COLUMBIA – Columbia will be the only city with a special education parent teacher association in Missouri.
Como SEPTA will organize relations between parents and Columbia Public Schools, including programs that get services from CPS, like home schools and state schools.
The organization says it will bring families going through similar experiences together to share tips from their experiences.
Columbia Public Schools estimates 1,740 students will qualify for special services in the upcoming school year, according to Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Como SEPTA’s first organizational meeting on July 26 needed at least 10 people to officially create the organization.
President Michelle Ribaudo said she was nervous about the turn out, but was happily surprised when nearly three times the necessary number became members.
Ribaudo said her first born is on the autism spectrum and the learning curve was difficult. She said Como SEPTA will be a resource to help parents not feel like she did.
“A lot of times you feel alone when you start out in the special needs process,” Ribaudo said. “There’s a lot of paperwork, a lot of evaluations and it can feel overwhelming and isolating.”
New member Gretchen Roberts said, “It’s interesting to get perspectives from parents who have various different kids, with various different capacities of needs and understand the different things they’re going through in their school.”
Roberts’ son has a variety of disabilities. He is blind, non-verbal and uses a wheelchair. He attends Missouri’s school for the disabled, Delmar Cobble.
Along with creating a community to share ideas, Ribaudo said, Como SEPTA’s first priority is education. Educating parents about rights and responsibilities and getting a parent to parent advocacy program going are top priority.
“They’re going to be able to help give us an extra help with our voice when we’re trying to advocate for our child and their needs in school,” Roberts said.
She said she hopes to understand what are some things she should be fighting for at her son’s school and to better understand the school system in regards to special needs.
Ribaudo said it’s not just parents of children with disabilities who are encouraged to come to Como SEPTA meetings. She said anyone interested in helping out is welcome.
Como SEPTA’s officers are meeting this week to set a calendar for future meetings.