Hudson Valley Parent

HVP October 2014

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14 Hudson Valley Parent ■ October 2014 By KELLY AURIEMMO S ending your child to school seems like a straightforward task. They get on the bus, your heart breaks a little and off they go. They come home and tell you how their day went, empty their back- packs and ask for a snack. But what happens when you have a child with a disability? All of a sudden sending your child to school is not so straightforward. You might be asking questions such as: How do I get the services my child needs? Who do I call if I have a concern about my child's learning abilities? Am I the only one dealing with these issues? These are all common questions parents ask themselves. It may seem diffi cult to fi nd support and the answers that you need. SEPTAs are a great way to gain that support and get access to the answers you seek. What is a SEPTA? SEPTA stands for Special Edu- cation Parent Teacher Association. Like traditional PTAs, their goal is to support parents and their chil- dren through the education process. They differ in that they specialize in helping families advocate for their children receiving special education services or related services, such as speech therapy, occupational thera- py and physical therapy. SEPTAs offer resources like parent support groups, monthly meetings, workshops on various topics re- lated to special education such as co-teaching, 504 plans, physical therapy and much more. They help parents connect with administrators directly related to the special educa- tion process, known as the Commit- tee on Special Education. Most importantly, they help connect parents of students with a disability to each other. "It helps me to know that there are other parents out there," says David Goodwin of Marlboro, who has a son in the Arlington school district. Goodwin is a member of the Arlington SEPTA. He has attended SEPTA workshops on IEP diplomas, CSE meetings and BOCES. "I feel that our SEPTA has helped me be a better advocate for my child," he says. How do I nd out if my district has a SEPTA? First you can start with your local PTA. Go to a PTA meeting and ask if there is a SEPTA. If there is not, con- tact the New York State PTA offi ce to fi nd a local chapter. If all else fails, consider starting your own SEPTA. Jennifer Brennan of Poughkeepsie did just that in the Arlington Central School District, and she is currently the president of Arlington's SEPTA. When asked how she became in- volved in running a SEPTA, she says, "As a mother of a son with a disabil- ity, I felt there were no resources in the schools for students with disabil- ities and their families." 'There are other parents out there' How you can fi nd support with a local Special Education PTA "As a parent, it was challenging not know- ing where to go when I needed information." — Heather Cavanaugh of Marlboro

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