A Quarterly Publication of the
Parent Network of the Capital Region
Fall 2009

PNCR: A New Resource for Capital Region Parents

By: Heather Loukmas, Special Education Resource Specialist

Parents of children with disabilities and the professionals who support them have a new resource in the Capital Region to turn to for information on special education in New York State.  The Parent Network of the Capital Region (PNCR), specializes in assisting families and professionals in meeting the educational needs of students with disabilities who are currently receiving or may be in need of special education services in the preschool, public and private school setting.  The PNCR serves a thirteen county area including Albany, Columbia, Essex, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Washington and Warren Counties. 

The PNCR, one of thirteen parent centers across the state, is funded through a grant from the State of New York and therefore able to offer families and professionals services free of charge. The PNCR provides parents and professionals with the tools necessary to effectively collaborate with school districts and community agencies on behalf of individuals with disabilities from birth to age 21.  The goals of the PNCR are:

  • Promote their meaningful involvement in their children's education programs, including information regarding the special education process (referrals, individual evaluations and individualized education program development and transition planning;
  • Assist in understanding their children's disabilities;
  • Promote early resolution of disputes between parents and school districts;
  • Promote the use of resolution sessions and special education mediation;
  • Assist in understanding procedural due process rights, including the right to impartial hearings and appeals and the State complaint process; and
  • Enhance parents' skills and levels of confidence to communicate effectively and work collaboratively with other schools and other stakeholders to advocate and actively participate in their children's education program.

In addition, PNCR staff can provide families with individual consultation; referrals to local support professionals; an on-site resource library with computer access; a comprehensive website and more.  The PNCR will be open at times convenient to parents including evenings and Saturdays by appointment.

The PNCR will also be conducting training and workshops on a variety of topics that are specifically designed to meet the needs of parents and/or professionals.  Training topics related to the process of special education will include "Understanding Special Education"; "Working Collaboratively with the Committee on Special Education (CSE) or Pre-School Education (CPSE)"; Understanding Individualized Education Plans".  Training on specific disabilities will also be offered including "Autism Spectrum Disorders"; Specific Learning Disabilities"; "Social and Emotional Disabilities"; "ADHD" and more.  Other topics for training include "Social Skills Development"; "Addressing Challenging Behaviors"; "Early Intervention"; "Transition to Adult Services"; "Homework Help" and much more.  The PNCR also has the capability to design customized trainings to fit a particular audience.

For more information about the PNCR, services and trainings, please visit our website at or, contact us at 518-640-3320 or by e-mail at

Fall Conference Homework Tips for Parents

By: Liz DeLibero, M.Ed.

Homework can often create stress in families, especially for families who have a child who has learning or behavioral difficulties. The following tips may be helpful for parents to implement so that homework does not cause battles in your home.

1.       Find out what the homework policy is for your school.  Some schools or teachers limit the amount of time per night that student's should spend on homework.  Often this is done by grade level.  If it appears that your child is exceeding that amount of time and putting forth great effort, ask to discuss this with his/her teacher.  Many students with disabilities need modified assignments.  If this is necessary, it should be documented on the IEP.

2.      Talk to your child about the "where and when" of homework.  Let your child decide (within reason of course) where, and when to do homework.  Some kids will do better in the middle of the kitchen while others may need a quiet spot away from family activity.  Let your child decide a good time to do homework. Will he/she do better right after school, or does after dinner work better?  Some kids need to break it up and do a little right after school and the rest later.  Let your child know that whatever he/she decides, homework must be done by a certain time. 

3.      Assist your child in developing a plan for homework completion.  Once there is a plan and your child knows about how long it will take, he/she may feel more confident. Some parents find it helpful to sit with their child during homework time and read or complete paper work.  That way you are available if help is needed, but you are doing your "homework" as well.    

4.      If your child needs assistance, have him/her verbalize what they are supposed to do.  Sometimes kids don't bother to look carefully at directions or they just become overwhelmed without even attempting to understand the assignment.  Often once they hear themselves talk about the assignment, they understand what to do.  Avoid the trap of telling them what to do without first asking them. 

5.      Homework should be practice of a skill that your child has already been taught.  If you find yourself in the position of having to teach your child concepts, you will want to let the teacher know.  If your child is extremely frustrated, attach a note to the homework explaining to the teacher that your child did not understand what to do.  For an older child, you want to encourage him/her to go to the teacher and ask for additional help.

6.      Remember, it is your child's homework, not yours.  As long as you provide a quiet and supportive environment, you should not feel responsible if your child is not meeting homework obligations.

7.       Finally, don't battle over homework.  You can make it clear to your child that certain things cannot happen until homework is completed.  (T.V. for example.) It is not uncommon for kids (especially at the middle school level) to not be truthful about homework completion.  If you think this is happening with your child, contact the teacher and set up a method to keep track of assignment completion.  Some teachers will communicate by e-mail and others may use the agenda book.  Many districts even have homework hotlines, and website links with assignment information.  It helps if kids know that parents and teachers are talking to each other!   If your child is refusing to do homework, let him face the natural and logical consequences.  This may mean staying after school, missing recess, or ultimately a poor grade.

Bullying Basics:  Keeping Your Child Safe at School

By: Julie Keegan, Special Education Resource Specialist

Harassing a child because of his or her disabilities is, sadly, a common experience.  The effects on both the child and parents can be devastating.  Fortunately, schools have an affirmative duty to make sure that students are not harassed because they have a disability.

Disability harassment is intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on the student's disability. Harassing conduct includes verbal, non-verbal, and physical acts that are threatening, humiliating, or harmful.  Name-calling, posting pictures, making gestures, pushing, tripping, blocking, belittling, and intimidating are behaviors commonly associated with disability harassment.  Moreover, both students and adults can be perpetrators of disability harassment.

When a school has notice that harassing conduct is interfering with a student's participation in educational programming or opportunities, federal laws require the school to take action.  These laws include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Indeed, in 2000, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to every school detailing "the very serious problem" of disability harassment, its "profound impact on students," and a school's responsibility to "prevent and eliminate harassment."  This letter is available online at 

Unfortunately, disability harassment remains a pervasive problem at many schools.  However, parents and students can use the following steps to compel the school to take action.

1.      Document incidents in writing - Keep a notebook describing each incident of harassment, no matter how minor.  Include who, what, where, and when.

2.      Share your concerns in writing - As noted above, a school is required to take action when it has written notice of the harassing conduct.  Send a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the school principal and mail a copy to the Superintendent and at least one member of the Board of Education.  The letter should contain the phrase "NOTICE" in bold and large type at the top of the body of the letter.  Indicate you are writing to provide notice of disability harassment of your child.  Detail each of the harassing incidents.  Request that the school take actions to end the harassment and prevent it from happening again.  Request a written response and a copy of the school's harassment policy within 5 business days. For a sample letter, visit

3.      Request a CSE meeting - Your child's vulnerability to harassment should be clearly documented in her IEP.   Under the "management needs" section of the present levels of performance, list or describe every support the student needs to remain safe and free of harassment.  For example, "the student needs an identified staff person to report incidents to in confidence to reduce the change of retaliation," and/or "the student needs all teachers, monitors, aides and other staff to report and address every incident of harassment against the student."

4.      If the school is unresponsive or the response is not working:

  • Request a meeting with Superintendent to discuss concerns.  Follow up with a letter to the Superintendent summarizing the meeting and what was agreed on.
  • File a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.  This will prompt an investigation by civil rights experts.  Parent-friendly information and an online complaint form can be found at  This can be very effective if other efforts are unsuccessful.
  • File for a due process hearing.  Since harassment can deprive a student of a free and appropriate public education and constitute discrimination, parents can file for a due process hearing under the IDEA or Section 504.  Information on this process is located in your Procedural Safeguards Notice and a sample request can be found at
  • Consult an attorney regarding a possible lawsuit.
Above all, don't hesitate to take action.  Disability harassment is highly underreported and tends to escalate when left unchecked.  You CAN make a difference. 

Fall Conference Five Things You Need to Remember Before Going Into a Committee on Special Education Meeting

By: Mary Fornabia, Special Education Resource Specialist

The annual review for your child is a very important educational meeting.  There is a great deal of information that is discussed in this meeting to develop the IEP for the following year.  In preparation for developing this educational plan here are some tips to help parents and families as they go through this process.

1. Have a Pre-CSE meeting.

It is important to have a pre-CSE meeting with the teachers and therapists who work directly with your child prior to your CSE meeting. There is frequently not enough time in a CSE meeting to discuss all issues (a huge frustration for many parents) so a productive pre-CSE meeting is extremely important. This type of meeting is also recommended by the State Education Department.

The purpose of this meeting is to review the entire draft IEP, (Individualized Educational Plan) the PLPS, (Present levels of Performance) goals, etc. so that there is discussion in all areas.  This is the time to discuss all current level of performance educational needs and goals in order to come to a team agreement.  At the end of this meeting the goal is to have team consensus so that upon going into the CSE meeting things will go smoothly. If at the end of the meeting consensus has not been reached make a list of those concerns and bring them to the Annual CSE to be discussed.

2.    Bring someone to the meeting with you.

It is a very good idea to bring another person with you to the CSE meeting. This could be a friend, spouse, etc. The reason for this is as parents we may get emotional and overwhelmed with the issues at hand.  Hearing about "our child" in this format is not easy.  Having an objective person, another set of ears and eyes helps to keep focused.   Have this person sit next to you with a copy of your list of concerns to make sure all points you want to discuss are brought to the table.

3.    Have a list of items you want to be covered at the meeting; an agenda.

After your pre-CSE meeting you will more than likely have topics for discussion at the official CSE meeting.  I would also recommend that you share these items with the "key players"(i.e. teacher, speech pathologist) as it will help to make the meeting run more efficiently.  Make this list and share it with the person you bring to the meting with you.  This will help you to stay focused and make sure issues that are important to YOU get discussed. 

4.    Have a Plan A, B, and C

Whenever going into a CSE meeting, it is wise to have backup plans.  This helps to foster positive communication.   You may think that a particular service for you child is a must.  Be open -minded. The Committee may recommend something you hadn't thought of, or may convince you that your child doesn't require a service you thought they needed. Having a dialogue with the CSE team is recommended.  Admittedly, this is not always easy.   If you go into a meeting dead set on having it your way, think of a Plan B and even a Plan C. 

For example, the committee may recommend a different level of service, or location and they may provide a reasonable rationale for this.  You may choose to go along with this recommendation provided there is a CSE review in a reasonable amount of time.  Conversely, if you are not in agreement you may ask for the service to be implemented as per your request, again with a CSE review in a reasonable amount of time.
5.    Bring a picture of your child.

The purpose of bringing a picture of your child is two fold.  First, it puts a face with the name.  Many times the people sitting around the table at your CSE meeting have never even seen your child; this will help to humanize your child to them so that she/he is not just another name.  Secondly, as a parent it may help you to focus and remain clear throughout the meeting when advocating for your child.  It will help you to focus on his/her needs rather than your needs.   It is a good idea to look at that picture and remember that you are advocating for your child.  You want to make sure he/she gets the services that they NEED.   Also, some parents write up a brief description of their child, which may include learning styles, characteristics, behaviors, etc. for instructional staff to read.
Fall Conference

School-Related Anxiety in Children

By: Adene Karhan, Special Education Resource Specialist

The beginning of a new school year is often greeted by a mixture of emotions in children.  They may be excited about seeing their friends again, and about being promoted to a new grade level.  At the same time, they may be anxious about their new teacher and their new class.  For some children, any fears or uncertainties that they have are alleviated within the first few days of school, once they become acclimated to their new routine and have an opportunity to learn what is expected of them in their new classroom.  However, the fears of some children continue to become more extreme throughout the school year, with some children developing a school-related anxiety (also referred to as school phobia). 

As a parent, it can be difficult to determine when school-related anxiety has become severe enough that you need to become concerned about your child.  Anxiety is an intense fear or uneasiness that has a significant impact on a child's daily life and can last for an extended period of time.  Approximately 1 in 10 children suffer from anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. 

Throughout the school year, children are faced with a variety of social stressors.  School phobia/anxiety may be triggered by some of the following[1]:

  • Being bullied
  • Starting school for the first time
  • Moving to a new area and starting in a new school
  • Being out of school for an extended time due to illness or a school break
  • Bereavement (of a person or a pet)
  • Feeling threatened by the arrival of a new baby
  • Divorce of parents
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Problems at home (such as an ill family member)
  • Violence or abuse at home (of the child or parent)
  • Not having close friends
  • Being unpopular, being chosen last for teams, and feeling like a physical failure
  • Sense of academic failure

Children with school-related anxiety may experience the following symptoms:

  • Frequent stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea and/or other physical complaints in the absence of any obvious illness
  • Clinginess, tantrums
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased anxiousness, especially at the end of the weekend or the night before school
  • Refusal to go to school

Leah Davies, M.Ed., author of "Overcoming School Phobia", published on, suggests the following interventions for parents of children exhibiting symptoms of school phobia:

  1. Have a doctor examine the child to rule out any possible illness.
  2. Listen to the child talk about school, and attempt to decipher any clues as to why the child is fearful of school.
  3. Talk to the teacher and other school staff to share concerns.
  4.  Modify the school and home environments to help the child adjust to school. 
  5. Don't allow your child to miss school, because this only serves to intensify their anxiety.  Continue with normal routine as much as possible, encouraging your child and commenting on his/her strengths, praising him or her for being "brave" by facing his/her fears.
  6. Try to make life as "boring" as possible for your child, without any surprises.  Even good surprises can be stressful to a child that is anxious and was not expecting a change in routine.
  7. Maintain a structured bedtime and waking time for your child.

Leah Davies, M.Ed., also suggests the following school modifications:

  1. Arrange to have a school staff member greet the child at the door and walk him/her to class.
  2. Make the school nurse aware of the child's situation so that he/she can respond appropriately to any physical complaints.
  3. Provide opportunities for the child to excel in school.
  4. Monitor bullying activities that may be occurring.
  5. Implement a reward chart with the child.

It may also be helpful to meet with the school social worker or psychologist.  They may be able to incorporate the child in some small groups to facilitate the building of friendships.  They may also be able to meet with the child periodically in order to provide the child with a "safe" person to talk to when the child becomes overly anxious at school.

In some cases, even with repeated attempts by parents and teachers to support and reassure the child, it is necessary to seek help from a mental health professional that is knowledgeable about treating anxiety in children.  If you see the following symptoms in your child or adolescent, you should seek the help of a mental health professional[2]:

  • Repeated refusal to attend school or school-related functions.
  • Persistent nightmares or difficulty sleeping.
  • Persistent anxiety that prevents the child from enjoying things that he/she once enjoyed.
  • Frequent aggression or other "acting out" behaviors.
  • Depression, sadness, or irritability.
  • Major changes in friendships, style of clothing, music preference.
  • Major changes in attitude or behavior.
  • Your child (who usually talks openly with you) suddenly refuses to talk to you. 

[1] Information was taken from

[2] Information taken from Mental Health America: and Special Needs Children:

In This Issue
PNCR: A New Resource For Capital Region Parents
Homework Tips
Bullying Basics: Keeping Kids Safe at School
Five Things You Need to Remember Before Going Into a CSE Meeting
School-Related Anxiety in Children
Fall Training Series

The PNCR is offering a series of free evening trainings in September, October & November to be held in four different locations throughout the Capital Region.  Click here to access the "Upcoming Events" on our website.
Quick Links

Upcoming Events

For more information about the PNCR's Fall Conference and to download a registration brochure from our website, click on the image below.
Fall Conference
Contact the PNCR
Parent Network of the Capital Region
1190 Troy-Schenectay Rd.
Latham, NY  12110
Ph: 518-640-3320