NJ SPAN held a Mini-Conference on Inclusion was held last Saturday and Bloomfield SEPAC Board Member Ms. Carla Añez was in attendance and has very kindly provided us with this synopsis of the Conference:
The START Project Inclusion Mini Conference:
Moving from Awareness to Action: Are You In?
Saturday: March 21, 2015
SPAN and the START Project were celebrating 10 years of putting together the Inclusion Mini Conference. Myriam Alizo, START Project Coordinator, talked first and reminded us that when it comes to Special Education and Inclusion, the outcome is so much better with parents’ involvement.
Debra Jennings, SPAN’s Executive Director, talked about: Inclusive Education in NJ: Vision for the next ten years. She asked us where we want to be in 10 years in terms of our efforts for special needs students to be with their typical peers. She said Inclusion should be practiced early and often, including the students as early as possible.
She also said we must presume competence, from both the students and the teachers, always set high expectations. Diversity matters and we must move from structures to strategies. The main issue is not where to place our students with special needs, but how to support their education with modifications, accommodations and services.
Mrs. Jennings addressed the importance of parents as leaders. We can make a big difference when we speak up. When we advocate for our kids, we advocate for all children.
Parent Power + Good Teachers = Better Schools
Victoria Alizo presented us with her journey as a student with special needs. She said she doesn’t feel disabled because we all learn in different ways. She’s a self-advocate and attends Montclair State University. She participates in several clubs and activities.
Dianne Malley and Carolyn Hayer talked about their journey as parents. They presented the story of their children, a daughter with Down syndrome and a son with Autism respectively. They explained how others can influence how we think and that we mustn’t allow them to affect our hopes and dreams for our children; we must always focus on their strengths and gifts. as low expectations are a barrier.
They also said something very important – other students are a resource and a support. This is one of the many benefits of Inclusion, typical peers get to know and support our students with special needs. Part of our job as parents is guiding other people to be respectful of our children; as they are included, they are making social connections that will create opportunities. Dream big for your children!
Before the break, Peggy McDonald, Director of Special Education Programs with the NJ OSEP, brought updates mostly about the CCSS and the PARCC testing. Within the Common Core there are Essential Elements which basically accommodate the standards to students with special needs.
The Conference ended with a panel of parents and educators who spoke about Person Centered Transitions.
If you missed a SPAN conference or workshop chances are you can find them archived online at
Thank you to all the Bloomfield Parents, Educators and Administrators who attend last night’s SEPAC Meeting at Demarest School.
Bloomfield SEPAC Moderator, Mrs. Catzel L. Bumpus showed a very moving video called, “I Can’t Do This, But I CAN Do That.” It featured kids of different ages with various special needs, dyslexia, Autism, APD etc., talking about their disabilities and how teachers and other students have made them feel badly about themselves at times. They also talked about their achievements in life, triumphing over their obstacles.
The entire film, including the narration itself was done totally using the voices of the kids. That made it more a group of personal stories, rather than just another documentary. I know I saw a bit of our own child and I think the audience saw a some bits of their children and their child’s struggles mirrored in the kids from the video. The scene of the struggles of one kid doing his homework could easily have been any night with our daughter’s homework sessions with my wife here. Mrs. Bumpus led the discussion about the film afterwards and our Members shared how it pertained to them personally
We were privileged to have Ms. Kasey Dudley of New Jersey SPAN, who is a parent and a fellow Bloomfielder as well give her talk about handling special needs situations and Ms. Dudley spoke of her struggles with special needs of some of the people in her life. She also gave us some Resources to research for guidance and help. We are very grateful to Ms. Dudley for taking the time to come and present for us.
We had lots of familiar faces and we also welcomed a table of Parents who were new to SEPAC until last night. Some were very shy at first, but when we did the Marvelous Marble Of Achievements at the end, as soon as they grasped how it went, they joined in with high points about their own kids.
One Mom said she was so glad she came because she thought she was all alone in this and now she could see she was not.
That is the major focus and point of Bloomfield SEPAC Folks! Parents helping Parents.
Thanks again to all in attendance and special thanks to Demarest Principal Mary Todaro for her very gracious hospitality and the happily received refreshments and coffee.
A very moving piece we think just about all parents of special needs children can relate to:
Why I stand quietly by my daughter from : Posted https://dirtynakedandhappy.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/i-stand-quietly-istandquietly/
I stand quietly
03 TuesdayMar 2015
I stand quietly while you do somersaults on the bed as you aren’t being naughty, you are just trying to get your out of sync body under control.
I stand quietly by the toilet door every time you need to go, and come with you around the house, and sometimes even just across the room, because I know you can feel truly frightened when you are not near me.
I stand quietly at the supermarket checkout while everyone stares at you barking like a dog and blowing raspberries on my arms to cope with the buzzing lights.
I stand quietly while you tell the baffled shop owner that you are looking for shoes that feel hard like splintered wood because your skin can’t bear soft things.
I stand quietly when the attendant gives us scornful looks when I ask for the key to the disabled toilet because the hand dryer noise is too overwhelming for you.
I stand quietly while the nice old lady who lives over the street tells me you wouldn’t be like this if you had siblings.
I stand quietly watching the part-cooked dinner flush down the toilet as the smell was becoming too strong for you to bear.
I stand quietly as you diligently brush your teeth even though it feels like the toothpaste is burning you.
I sit quietly while you scream at me, trying to control the panic you feel because I gently touched your head when brushing your hair.
I sit quietly while the teacher tells me she knows about autism and that you are not autistic and asks if I would benefit from some parenting classes.
I sit quietly while the GP, the occupational therapist and the paediatrician agree how bad it is but say that there are no resources to support us further.
I sit quietly while you cry because your friends say you can’t play with them any more because you tried to change the rules once too often, even though it was only so you could cope.
I sit quietly watching you desperately try on countless items of clothing, searching your cupboards, feeling the textures, knowing that we will have to cancel your beloved horse riding lesson again because they all feel too bad to wear.
I sit quietly as you explain to me that you can go to no more birthday parties and no more clubs as people are just too scary when they are excited.
I sit quietly when my family tell me that you will grow out of it, you just need more routine and earlier bed times.
I sit quietly and rack my brains for something for you to eat as everything you try today makes you gag and wretch until your eyes stream with tears.
I sit quietly when an old friend suggests I would be better off putting you on the naughty step and taking away a beloved toy.
I sit quietly all night whilst you sleep on the cold wooden floor with your head on my leg as you are really poorly but the warm softness of the bed that should be a comfort is making you feel worse.
I sit quietly while you try to regain some kind of control over your body in a meltdown, scared and sobbing and writhing about, hitting yourself harder and harder and begging me to hit you as hard as I can too.
I lay quietly with my back to you as my smell makes you feel sick and although we both desperately want and need to cuddle, you can’t bear to.
I lay quietly beside you when you tell me that you are the wrong sort of special and the wrong sort of different and you want to die.
From the author:
It is one month until World Autism Awareness Week, so last night, rather than sit quietly googling for answers as I normally do, I wrote this open letter to share on social media. I wonder how many times people could ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ and ‘Tweet’ this over the next month? #istandquietly
I have had to learn to do these things quietly because my daughter needs me to. She is seven; bright, super funny, articulate, thoughtful and loving. She also has autism spectrum disorder. If you saw her on a good day, you’d maybe think she was a little shy and kooky. You’d maybe wonder why I am letting her wear flip-flops in the winter rain. You’ll never see her on a bad day as she can’t leave the house.*
She has severe sensory processing difficulties. A normal day exhausts her and when she feels overwhelmed, even a gentle voice trying to soothe her with loving words can be too much to process, making her feel crazy. She describes walking into a room of people as “like staring at the sun”. She’s incredibly empathetic but you may not realise as she feels her own and others’ emotions so deeply she can’t bear it, and so sometimes she has to just shut down. Forget about a hug. She is also desperately trying to come to terms with having a hidden disability that few people can understand.
This is just one story among thousands of different stories of autism, not everyone is like Rainman or like my daughter. I know it’s no great piece of prose but it’s from the heart. Thanks for reading: and I would appreciate it if you could please share to help autism awareness.
If you could donate something – however small – to help people with autism, well, that would be amazing – thank you:
*3 months of non-stop bad days and counting, not left the house since December 3rd 2014
From FSOC: *PLEASE NOTE THERE IS A $20 FEE FOR THIS SYMPOSIUM!
-Autism Symposium –
Family Support Organization of Essex County Special Event
“Every day, millions of Americans living with autism and their famlies face unique and daunting challenges that many of us will never fully appreciate. Austism spectrum disorders affect 1 in 68 individuals and 1 in 45 in New Jersey. While there is no cause of, or cure for, autism, it is treatable.
April is National Autism Awareness Month. We are hosting this event as a part of a series of educational workshops to help people to better understand autism and improve the lives of individuals living with it.
We invite all parents, educators, administrators, child care providers, and parent liaisons to join us at our Autism Symposium. This event will be held on April 15th at the United Way building located at:
60 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair NJ 07042
April 15th from 8:30am-1pm.
Making Informed Choices on Autism Intervention, Suzanne Buchanan, Psy.D.,BCBA-D
With the wide variety of treatment approaches marketed for autism, how do parents know where to start, what to try, and which ones may be most helpful to their child (of any age)? This presentation will discuss what a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder entails and some of the most commonly used interventions. Participants will be directed to resources that assess the credibility of various interventions, learn how to objectively measure their effectiveness, and understand what current research indicates about the most popular options.
Guy Talk: Engaging Fathers and Strenthening Families, Dr. Robert Naseef, Ph.D. Psychologist
This presentation explores the male experience when a child has autism. How does a man deal with a problem he cannot fix? The presenter is the father of an adult child with autism and provides insight into the challenges involved in the father-child relationship and developing male parent involvement.”