Parent Centers: A resource for training and assistance for families of children with disabilities

 

          It’s back-to-school time and this posting provides information on federally funded Parent Centers that provide training and assistance to families of children with disabilities. My thanks to my long time friend Barbara Buswell, the Director of Colorado’s PEAK Parent Center, for providing this information regarding services provided by Parent Centers in general and the PEAK Parent Center specifically. Among the many valuable services that the PEAK Parent Center provides is its Annual Conference for Inclusive Education.

     The U. S. Department of Education provides federally funded Parent Centers in each state to provide training and assistance to families of children with disabilities in their states.  Every state has at least one Parent Center, and states with large populations may have more. 

     Parent Centers serve families of children ages birth to age 26 with all disability labels – physical, learning, cognitive, behavioral, language, emotional etc.  Parent Centers provide a variety of services including workshops, one-on-one support and assistance, websites, and publications.  The majority of Parent Center staff and Boards are themselves parents of children with disabilities so in addition to their knowledge, they are able to bring personal experience when assisting families.  Parent Centers help families obtain appropriate education and services for their children with special needs and work to improve education results for all children.  They connect families with community resources,  train on a variety of topics (including special education, access to general education curriculum, communication with professionals, accommodations and modifactions, etc.), and help families work to resolve problems with schools and other agencies.  Parent Centers link families with resources and best practice information in special and general education. To find the Parent Center in your state go to the Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers’ website.

    PEAK Parent Center is Colorado’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI). PEAK is a statewide organization for and by parents of children with disabilities reaching out to assist families and professionals. 

PEAK PTI Services

* Information about the special education process and parents’ rights

* Up-to-date disability information

* SPEAKout newsletter

* Parent Advisors who are available to provide information and resources in English and Spanish, assist families with problem-solving strategies, and direct callers to other community resources by telephone, email to parentadvisor@peakparent.org, or in person by appointment

* Inclusion resources that show how students can be successfully included in general education classrooms

* Referral to medical, educational, community services, and support groups

* Annual statewide conference on Inclusive Education to be held February 11-13, 2010

* Bookstore with current publications to assist families and schools like our “IEP Toolkit”

     In conclusion, Parent Training Centers are a valuable resource for families of children with disabilities. Again, to find the Parent Center in your state go to Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers’ website.

 

Education Secretary Duncan Sends Letter to Chief State School Officers Regarding Seclusion & Restraint in Schools

     Last Friday, July 31st, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to the Chief State School Officers in each state encouraging them to review their state’s “current policies and guidelines regarding the use of retraints and seclusion in schools to ensure every student is safe and protected, and if appropriate, develop or revise its policies and guidelines.” Secretary Duncan referred to testimony before the Education and Labor Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives examining “the abusive and potentially deadly misapplication of seclusion and restraint techniques in schools.” Additionally, Secretary Duncan noted testimony by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers. My readers are also aware of  the National Disability Rights Network’s Report on seclusion and restraint in schools (see NDRN Releases Shocking Report on Seclusion and Restraint in U.S. Schools).

     Moreover, Secretary Duncan urges states to publicize their policies and guidelines regarding restraint and seclusion “so that administrators, teachers, and parents understand and consent to the limited circumstances under which these techniques may be used; ensure that parents are notified when these interventions occur; and provide the resources needed to successfully implement the policies and hold school districts accountable for adhering to the guidelines.”

      Additionally, the letter encourages the Chief State School Officers to have the revised policies in place before the start of the 2009-10 school year “to help ensure that no child is subjected to the abusive or potentially deadly use of seclusion and restraint in school.” Secretary Duncan says that Department of Education (DOE) staff will contact the offices of the Chief State School Officers by August 15 to discuss the status of their State’s efforts to limit the use of seclusion and restraint. During that contact DOE staff will discuss  “relevant State laws, regulations, policies, and guidance that affect the use of seclusion and restraint, and any plans for further development and revisions.” Finally and notably, DOE expects to post the results of these discussions on its website “to assist in the sharing of information that will help protect our students.”

     Thus, concerned citizens should be able to track the activity in their states. If there are particular issues in your state regarding the use of seclusion and restraint in your schools, I suggest you notify your State’s Department of Education as well as the U.S. Department of Education of your concerns. Click here to find your State’s Department  of Education.  Secretary Duncan designated Fran Waller of DOE’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education as the Chief State School Officer contact for this endeavor. Her number is (202) 205-9198 and her e mail is Fran.Walter@ed.gov. It might be worth reviewing the recommendations made in the NDRN Report School is Not Supposed to Hurt: Investigative Report on Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools , to see if your state has those recommendations in place. This is an opportunity to ensure that children are safe in our schools.

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