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Directors Corner December 2018

December 18th, 2018

I want to start by wishing all of you the Happiest Holiday season from all of us here at CPAC, and our hope for the best New Year in 2019.

As we enjoy this season of sharing I want to offer a suggestion; as you calibrate and move into the coming year we at CPAC hope you will share us. Over the past year I have been to many places all around the state, and sat in on many of the meetings where parents have had the chance to talk about their experiences in special education. In all those meetings the thing that struck me most strongly was the number of people who told us how much they wished they had known about us. People who had been facing challenges for years saying “I never heard of you, I wish I had.”

As you might guess, that bothers us. Our job is to educate and empower families, but we can’t do that if we don’t know about their problems, and they don’t know to reach out to us. A great deal of my time is spent trying to reach out, waving the flag and letting as many families know that we are here to help as I can. Clearly my (our) efforts are not enough. We need help.

That is where you come in. If we have been able to help you, to answer your questions, or provide you with training let your friends and acquaintances know. It’s not hard. It can be as simple as sharing our posts on social media. You never know when it will reach someone who needs help at just the right moment. If you’ve formed a parent group or SEPTO, invite us to join you. CPAC provides training and support for these kinds of groups every week, (and it’s free). Leave materials at your school. We get calls every day from teachers and administrators looking for support for families in their towns, but too many don’t know they can. It’s easy, print out a fact sheet from the website and drop off at the special ed office, or give it to the administrator at your PPT.

One more thing you can do that we can’t do well is let your pediatrician know about us. Many families begin the special education process after talking to their child’s doctor because “Something seems wrong.” The doctor can help identify what is going on, and we can help the family work with the school to design a program to help.

As always, if you have questions we are here to answer them and look forward to talking with many of you in 2019. Again, Thank You and Happy Holidays.

FAQ November 2018

November 21st, 2018

Dear Parent Consultant,
Every night is the same battle with my second grade daughter – reading. She is required to complete a reading log for school and whenever it’s reading time we battle over everything. The selection of the book, the time it takes, etc. She resents it and so do I. Do you have any suggestions to help me to engage her in this increasingly painful assignment?
Not Dr. Seuss

Dear Future Dr. Seuss,
Ah, the reading log! The activity that sends most kids and their parents running! Here are a few suggestions that may help you and your daughter face this evening routine with anticipation and help her to become a great reader! Try using the word READ as an acronym to make it more enjoyable for both of you.
R-read aloud. As much as she may grumble, children generally like to be read to. Select books that hold both your interest or that are a part of a series. Consider books on tape as well. Allow the reader to read aloud to both of you.
E-engage her in the story. If you are reading “If you give a Mouse a cookie” for the 100th time and you just don’t think you can do it again, try changing the words around. Let her notice you said a different word. Take turns being characters in the book.
A-ask predictions. Remember, first children learn to read then they read to learn. Begin developing that skill of looking for information within the context of the book. Obviously, if it’s your hundredth run through of the same book this can be challenging so ask why the next event is going to happen.
D-discuss the book. Talk about the parts you liked and didn’t care for that much. Expand the story beyond the ending – what could happen if…imagine if…
Hopefully these ideas will help you both enjoy this time together.

Directors Corner November 2018

November 20th, 2018

While we are focused this month on the topic of literacy, I wanted to take a moment to express my thanks, and that of all of us at CPAC, for each the good things that happened this year and for all the support we receive as we work with the families of Connecticut. Over the course of a year we receive thousands of calls and emails from families who have questions and concerns about their children’s education. We provide well over a hundred training sessions around the state for families, students, and professionals.

Additionally, we could not do this work without the help and support of many friends and sister organizations through the State. Most of our training sessions are done at the request of parent groups and schools who make facilities available and help us reach out to families to share upcoming events.

We work hard to reach out to families through our website, newsletters, and especially social media. We are thankful for those friends who share the resources we provide making them available to larger audiences of families and educators.

We are thankful for our regional support center and the Parent Training and Information Centers in other states who help us with ideas and technical support to understand national special education laws. They also provide us with a continuous stream of good suggestions for ways to reach out and support the families of Connecticut.

We are thankful for the many organizations who also support families in Connecticut. No single group can reach every family in need, and by sharing the responsibility we are able to help and educate many more families than we could on our own. In this vein, we are especially grateful to our special partners, The Fair Haven Community Health Center in New Haven and St. Joseph’s Parenting Center in Stamford who provide us with space and resources allowing CPAC Parent Consultants to be physically available to families in communities across the state.

We are thankful for several opportunities we have had in the past year to work closely with educators and education professionals to share our experiences and to learn from each other. Our support for families cannot begin to work unless we have constructive dialogue with the educators who work with our children. This year has been especially productive in that area with several shared projects and very effective cooperation with district, state and regional leaders across Connecticut.

We are thankful for the State Department of Education and its willingness to work with us and listen to the concerns we present from families. We are thankful for their trust that CPAC can provide quality services and education to families in Connecticut.

And far from last, we are very thankful for those friends who continue to provide us with financial support. Being available to talk on the phone, to send out materials and to train families takes money, and the help you provide with your donations goes a long way to supporting your neighbors and to ensure that all students in Connecticut get an appropriate education.

I hope you all know how much your help and support means to everyone at CPAC and how far it goes to supporting families and children with disabilities.

Directors Corner October 2018

October 30th, 2018

As you’ve certainly heard from a wide assortment of sources, October is National Bullying prevention month. And as parents of kids with disabilities, we know that our students are two to three times more likely to be subject to bullying and harassment than the general population. This edition of the e-News and our website provide a lot of information on the problem as well as thing we as parents can do to help the situation.

I want to add a couple more. Many of us rely on the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) for the tools to help protect our students, and the court interpretations of the law make it clear that bullying can create a condition that interferes with a student’s ability to obtain a free appropriate public education (FAPE). IDEA requires your school to take steps to remedy situations where your child facies bullying. That can include a whole range of services, including counseling to deal with the effects, teaching him or her social skills to help avoid and respond to potential bullying, and even changes in placement to free them from the bully. It can even include training for parents to recognize situations and to have family strategies to help their students.

If only it was that simple. If only a couple of amendments in an IEP could make the problems go away. Bullying can be a remarkably difficult thing to get your head around. Incidents rarely occur where there are reliable witnesses. Additionally, conditions that might not affect one child may be very significant to a child with a disability; this makes the child particularly susceptible. Teams often find it hard to recognize this fact. We regularly get calls from parents frustrated because it appears that their schools are not doing enough to ensure their children’s rights.

We have found a few things that can help. First, as I mentioned the IDEA can be you most powerful tool. You have the right to call for a PPT meeting anytime you understand that there is a factor adversely effecting your student’s education, you also have the right when faced with this to call for evaluations by trained professionals to help design effective solutions. Having your child’s day assessed by a mental health professional of behaviorist can go a long way to finding effective solutions to the problem. You do not have to rely just your own ideas or the school’s policies to find ways to make things better.

Having said that, it is important to know what your school’s policies are on bullying. Quite often adults can try to minimize something that has a profound effect on a child. We’ve all heard “Boys will be boys.” Or “You shouldn’t protect her too much, she needs to be tougher.” One way to get past this kind of lack of understanding is to remind the folks of the “Letter of the law”. My town’s policy on bullying for example has just been revised and is now extremely detailed and specific, over twenty pages! It does not provide much leeway for not addressing issues and it gives fairly specific responses the school is supposed to follow. It’s good to be able to refer to a policy like that when you are trying to find ways to protect your child.

None of the solutions we have found are perfect, and many times everyone involved ends up frustrated and unsatisfied. One particular area that bothers our callers is the fact that schools are unable to share information about the consequences the bully received. As frustrating as it is, the law protects the privacy of every student very strongly. Just like it prevents educators from revealing anything about your child without your permission, it provides the same protection for the bully. As much as the administrator might want to tell you what has been done the law prohibits that and there is nothing to be done about it.

As with every other issue we face the details for each child are going to be different. If you are facing a situation where your child has been bullied give us a call and we will help you understand your rights and responsibilities in his or her unique situation.

A Follow Up.

Last month I wrote about the shortage of related service providers and suggested some ideas to help. In particular I thought schools should work together to provide support to fill in the gaps that are always going to crop up. As it turns out people have already thought of that. I had a conversation with one of the staff of the Capital Region Education Council (CREC) the regional education center (RESC) for the middle of the state. They have a program designed for that very need, providing professionals like speech and language pathologists, OT’s and PTs to schools in need. If we did not know that it’s possible your school may not either, so if you are faced with the SLP who goes out for a month suggest your school contact your RESC or even CREC, to see if they can help so your student gets the services he or she needs

Special Education Cost Model Task Force

October 30th, 2018

The State Education Resource Center (SERC), in collaboration with the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC) and the Special Education Cost Model Task Force, invites you to complete this survey, which will help us have a better understanding of your experiences and concerns related to special education funding and its impact on the special education process. The results from this survey will be shared with the Special Education Cost Model Task Force as they continue to examine ways to make special education costs more predictable for school districts.

At no time, will your personal information be shared, only the answers that you provide.

If you have any questions about this survey, please contact Bianca Irizarry at 860-632-1485, ext. 216 or Irizarry@ctserc.org.


Directors Corner September 2018

September 27th, 2018

As I sat down to write this month school has been open for a bout two weeks we have been to the Back to School meeting with most of the state’s Special Ed Directors, and the number of calls are up as families run into the issues that come with the start of the new year.

One of the more common problems that seems to show up every year centers on school resources and especially starting the year without the related service providers our kids need. One mom called to ask what can be done because for the third year in a row her son’s school had no speech and language pathologist and the school was unsure when she would be replaced. Another had gotten a call two weeks before school to say the Occupational Therapist had taken a new joband t would take at least a few weeks to replace her. Three days later she was called again, the speech teacher had also left.

This is a tough problem. Our kids need and are entitled to the services these folks provide, but we have little leverage to insist the schools provide them when they lose personnel who are difficult to replace. Worse, if we push too hard we risk alienating administrators who may actually be working very hard to solve the problem.

So, what is to be done? One solution would be to set up regional collections of professionals who could be on retainer and available to fill needs in a short time. Connecticut has six Regional Educational Service Centers (RESCs) who may be able to administer this. All that is needed is the will and the understanding of the need to fund a solution.

There is something you can do to help this and other chronic problems we face. Next month the Bureau of Special Educations and the RESCs working with CPAC are having a series of Regional Special Education Forums in each of the six regions. You can find more information about these forums at : http://www.cpacinc.org/2018/09/open-forum-for-parents-of-students-with-disabilities/or call us for more information.

These forums are designed to give parents the opportunity to discuss and highlight the issues they and their children face in schools. Each region will have tow meetings one in the morning and one in the evening, and as long as you are willing to drive a little you are not limited to attend only the forum in your region.

Things get better when parents speak out about what is going on and offer suggestions on how to make things better. We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity and share your knowledge and experience so those at the state, and those who work to provide services in your area will be sure to do their work knowing what families need.

Open Forum for Parents of Students with Disabilities

September 26th, 2018

Open Forum for Parents of Students with Disabilities

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE)
and the RESC Alliance invite parents of students with
disabilities to participate in regional forums to obtain
feedback and input on special education systems,
processes, and services. The CSDE is committed to
ensuring that students with disabilities receive access to
the services and supports that they are entitled to under
the law. These regional forums will provide parents with
the opportunity to share their experiences with the Special
Education Bureau Chief in a structured environment to
discuss the most pressing needs of the special education
community in Connecticut.

The parent forums will consist of group conversations
facilitated by special educators from Connecticut’s Regional
Education Service Centers (RESCs). The forums were
planned with the intent of being responsive to the needs of
the participants, however facilitators may ask for feedback
on specific special education issues in order to inform the
State Advisory Committee on Special Education (SAC) and
the CSDE’s Bureau of Special Education. The forums will
also serve as an opportunity for parents to shape future
training activities. While the forums will not necessarily
address circumstances specific to individual students and
families, Parent Consultants from The CT Parent Advocacy
Center (CPAC), and other experts will be on-hand to offer
guidance and suggestions.

There will be a morning (9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.)
and an evening (6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.) session for each forum.

Oct. 3 — LEARN
44 Hatchetts Hill Rd.
Old Lyme, CT 06371

Oct. 4 — ACES
ACES Staff Development
205 Skiff St.
Hamden, CT 06517

Oct. 15 — EASTCONN
376 Hartford Turnpike
Hampton, CT 06247

355 Goshen Road
Litchfield, CT 06759

Nov. 7 — CREC
Hosted by CREC at the Chrysalis Center
255 Homestead Avenue
Hartford, CT 06112

Nov. 8 — C.E.S.
25 Oakview Drive
Trumbull, CT 06611

REGISTER HERE: https://crectransportation.wufoo.com/forms/z1k8fhpn1bn931g

Bureau of Special Education Back-to-School Meeting

September 14th, 2018

Bureau of Special Education Back-to-School Meeting

Connecticut State Department of Education | September 12, 2018

What is the CT Secondary Transition Youth Advisory Board (YAB)?
As an initiative within the CT Secondary Transition Community of Practice (COP), a Secondary Transition
Youth Advisory Board was created to provide a place for students and youth with disabilities ages 14 to 26 to
have their voices heard by the people who plan for and support students.

What is the purpose of the YAB?
The YAB serves as a resource to any school district, agency, organization, or provider who serve young people
with disabilities. YAB works to improve services and ensure that services and supports provided are truly
meeting the needs of the youth with disabilities as they transition from district services to adult life.
Participation in YAB activities builds the personal advocacy and leadership skills of participants, provides a
forum for students to network with each other and professionals in the field, and is a great activity for resumes
and portfolios.

Who are the members of the YAB?
YAB members include Connecticut students and youth with disabilities ages 14 to 26 years old who have an
interest in learning leadership skills and taking on leadership roles in the state. Currently we have 25 active
participants and over 150 students and youth on our e-mail list.

When and where does the YAB meet?
The YAB meets four times a year in conjunction with the COP meetings to plan activities for the year.
Additionally, several meetings are held throughout the year via phone or web-based conference calls to discuss
current trends in secondary transition. Physical attendance is not mandatory as members can participate in a
variety of ways including review of documents and offering opinions via e-mail or social media.

How is the YAB different from the Special Education Youth Advisory Council (SEYAC)?
– The YAB work focuses on secondary transition and beyond, the SEYAC work focuses on special
education experiences for students in middle and high school.
– YAB students and youth can sign up individually, SEYAC is school/district based.
– SEYAC holds two of the trainings on-site at the school/in district, and one conference off-site. School/district (students) commit to all three sessions.

How can I get involved?
Anyone can refer a student or youth to the YAB. Please contact Beth Reel, CT Parent Advocacy Center, at
breel@cpacinc.org or 860-739-3089 for more information.

Director’s Corner August 2018

August 30th, 2018

I wanted to talk in this issue about the new school year, and as always the issues that come to mind revolve around communication, and the information that families sometimes have and sometimes share about their students. I can’t remember if it has ever come up in this space, but, in addition to a few other things, I am a member of the Cromwell Board of Education. In my mailbox for the last week or so have been a series of notices of what is going on in the school to get things ready to start. One of the messages talked about new teacher orientation and the fact that they were taking all the new teachers on a bus tour of the town so they would have a better idea of the place their students are coming from.

That sounded like a great idea and it made me think of the things we as parents can do to start out the new year with our students’ new teachers. A quick friendly note to welcome the teacher to the team and get him or her some helpful information. Something along the lines of:

Dear New teacher,

We are looking forward to a great new year with you and Sally. I know by now you have read her IEP, but that can’t give you a picture of the whole kid so I though you should know that she loves music, and especially (some band I’ve never heard of), she was particularly interested when the class worked on ecology last year, and is friends with John and Jill.

I also want you to know that when her asthma acts up she tends to lose focus and can sometimes act up. I will try and let you know when that is happening so you’ll understand and can be ready.

I also hope you will feel free to let me know about things that go on in school so we can work together….

Opening and maintaining lines of communication with your school is great, but it reminds me of our constant concern about what we should be trying to communicate, data. And as parents we need to be vigilant to be sure that the data that we and the educators have is accurate, and supports our student’s program. An important part of our job as a mom or dad is to make sure we understand the information that is used to design our student’s program. We also need to make sure that not only is our student learning, but that we on her team are learning from seeing what is or isn’t working. To work with the educators we can focus on questions about progress information and new questions. “I know you are working very hard on Sally’s reading program, but she is not making any progress. Should we be looking at what other experts say about using this approach with a student like her?” Is a lot more likely to get positive results than “You’re doing it wrong!” More importantly it follows what IDEA requires Teams to do.

In any case all of us at CPAC hope each of your students has a successful year. And if you need knowledge on how to help that happen we’re here for you.

State Performance Plan (SPP) on Special Education

July 16th, 2018

In the last few days you may have received a letter with a survey request for the Connecticut State Department of Education. It is important that you respond and fill out the survey to help ensure that all students in the state receive a free appropriate education.

Every year, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires each state to submit a State Performance Plan (SPP) on special education. The SPP includes reports from the state on 20 areas with questions running from whether evaluations for students being considered for special education are done on time, to whether students who had received special education are employed after High School, to whether some ethnic groups are put in special ed more often than others.

One of the reports, called Indicator 8, asks how parents feel about their experience with the special education process, and if they feel that they are included as full partners in designing Individual Education Plans (IEP) for their children. The state finds this information by sending out the survey you have just received. Every year roughly one third of families who have students in special education receive a survey.

All answers to the survey are kept confidential, your name and your child’s are not shared with anyone. The results are shared with the districts and with the United States’ Department of Education

The state has been collecting the surveys since 2003, and the results can be found at: https://portal.ct.gov/SDE/Special-Education/State-Performance-Plan-SPP-and-Annual-Performance-Report-APR/Related-Resources

Your responses to the survey are very important. In most years less than a quarter of families reply, and the more who do, the better we will all understand how the schools are doing. If you have any questions or concerns we are here to help, so please feel free to call us at (860)739-3089 or email at cpac@cpacinc.org.