Special Education PTA – Growth in Missouri

Three months ago, I had never heard of Special Education PTAs, but I clearly remember the day that I did.  It was June 15, 2018, and I was in a meeting for Missouri Disability Empowerment, when one person asked if we had heard of a Special Education PTA (SEPTA).  I perked up, and questioned further.  As I learned about what SEPTAs in other states do, I felt hope at the possibility of finding other parents that often feel isolated and are embarking on a journey that only another parent of a special needs child can understand.

Being a mom of three children, two of whom have special needs, I have often struggled with feeling isolated because many things that are taken for granted by most families can be so difficult, such as going to a grocery store, having a meal at a restaurant, or going to the park.  In addition, the relationship between parent and school has a different aspect when IEPs and 504s are involved.  Special needs parents and teachers become members of an entire world of evaluations, meetings, therapies, and mountain of special education acronyms, which the majority of teachers and parents do not experience.

I still remember my very first Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting for my son, which took place eleven years ago.  Everyone was very friendly and helpful in guiding us through this process; however, I felt like they were speaking a foreign language.  There were numerous acronyms, forms, and decisions being made that I truly knew nothing about.  After that meeting, I spent hours researching and becoming educated on this process, so I was more prepared to be involved at the next IEP meeting.

There are many parents of special needs kids at different stages of the special education process in a school district who can be a great benefit to each other.  There is no reason that every parent new to special education, or at a transition point, needs to start from scratch.  There should be a resource for parents and teachers to come together to guide and support each other through the process, which is where the Special Education PTA can be invaluable.

School specific PTAs do an amazing job of supporting the school and children through various methods such as field trips, classroom supplies, classroom parties, fun fairs, etc.  Oftentimes, the special education areas are overlooked, or are not a priority, as these students are typically a small percentage of the total school population.  Even the events that are billed as being for the entire school are often overwhelming to many special needs children, so these events are avoided, or if attempted to attend might end with a negative experience or meltdown.  When a school specific PTA and Special Education PTA work together, amazing opportunities and experiences for all children can happen.

The experience of creating a Special Education Parent Teacher Association has been a wonderful and exciting experience, thanks to the help of Mary Flatt and other members of the Missouri PTA.  There is a fair amount of administrative work on my end; however, the Missouri PTA’s packet walked me through the steps, and Mary spent many afternoons giving me guidance on how to start.  In our area, we are also very lucky to have a Columbia Council PTA, which has also been very helpful and supportive.  The trainings I have attended have been very informative and respectful of our time.  Rosa Parks, the Columbia Council PTA president, also has a wealth of knowledge and much needed advice about getting started.

I was very nervous when the moment of truth arrived – the organizational meeting.  To become an official PTA, ten people need to attend and become charter members, but I was thrilled that over thirty people attended.  After two months of mainly word-of-mouth and social media advertising, the Columbia SEPTA has grown to fifty-one members.

We have so many ideas that we want to accomplish, resources to share, and support to give to anyone with an interest in special needs.  People within the group are stepping forward and taking on roles that help SEPTA grow.  Erin Keith, Communications Chair, has been invaluable in setting up a website with online memberships, preparing flyers, and coordinating Facebook and Twitter communications with our members.  These items are so important in this day and age.  The main challenge right now is being realistic about what we can accomplish in the first year, and what we need to take longer to plan as well as working to develop a great relationship with the school.

The Columbia SEPTA, for me, was truly a ray of light that I needed.  The journey has been fun and filled with ups and downs.  The mom doubt crept in, but the other parents are there to offer support and offer guidance.  It is so refreshing to have plans for events that include our kids, and take their needs into account.  This would not have been possible without the support of Missouri PTA.


National PTA and North Carolina PTA Stand with Families, Schools and Communities Impacted by Hurricane Florence

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (Sept. 19, 2018)—National PTA President Jim Accomando and North Carolina PTA President Virginia Jicha issued the following statement regarding Hurricane Florence:

“Families, schools and communities across North Carolina have been profoundly impacted by flooding, wind damage and power outages from Hurricane Florence. National PTA and North Carolina PTA join the nation in concern for the safety and well-being of those impacted by this powerful storm. Our thoughts and hearts go out to everyone affected.

“As the nation’s and state’s oldest and largest child advocacy association, it is our duty to support families and school communities in their efforts to rebuild and recover. We are committed to doing everything we can to assist those affected and help restore learning environments as quickly as possible.

“PTA offers tips to help families and educators have conversations with children when incidents like Hurricane Florence occur to help them deal with emotions of fear, confusion, sadness and anger. The tips can be accessed at PTA.org.

“PTA has also established a Disaster Relief Fund to respond to tragedies that grievously disrupt a school or education system. National PTA and North Carolina PTA encourage PTAs and schools impacted by Hurricane Florence to apply for support from the fund. We also urge everyone to donate to the fund to help support PTAs and schools in need.

“PTA members work hard every day to give our children, families and school communities what they need to thrive. Following this type of tragedy, our mission becomes that much more important. We know we can count on our PTA members across the country to help meet the needs caused by Hurricane Florence.”

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth. For more information, visit PTA.org.

About North Carolina PTA
North Carolina PTA is the state’s oldest and largest volunteer organization advocating for the education, health, safety and success of all children and youth while building strong families and communities. PTAs across North Carolina impact more than 685,000 children and their families. For more information, visit NCPTA.org.

Media Contacts
Heidi May Wilson, National PTA
hmay@pta.org, (703) 518-1242

Virginia Jicha, North Carolina PTA
virginia@ncpta.org, (919) 787-0534


National PTA Designates Sept. 17-21 ‘Back-to-School Week’

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (Sept. 14, 2018)—National PTA has designated Sept. 17-21 Back-to-School Week to celebrate back-to-school season. Throughout the week, National PTA will share tips and resources on social media using #PTABackToSchool and at PTA.org/BackToSchool to help PTA leaders, parents, students and teachers have a successful new school year. National PTA Back-to-School Week is sponsored by Office Depot, Inc. and Instagram.

“At PTA, we are committed to supporting and making a difference for students, families, educators and schools. We are excited to establish our official Back-to-School Week and share resources and tips to help everyone involved in education have a great new school year,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “We hope everyone will celebrate with us on social media using #PTABackToSchool. Together, we will make the 2018-2019 school year a huge success.”

As part of Back-to-School Week, National PTA has launched a comprehensive webpage with a wide variety of resources. The association has also assigned each day of the week to highlight and share tips and resources for the stakeholders who play an essential role in supporting children’s learning and success.

Additionally, during the week, National PTA will be making announcements on new initiatives, grant recipients and new grant opportunities, classroom surprises and more.

Back-to-school is always an exciting time of the year. It can also be a bit overwhelming for students, parents and teachers alike—with new people to meet, new goals and material to teach and learn,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director. “We are grateful to Office Depot and Instagram for their support of our Back-to-School Week and efforts to help students, parents, teachers and PTAs start the school year strong and stay on track to success.”

For more information about National PTA’s collaborations with Office Depot and Instagram, visit our Sponsors & Partners webpage.

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health and welfare of children and youth. For more information, visit PTA.org.

 

Media Contact

Heidi May Wilson, National PTA

hmay@pta.org, (703) 518-1242


National PTA Kicks Off 50th Year of Reflections Arts Program with National Arts in Education Week

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (Sept. 12, 2018)—In celebration of National Arts in Education Week, National PTA is kicking off its 2018-2019 Reflections® student art awards program. This school year marks the 50th anniversary of the program, which has inspired and engaged millions of students to explore their talents and express their ideas by creating works of art for fun and recognition.

“Participation in the arts builds students’ confidence, teamwork and sense of accomplishment. Involvement in the arts is also closely associated with students’ academic achievement, social and emotional development, and civic engagement,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “National PTA is thrilled to celebrate National Arts in Education Week and launch the 50th year of our Reflections program to provide all students the opportunity to participate in the arts to help them reach their full potential.”

Each year, the Reflections program encourages students of all ages to create and submit original works of art in the medium of their choice—dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography or visual arts—that reflect on the annual theme. There also is a special artist division to provide all students the opportunity to participate in the program. Submissions are reviewed by visual, literary and performing art experts, and students are recognized for their artistic ingenuity in bringing the theme to life. The 2018-2019 theme is “Heroes Around Me.”

Since 2010, the second week of September has been designated by the U.S. House of Representatives as National Arts in Education Week to spotlight the importance of arts education for all students. Throughout the week, PTAs and schools will host events and activities for students and families that connect with this year’s Reflections theme. Follow National Arts in Education Week through the hashtag #BecauseOfArtsEd and follow Reflections programs across the country through the hashtag #PTAReflections.

In addition to celebrating National Arts in Education Week and launching the 2018-2019 Reflections program, National PTA is pleased to announce that Tiffany Park Elementary School PTA in Renton, Wash. and Harvest Hill STEAM Academy PTA in Murrieta, Calif. have been recognized with its 2018 Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant. The grant is designed to empower PTAs and schools with resources to increase access to learning opportunities in the literary, media visual and/or performing arts for at-risk or underserved students.

“National PTA has long believed that all children deserve the opportunity to take part in the arts, recognizing the impact they have on student success, in the classroom and beyond,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of National PTA. “We are pleased to award Tiffany Park Elementary School PTA and Harvest Hill STEAM Academy PTA with our 2018 Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant for their commitment to ensuring that every child has access to and takes part in high-quality arts learning experiences.”

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health and welfare of children and youth. For more information, visit PTA.org.

Media Contact

Heidi May Wilson, National PTA
hmay@PTA.org, (703) 518-1242