This message is being sent on behalf of Tammie Jenkins, Diversity and Inclusion Chair
It’s that time again to take a moment to share some very special news that pertains to some very special children. Georgia PTA joins National PTA in the celebration of National Special Education Month. For the past several years, Georgia PTA has worked very hard to ensure that everyone is aware of National PTA’s “Every Child in Focus Campaign” created by one of Georgia’s own, immediate Past National PTA President Otha Thornton. December 2 was National Special Education Day, so the focus for this month centers around exploring ways that PTAs can welcome and support children with special needs in the school community. It was on December 2, 1975 that President Gerald Ford signed our country’s first federal special education law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA“). This annual Education Day marks the anniversary that IDEA made education available to all American children, and we have certainly seen a remarkable amount of progress in this area over the past 40+ years.
The PTA has been instrumental in creating both helpful information and resources regarding the many challenges that are unique to children with special needs and what we all can do to make their potential a reality. Let’s look into some of the simple ways that we all can help:
1. PTA Special Education Toolkit – Did you know that the PTA has created a Special Education Toolkit? If not, become familiar with it, and share it with anyone that can benefit from it. The Toolkit will empower parents with resources such as understanding developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, health conditions, or even giftedness. Parents and caregivers will receive clear instructions and tips on how they can advocate for and empower their child.
2. National PTA’s Connect for Respect Initiative – Are you familiar with this amazing initiative? You must check it out (http://www.pta.org/bullying). It has been proven through many studies that that of the most effective ways to prevent bullying behavior is by creating a positive school climate. The climate within the walls of the school is a contributing factor towards the success of children. This ingenious program has been designed to help students, parents and educators create school climates with positive and encouraging peer relationships. Calling all PTAs/PTSAs to give serious thought to sponsoring Connect for Respect forums, where students, families, school staff and community members come together to share their concerns and brainstorm solutions on how to best work with students with special needs.
3. Special Education PTA (SEPTA) – You may not have heard about SEPTAs. If not, you will more than likely have several questions. A few might be: 1) What can a SEPTA offer to families?; 2) Why start a Special Education PTA? One major benefit of a SEPTA is to offer support to other parents who have similar circumstances. Families with children who have special needs often seek out opportunities to meet other parents in similar circumstances. Special Education PTAs (SEPTAs) provide this opportunity and often bring together families of students who attend different schools in a district under one PTA umbrella. Becoming a SEPTA provides families with an organizational structure, resources and the opportunity to be a collective voice for their child and for all children. Oftentimes, parents like to speak on issues that concern their children and just listening to them can help other caretakers. Other things can happen during the support time, for instance, caretakers can learn about doctors and services that are a positive experience for their child. Other benefits are that SEPTAs sponsor workshops and speakers on topics that can help better advocate for exceptional children and topics that can help parents better understand aspects of special needs and many diagnoses.
How do I know whether or not there is a SEPTA in my community? What steps should I take if there is no SEPTA in my community and I want to form one? Simply call the Georgia PTA office (404) 659-0214.
During Georgia PTA’s 2013-15 administration, we had an amazing individual that served as the Chair of our Special Needs Committee. You would have to search far and wide to find an individual any more exuberant and passionate about Special Needs than Jackie Wiley. The Georgia PTA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee wanted to do something special to celebrate special needs children. We reflected back on an event that the 2013-15 Family Special Needs Chair was very involved with that occurred in the month of December. We have reached out to Jackie, and she has informed us that this event will take place this year on Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. at Briarlake Baptist Church Sanctuary, Decatur, Georgia. Approximately, 50 special needs from various counties will come together for yet another phenomenal performance of song and dance. Her son, Donald, (see picture to right) will again be a part of this event. In fact, he will participate in an amazing duet dance performance in his wheelchair with another talented dancer. We are excited to announce that the following Georgia PTA committees will be attending this celebration Diversity and Inclusion, Youth Services, Early Childhood Education and Family Engagement.
It is my hope that this special article has provided you at least one way that all of you can contribute towards the success of our special needs children and their families.
Diversity and Inclusion Chair
Diversity and Inclusion Chair
Immediate Past President
Immediate Past President