‘Boot Camp’ to educate families of children with autism

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Willington - posted Tue., Jan. 22, 2013
(L-r) Cathy Britschock, president of Success SEPTO, Kevin Daly, SEPTO treasurer, and Brenda Stenglein, SEPTO vice president. File photo.
(L-r) Cathy Britschock, president of Success SEPTO, Kevin Daly, SEPTO treasurer, and Brenda Stenglein, SEPTO vice president. File photo.

Success Special Education PTO and Autism Services and Resources Connecticut are partnering for a four-Saturday “boot camp” session for parents, caregivers, guardians and grandparents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The basic-training seminars will be held on four Saturdays - Feb. 9, March 2, March 23 and April 6 - from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Willington Public Library.

“This is basically a pilot program,” said ASRC Director Sara Reed. “For about the past 10 years, we’ve run a 10-week parent advocacy program, but we’ve found it is getting more and more difficult for families to find the time and afford the longer program.” The shorter seminar series, she said, pulls out the most important pieces of the program.  Additionally, by holding the seminars on Saturdays instead of during the work week, they hope to reach a wider audience.

“Parents need to learn about Autism Spectrum Disorders, what they are and how they appear in their child, about the special education system and how it works and the parents’ role in the process,” said Reed. “[Parents] are the lynchpin. They know their kids better than anyone else.”

“It can be very hard for parents to secure the right services for their children in the public school system,” said Cathy Britschock, president of Success SEPTO in Willington. A parent of a child with autism, Britschock said she has found ASRC to be a wonderful resource, and through Success SEPTO she has worked to bring services and programs to communities in the northeast corridor. “A lot of these workshops have a wealth of information,” said Britschock. “It’s important for parents to know what autism is, what is an Individualized Educational Program (IEP), and when does transitioning start for children with ASDs.”

In the wake of the Newtown school shooting and speculation that Adam Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Britschock said it is more important than ever for society in general to understand what ASDs are, and that they are not a mental disorder, but rather a neurological one. “Children with autism are bullied more. It’s become an epidemic now in our schools,” she said. “It’s been proven, though, that if you intervene early, it can make a big difference.”

The timing of the boot camp program fits well with a planned rally at the State Capital for Special Education Day on March 4. The rally is being sponsored by The Connecticut Special Education PTO Alliance, of which Success SEPTO is a member organization.

“We’ve gotten a lot of support from our local legislators - Representative Bryan Hurlburt and Senator Tony Guglielmo,” said Kevin Daly, chair of the alliance and treasurer of Success SEPTO. “Our statement is a positive one,” he said. Daly said that even though part of every school budget and every municipal budget goes to special education, it is money well spent because it goes to support children who would not do nearly as well without the services they receive through special education spending. Taken further, Daly said the money spent now on special education is a savings to society and taxpayers years down the road, as those children who receive services now are better able to support themselves and contribute to society and are less likely to need services, or as many services, as adults.

Registration for the boot camp program is required. Registration materials can be obtained at www.asconn.org or by contacting Sara Reed at ASRC at 203-265-7717 or sara@asconn.org. The schedule of meetings is posted at www.successsepto.org.


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