parent support team takes advantage of every opportunity to reach as many families as possible.
“Where Do We Go From Here?” is the newest webinar produced by the center. It gives parents information on the steps they should take after a child is medically diagnosed or a disability is identified by a health care provider.
Janice Keener, a Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters doctor with extensive training in the assessment of autism spectrum disorder, is one of the webinar presenters. Dr. Keener shares her recommendations that she gives parents and has this advice: obtain copies of the medical notes so you can share them with the child’s Individualized Education Plan team, ask your medical provider for the next action steps and take it one step at a time.
In the webinar, Carol Blackwell, parent support liaison, discusses the referral process for special education services. Kerry Sheehan, a counselor at Ocean Lakes High School, covers the steps parents should take at the school after a diagnosis and the 504 plan process – a blueprint for how the school will support a student with a disability and remove barriers to learning. And Amber Turner, a parent who has gone through the process twice, discusses the five steps that guided them along the way.
The parent support liaison steps in from the moment a child is medically diagnosed and tailors the resources based on the student’s needs. The high level of parent involvement can play a major role during this stage. Blackwell said her job is rewarding although it can take its toll emotionally – she is grateful for the opportunity to serve in this role.
“It is purely a labor of love,” she added.
Currently, there are nearly 8,100 children with exceptional needs in the school system and every child’s needs are different, according to Blackwell. Engaging parents early in the process is important to address their specific needs. Ultimately a student’s ability to adjust and succeed in the classroom is motivated by the social, emotional and/or behavioral support they receive at home and school.
Brooke Steward, a military parent with a child with disabilities, is confident the assistance she received from the center made the process much easier. She is a “parent navigator” at the Center for Family Involvement and an avid advocate for parents to familiarize themselves with the resources offered by the Parent Resource Center. Steward said that Blackwell was one of many family supporters.
“Blackwell provided our family with resources to help our son’s journey through the special education process,” she added.
Watch this webinar “Where do we go from here?” to navigate your way.
More resources, more peace of mind
These additional webinars were produced by the Office of Family and Community Engagement. The Special Education Advisory Committee was a co-sponsor.