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
- 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 www.pncrny.org
or, contact us at 518-640-3320 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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"
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
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.
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
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
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 http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/disabharassltr.html.
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
incidents in writing - Keep a notebook describing each incident of
harassment, no matter how minor.
Include who, what, where, and when.
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 www.pncrny.org.
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."
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.
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 http://www.vesid.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/policy/dueprocess7105.html.
don't hesitate to take action.
Disability harassment is highly underreported and tends to escalate when
left unchecked. You CAN make a
- Consult an attorney regarding a possible lawsuit.
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.
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:
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
(of a person or a pet)
threatened by the arrival of a new baby
- Divorce of
a traumatic event
- Problems at
home (such as an ill family member)
- Violence or
abuse at home (of the child or parent)
- Not having
unpopular, being chosen last for teams, and feeling like a physical failure
- Sense of
Children with school-related anxiety may experience the
stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea and/or other physical complaints in the absence
of any obvious illness
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 www.kellybear.com/TeacherArticles,
suggests the following interventions for parents of children exhibiting
symptoms of school phobia:
- Have a
doctor examine the child to rule out any possible illness.
- Listen to
the child talk about school, and attempt to decipher any clues as to why the
child is fearful of school.
- Talk to the
teacher and other school staff to share concerns.
- Modify the
school and home environments to help the child adjust to school.
- 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.
- 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.
- Maintain a
structured bedtime and waking time for your child.
Leah Davies, M.Ed., also suggests the following school
- Arrange to
have a school staff member greet the child at the door and walk him/her to
- Make the
school nurse aware of the child's situation so that he/she can respond
appropriately to any physical complaints.
opportunities for the child to excel in school.
bullying activities that may be occurring.
- 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
refusal to attend school or school-related functions.
nightmares or difficulty sleeping.
anxiety that prevents the child from enjoying things that he/she once enjoyed.
aggression or other "acting out" behaviors.
sadness, or irritability.
changes in friendships, style of clothing, music preference.
changes in attitude or behavior.
- Your child
(who usually talks openly with you) suddenly refuses to talk to you.
was taken from www.phobic-awareness.org/schoolphobia.htm.
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.