Parents Learn about Community Resources, SEPTA at Meet and Greet
Parents who attended the Southern Westchester BOCES Special Education PTA’s recent Meet and Greet learned about the variety of community support services available, from music therapy and recreation to special education advocacy.
Parent Marcela Stern, a SEPTA executive board member, said the group sponsors educational and fun events for students and parents throughout the year. Topics covered at educational sessions include guardianship and transition planning. The annual book fair fundraiser at Barnes & Noble in White Plains is in November.
“Every time that we have something like this, parents find out new information that is useful for their lives,” Ms. Stern said during the morning session. There was a second Meet and Greet in the evening.
SEPTA’s popular holiday party is in December. “It’s been growing every year and kids really have a lot of fun,” Ms. Stern said.
One of SEPTA’s goals this year is to get more families involved, said Frank Alvarez, SWBOCES’ director of special services.
“If you look at special education over time, lots of what is happening is the result of parent advocacy,” he said. “Through your involvement, your attention to details, and your attention to being focused on what we’re doing and asking questions, you’re forcing us to get better at what we do.”
SWBOCES Superintendent Harold Coles said the state Board of Regents and education commissioner want parents’ feedback as they develop New York’s plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act. The legislation is the successor to the federal No Child Left Behind law.
In developing the plan, state officials are looking at measurable growth in student performance in attendance, academics, and social-emotional areas that impact their schooling, such as trauma and disability. One topic under review is graduation requirements.
“One of the reasons that is being talked about … is that we still have a group of students who are not able to graduate with a degree that will allow them to be able to get a job,” he said.
Parent Carolyn Laskaj said she got a lot out of the meeting. Her son is 9 and attends Tappan Hill School.
“This was very helpful to gather new resources and meet new people,” Ms. Laskaj said.
Tappan Hill Principal Phyllis Rizzi, a SEPTA board member, thanked community organizations for attending the events and educating parents about their work. “A special thank you to the vendors, who we really are going to tap into,” she said.
The vendors were:
- Parent to Parent of New York State, which is a one-stop shop for parents of children with disabilities, from birth to age 21. It offers information and referrals; guidance on eligibility for state services; and more. The group connects parents with one another so they can gain from one another’s experiences.
- The Music Therapy Institute, which engages students through music to address specific areas of need, such as communication and social skills, emotional expression and physical development.
- Arc of Westchester, which is a resource for many types programs, such as recreation, respite, community habilitation, in-home behavior services, adult day services, Employment without Walls and residential care.
- Westchester Jewish Community Services, which provides residential and independent living programs, service coordination, recreational and support groups and clinical care, among other services.
- North East Westchester Special Recreation Inc., which is a community-based therapeutic recreation agency serving children and adults with developmental disabilities in northeast Westchester.
- The Hudson Valley Special Education Parent Center at the Westchester Institute for Human Development provides services to support families who have children with special needs.
- Special education advocate Jennifer Kahn Ruoff, who helps parents obtain services for their children. She can observe children in the classroom and assess whether the curriculum, teachers and peers are right for them.