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Balancing Act

Posted by Robin Maines on October 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

As a Special Education advocate, being asked to help parents navigate and understand the Special Education system, I had to remain 'detached' and approach each new situation in a professional way. In an effort to help parents address their concerns and work out any problems they may have experienced with their child's school district administrators, I had to be neutral, as I collected information so I could assess the difficulties that had occurred. I would speak, at length, with the parents and sometimes their child, about what they perceived as the problems they wanted to resolve, I would look over all their documentation and I would speak with school district administrators to try to understand their position.

I would explain to both parties what I understood to be the concerns of everyone involved. I would research the law to see how it applied to each particular situation, discuss with the parents what I thought their options might be, ask them to prioritize their concerns and we would determine what issues we wanted to tackle and how we would do so before we sat down with school officials to discuss what could be done to address the issues at hand.

I was able to take that approach, as a professional, someone with no emotional investment in the particular situation being addressed, but I also understood, as the parent of a child with special needs who was struggling educationally and emotionally at school, that as a parent it is very difficult, nearly impossible, to take a 'detached' position. It is easy to become angry that school personnel seem to be so cold and detached, seem to 'not care' about my child.

Having the benefit of being both a parent of a child with special needs, at odds with my school district AND having the opportunity to be a professional advocate, I've gained a better understanding of the 'parent advocate's' role and responsibilities and how they contribute to the dynamic that exists between parent and school district.

To be a successful 'parent advocate', a parent has to try to balance their emotions and their responsibility as a parent to their child with their role as a member of their child's educational team. We have to find a way to keep our emotions 'in-check' and approach interactions with school district personnel as though we are equal members of a 'team' that is working for the best interest of our child. We have to take a reasonable and realistic approach to supporting, and advocating for, our child.

I believe (and experienced personally) that when parents educate themselves about their rights, education laws and their child's educational needs in relation to their particular disability, they feel more empowered, they are able to more effectively advocate for their children and participate as equal partners with school district administrators... when they are able to do so it minimizes feelings of desperation, feeling intimidated or inadequate and as a result they are less prone to becoming emotional when confronted with a conflict.

Parents truly do have to master a 'balancing act' when negotiating with their school district to secure the most beneficial education plan for their child.

We Now Have A "Core Team"

Posted by Robin Maines on August 28, 2012 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The G.A.P.S. Organizational Meeting was held on August 25, 2012 at the Harvest Moon Restaurant at 535 Arch St. in Williamsport. We had 9 people attend. After nearly 3 hours of discussion, sharing of personal stories, questions and answers and a lovely dinner we concluded the meeting with a "Core Team" in place.

The "Core Team" consists of parents who've volunteered to assist with the management responsibilities of the group and to provide support to parents in need at monthly meetings.

During our monthly meetings core team members will be available to greet parents, they will be recognizable by their name tags.

Thank You to Alden and Shirley!

Resource and Educational Material Available

Posted by Robin Maines on August 6, 2012 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Attend a monthly meeting to have access to our G.A.P.S. Resource Guide as well as our Community Resource and Educational Material Guide.

We currently have nearly 70 individual pieces of information consisting of pamphlets from local service providers regarding their programs, and educational materials for parents on such topics as Early Intervention, Special Education, Secondary Transition, Adult Living, Employment Services, etc.

There will be a "Resource Table" at every G.A.P.S. meeting with materials you can take with you.

Free Online Peer Support Training

Posted by Robin Maines on July 21, 2012 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania links families of children and adults with disabilities and special needs, because parents who have been where you are can offer their experiences, a listening ear, their time and their caring to support one another through difficult and trying times.

When a parent calls Parent to Parent for help they are asked if they would like another parent to speak to. If they are interested in speaking to another parent, the Regional Coordinator will check the data base for a match. Parent to Parent will contact the potential peer supporter to see if they would like to assist another parent, if they would like to help, Parent to Parent sends contact information for the parent in need to the peer supporter so contact can be made.

What is a peer supporter? A peer supporter is a parent who has been trained by Parent to Parent to offer support and encouragement to other parents in need. Becoming a peer supporter puts your contact information into Parent to Parent's database as a possible resource for support. You, along with your Parent to Parent Regional Coordinator will determine what topics you might be able to support parents with.

If you would like to become a Peer Supporter for Parent to Parent of PA you can click here to sign up for free online peer support training. Complete the form and your Parent to Parent Regional Coordinator will contact you to get you started.

If you are a current Peer Supporter and would like to refresh your peer supporting skills, you can click here to take the online peer support training.

2012 PA Community on Transition Conference

Posted by Robin Maines on May 31, 2012 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (1)

Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) has announced the 2012 PA Community on Transition Conference. This conference is for families or caregivers of transition-aged youth or young adults with a disability between the ages of 12 and 24.

Conference Sessions are scheduled for:

Wednesday July 25th, 2012 9:30AM — 5:15PM

Thursday July 26th, 2012 8:30AM — 4:00PM

Friday July 27th, 2012 8:30AM — 1:15PM

There are a limited number of 'scholarships' available to assist families afford the registration fee. Deadline for scholarship applications is June 15, 2012

Please click on the link below and take a look at the link for the conference brochure as well as the link for the scholarship application.

2012 PA Community on Transition Conference