I remember talking to a friend many years ago who spoke about having a special needs child and compared it to preparing for a vacation to a foreign country, learning a new language, preparing for the sites to see and the places to visit and when the plane landed, lo and behold she ended up in a different country, with a different language and while it was not what she thought it would be it was still wonderful and beautiful.
That is how I felt being assigned to National PTA’s Special Needs committee, I was prepared with my PTA knowledge and thought I knew the education jargon/language but boy was I wrong. I attended my first committee meeting, still knowing very little about Special Needs programs and immediately realized I had to learn a new language. IEPs, IDEA, FAPE, 504’s, SEPTA and the list went on and on. The committee members were very understanding and patient with me and aided me in my slow but gradual learning process. I was lost and confused just as I am sure many parents are when their child is diagnosed with Special Needs. I started asking questions and received direction from the committee members on where to turn. I needed to do some research and naturally went to the PTA.org website. On the website I found a Special Needs Toolkit that had answers to the questions I was having and even more information than I ever thought I would need to know. I cannot imagine what parents need to do when their child is diagnosed with special needs and where do they turn but now I can refer them to PTA.org/specialneeds.
On this website, there is an amazing section devoted to special needs. Starting with:
Getting Started: An introduction to the Special Education process and how to advocate for your child.
From Pre-K to Graduation: Transitioning your student throughout his or her school career and preparing them for college or the workforce after graduation.
Understanding Federal Policy: An overview of federal disability and special needs policies, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
A Parent’s Dictionary: Key terms to know when getting started in special education.
Acronyms: An overview of acronyms used in special education and disability policies and programs.
Resources: A directory of tools and organizations that families can access for assistance.
This is a fantastic tool, with great information, and relevant resources. Help those who need this by referring parents, teachers, and school districts about PTA’s Special Needs Toolkit.
While I am sure that being on a committee is nothing compared to having a special needs child, I do know one thing, every child is entitled to a great education. Sometimes getting that for our children takes us down a different road, but the journey is worth it to see our child, your child, all children succeed.
Kathy Nevans is a member of the National PTA Board of Directors and the Board liaison to the Special Needs Committee. She is from Independence, MO.