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Start a Special Education PTA

brother_sister_hug.jpgWhy start a Special Education PTA?
Families with children who have special needs often seek out opportunities to meet other parents in similar circumstances. Special Education PTAs (SEPTAs) provide this opportunity and often bring together families of students who attend different schools in a district under one PTA umbrella. Becoming a SEPTA provides families with an organizational structure, resources and the opportunity to be a collective voice for their child and for all children.

My child’s school has a PTA (or another parent organization). Do I need to form a SEPTA?
When a parent organization already exists in a school, parents of children with special needs may want to see if they can form a committee within that organization for families with special needs children. This encourages inclusion and helps keep the lines of communication open to all parent groups. Families can then be a part of all school activities, ensure the inclusion of their children and still have their own format for the special supports and opportunities that they may seek.

My child attends a school that is all children with special needs. Should we form a SEPTA just for our school?
If there is no parent organization in your school, in consultation with your school principal, you will want to determine if you should be a PTA or a SEPTA. Consulting with your state PTA office will also provide you with options. If there is a SEPTA serving schools in your district, you may want to affiliate with them and form a PTA that focuses on your school. If there are no SEPTAs in your community, you may want to form one that would also welcome families from other schools in your community. If there is a PTA Council for your area, that Council will also be a great source of information and guidance.

How do I determine if there is a SEPTA in my community?
Contact your state PTA office.

What steps should I take if there is no SEPTA and I want to form one?

  1. Start with like minded people, e.g. other parents, guardians, grandparents, etc. with children with special/exceptional needs, school staff (teachers, therapists, special education directors and so on).
  2. Schedule a meeting with these people and call the state PTA office (see above for contact information) and ask for someone from the state PTA to come and answer questions on the benefits of SEPTAs.
  3. A representative from the Board of Education and the school’s district’s Special Education Director should be encouraged to participate in the formation and operation of your SEPTA.

What can a SEPTA offer to families?
One major benefit of a SEPTA is to offer support to other parents who have similar circumstances. Some SEPTA units have a business meeting then adjourn and offer a parent support time off the record. Sometimes parents like to speak on issues that concern their children and just listening to them can help other caretakers. Other things can happen during the support time, for instance, caretakers can learn about doctors and services that are a positive experience for their child such as a place to take your child for a haircut that is not stressful and a place of business that is understanding and patient.

Other benefits are that SEPTAs sponsor workshops and speakers on topics that can help better advocate for exceptional children and topics that can help parents better understand aspects of special needs and many diagnoses. Many SEPTAs start out with a general topic like understanding your child’s IEP or 504plan, the rights of your special needs child, and the parent’s rights under IDEA.

Many units offer family fun days for the whole family, such as a bowling day, a picnic and so on. This is a comfortable place for the whole family to go and be together.

Questions?
Contact National PTA at (800)307-4782, info@pta.org.