Success SEPTO kicks off new school year
By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Willington - posted Wed., Sep. 25, 2013
Local parents and caregivers with a stake in the education and advancement of children with special needs have a tremendous advocate and educational resource in their corner.
Success SEPTO, a special education parent teacher organization which serves area communities, held its first meeting of the new school year on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the Willington Public Library. The guest speaker was Kevin Daly, chair of the Connecticut Special Education PTO Alliance, a statewide council of local SEPTO groups and child advocacy organizations. Other invited guests included Willington First Selectman Christina Mailhos, Willington Superintendent of Schools David Harding, and state Rep. Sam Belsito (R-53).
In his new role at the state level, Belsito said he would like to address some of the needs of special education students by tapping into the vast technological resources available at the University of Connecticut.
“Three days after I was sworn in, I presented a proposal regarding the new technology center being built at UConn,” Belsito said. “I figure if the state is going to spend $1.5 to $2 billion of our money, I want to see the very first building to be dedicated to special technologies for special needs children, and give these kids a new and dramatic learning area. It would be going one step further than what we are doing now,” he said, adding that he envisions the UConn Storrs campus as just one of five or six campuses throughout the state to offer such technologies. Belsito said his initial proposal has so far been well received and a subgroup is working on the issue. “I’m not interested in going to the moon,” said Belsito. “I’m interested in [UConn] developing new technologies that can take these kids to a whole new level.”
Belsito’s proposal was lauded by Success SEPTO Vice President Brenda Stenglein. Stenglein said thanks to UConn-made technological devices specially adapted for her son’s needs, her child can run a computer, not with a traditional hand-held mouse, but solely with his eyes. “Technology is the future,” she said.
As a parent of a special needs child who has since grown into adulthood, Daly said he is grateful for the intervention of special education in his son’s life in his formative years. “Part of my son’s success was also having a mother and father behind him willing to advocate for him,” Daly said. “It’s not just the school’s responsibility. Our job as parents, when it comes to education, is to make it happen.”
Daly focused much of his talk on practical advice for parents. Philosophically speaking, he said there are three laws of special education that every parent should take to heart: the first being that people who work in the school system are, first and foremost, human beings. The second law, he said, is that parents know their children best. The third law is that parents and school people make better partners than adversaries. For that reason, parents attending a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting for the benefit of putting together an Individualized Education Plan, specifically designed to help their child to learn, should check their emotions at the door, Daly said. “A good advocate should go to a meeting prepared to collaborate,” he said.
Parents should also go to such meetings with a little education under their belts. To that end, Daly provided informational resources for parents, most specific to the laws of Connecticut, about what their rights are regarding their child’s education, how to go about requesting the information they need - such as a cumulative copy of their child’s school records - and helpful advice about putting together a written list of their input and concerns that they want to address during the meeting. “If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s this,” said Daly. “If you believe in something, you don’t give up.”
Success SEPTO will host more meetings in upcoming weeks. On Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m., special education attorney David Shaw will speak about the rights of children and adults with disabilities under federal law. On Saturday, Oct. 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., it will host “The Spectrum Unplugged,” a presentation by the FOCUS Center for Autism featuring a panel of young people diagnosed on the autism spectrum who will share some of their life experiences. All meetings are held at the Willington Public Library. For more information, visit www.successsepto.org.