Presented by Beth Cosentino, SEPAC VP of Policy, at the monthly SEPAC SOMA meeting on 11/11/2021.
Preschool Program Overview (Slide 2)
- There are 6 total locations. Possibly another added this year!
- Inclusion preschool program in our district started at Montrose in late 2015. Then in the summer of 2018, the district applied for the Preschool Education Expansion Aid (PEEA), which is aid from the state which provides the opportunity to serve many more students by partnering with private preschools in the area. Every student goes for free.
- All classrooms across all locations use Tools-of-the-Mind curriculum and are multi-age. The class make-up reflects the diversity in our district. Most classrooms are inclusion, meaning the special education students are alongside their general ed peers. The self-contained classes are able to provide more individualized instruction for children who are not able to make meaningful progress in a general education setting. There are two self-contained classrooms, both are at Montrose.
- The maximum students allowed in an Inclusion is 15, with the maximum number of students with IEPs is 5. For self-contained, the maximum allowance is 12.
Special Education Law (Slide 3)
- Important to understand that the IEP or Individualized Education Program falls under a federal law.
- Students have rights and parents have rights as well. For parents to understand their rights, they are provided a PRISE: Parental Rights in Special Education. https://www.nj.gov/education/specialed/form/prise/RevisedParentalRights(PRISE).pdf
- PSD = Preschool Student with a Disability is the classification for all preschool students.
- A classification is different from a diagnosis. A doctor makes a diagnosis, not a case manager or therapist. Having a diagnosis doesn’t guarantee an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The evaluations that are given will decide on whether or not someone qualifies for special services and receives a classification.
- The New Jersey Administrative Code encompasses the federal law, but is specific to New Jersey. It is the code of law that the entire school district and the BOE follow. NJAC 6A: 14 – https://www.state.nj.us/education/code/current/title6a/chap14.pdf
A is for Acronyms and Asking Questions (Slide 4)
- On the SEPAC SOMA website, we have a resource page which includes a list of many more acronyms: https://sepacsoma.org/resource-and-support/
- CST = Child Study Team; one of these people will be your child’s Case Manager = CM. The CM will set up the meetings and is your point-of-contact when you have questions regarding the IEP.
- If you don’t understand something during a meeting or in conversation with the case manager or teacher, it is important for you to ask them to explain it to you. They need for you to know what they are talking about so you can make a well informed decision about your child. If you don’t ask, they may take for granted that you know which serves no one, especially your child. They will gladly explain anything you need them to explain so never feel like you shouldn’t ask!
B is for Being Prepared (Slide 5)
- All of the invitees are listed on the Invitation to a Meeting that you will be sent, however, if a person cannot attend the IEP meeting, the CM will ask for your consent to excuse the person. If you don’t give your consent, the meeting will be rescheduled.
- You are always welcome to bring someone with you to the meeting, whether it is a friend for moral support or an outside therapist that works with your child. You just have to let them know beforehand.
- Never feel like you shouldn’t ask for a meeting to be recorded. It is A LOT to listen and process everything that happens during a meeting and it is completely reasonable to ask for there to be a recording so you can listen later to hear what all was said. You just have to let them know ahead of time.
- If your child had evaluations done, the reports will be sent to you at least 10 days in advance to give you time to read through them. These reports will be gone over during the meeting, but if you have questions about something in them prior to the meeting, reach out to the CM.
- If you are interested in bringing up a specific concern during the meeting or would like to find out about something that is not currently in your child’s IEP, you may want to write the CM beforehand and let them know. This way, they can be prepared to have answers for you when you’re at the meeting, as opposed to not knowing and having to get back with you. In this way, you want them to BE PREPARED.
- Don’t forget to write up your questions and concerns to have with you at the meeting and never leave anything up to memory. During the meeting, make sure you take the time to look at your list so you don’t forget to mention something. Time moves kind of quickly and a lot of people are talking so it’s easy to forget.
C is for Collaboration and Confidence (Slide 6)
- Share your stories about your child! The teachers, therapists and rest of the IEP team only know your little one when they are at school. It is important for them to hear from you who they are when they’re with you. It gives them a fuller picture and will help them work more effectively with your child.
- Email the teacher or therapist and fill them in on things – progress, tough times, if your child woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day – anything that can give context to your child’s social-emotional state.
- Know that the people working with your child likely started working in special education because they have some personal connection to it. They understand how there are many feelings with having a child with a disability and really do want to help your child do well and make progress.
- Finally, know that you are not alone. Reach out to others, share stories and pass along information and resources. It’s the parents and caregivers in our community who provide support for one another and it’s important that we continue to do so.
Questions? (Slide 7)
- If you have any, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our board members will get back with you.
- Also, we have two wonderful and knowledgeable special education liaisons for the Preschool Program:
- Molly Gise (Montrose Early Childhood Center)
- Cristy Mendoza (Preschool Program Partners)