Friday, November 11, 2011

'Tis the Season to Think of Others

It is hard to believe that the holidays are right around the corner, with that said.....This is the time of year to reflect on the importance of family & friends.  It is also a time of year to try and give back to your community.  What does it mean to give back? Should I involve my children? Who do you give back to?

Giving back is simply bringing joy to another person. Giving back is a wonderful experience that should include the entire family. You decide who to give back to and in what ways to give (it does not always involve money).  Let me share an inspirational story with you...

I will never forget the looks on my students faces when we adopted a family for the holidays.  I was teaching in a Life Skills class in a middle school setting.  We needed money for assistive technology (that was not warranted in the students I.E.P's, but could be beneficial), field trips, and various curriculum to enhance learning, so, I decided to set up a fundraiser right before the Thanksgiving break, also a perfect time to give back to our community. 

It was an amazing lesson (took about 3 months from start to finish) because the students were in charge of everything.  They were responsible for ordering items for the sale (Oriental Trading Co.), advertising, checking the inventory when it arrived, setting up the fundraiser in the schools main lobby and working at the fundraiser (greeter, cashier, bagger) for two days before Thanksgiving break. The entire school participated and classes came down to purchase items and my students finally gained approval, they were accepted by their typically developing peers and the general education teachers saw what they are capable of (the sky is the limit). I am happy to report that every item was sold and we raised over $1,300. 

Now, what were we going to buy? We discussed our plans over a pizza party (they deserved it).  While talking we also discussed ourThanksgiving plans and one student said, "isn't it sad some people don't have families or money for holidays" and it dawned on me, we were going to give back by adopting a family for the holiday's. We were able to adopt a family of 5 and we received their wishlist (mostly necessities...).  As a class we created shopping lists and went shopping on a fieldtrip to Walmart to purchase the items.  Another great lesson, reading prices, picking out the right sizes, being socially appropriate in the community, making the purchase...The next day, we wrapped all the items and I deliverd the gifts to the organization where we adopted the family from.  Reflection is something I reinforced in the classroom so, of course we reflected about the whole process...

The responses from the students about what they got out of this lesson was overwhelming to me (and I am a firm believer in raising the bar and making individuals with disabilities realize what they are capable of) and the feelings that they expressed truly were astonishing. They felt part of their community in school and in the town, they felt so happy to help others in need, and they truly understood the power of giving to others. The same student who sparked the idea, said upon leaving for winter break, "when I wake up on Christmas I am going to feel so happy because I know that family is going to have a nice day because of us."  So, with that being said, get out there and give back to your community!

"There is no better way to thank God for your sight than by giving a helping hand to someone in the dark." Helen Keller
Toys of Hope, 631-271-TOYS (Warm Coat Drive)
Local Churches
Charitable Organizations
Volunteering your time
Helping someone out
Giving a smile

Monday, August 8, 2011

School Is Right Around The Corner, Are You Ready?

Time sure does fly, I cannot believe that the first day of school is quickly approaching. With school right around the corner I thought it would be appropriate to provide parents with a checklist to make sure you and your children are prepared for the upcoming school year.  Being prepared is key to being an effective advocate for your child.  Below you will find the "Top 10 List," please feel free to add to the list, your comments and questions are always welcomed.

Top 10 Things To Do Before The First Day Of School:

  1. Look over your child's IEP and make notes (make sure you understand what it says)
  2. Write a note to introduce your child to their new teacher (short & know your child best)
  3. Any unsettled business needs to be discussed before school begins (assistive technology, placement concerns, accommodations, related services)
  4.  Make sure all evaluations are current
  5. Call the school to set-up a tour to prepare your child for the first day of school
  6. Start talking about school in a positive way with your child
  7. Ask your child questions to make sure that they are prepared for the new year
  8. Write a list of questions that you may have, so you are prepared for Open School Night
  9. Start setting up schedules at home for a smooth transition from lazy days of summer to the hustle and bustle of the school year
  10. Breathe...This is going to be a successful school year for you and your child(ren)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who Is Fighting For Our Children's Education?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Parents Speak Out...

Last night I attended a "Speak Out" in Staten Island, NY.  It was sponsored by ARISE Coalition and Parent to Parent NY.  The purpose of this "Speak Out" was to hear from parents and guardians of children with special needs.  The question that was asked of each individual was, "Are you happy with the education your child is receiving?"  From attending this meeting I cannot stress how important it is for organizations to sponsor such an event and for parents and guardians to stand up and SPEAK OUT.

In attendance were parents and guardians of children with special needs, siblings, the individual child, politicians, and advocates.  The parents who spoke out made it clear on how important it is to be an advocate for your child.  The stories shared took great courage and as a community we need to do something about how our children are being educated in the Public School system.  The concerns that were shared included, but not limited to:  schools not having related services in place at the beginning of the school year, behavior issues that are not handled properly (6 year old being arrested and put in a psychiatric hospital), paraprofessionals making fun of the child they should be helping, busing issues, taking away related services without any reasoning behind it, students feeling that they are "bad," a student being placed in a different school every school year because they don't know how to educate him, lack of communication with parents from the school district, parents not being informed of their rights, and educators not raising the bar academically.  As a parent advocate I was outraged of what I heard and I felt the parents pain as they told their stories AGAIN, key word is again, a parent spoke about how she is so tired of retelling her story.

All I can say to all of those brave parents is, keep moving forward, get informed, keep speaking out, and as frustrating as it may be, know that your words are being heard and reform is getting closer. We all need to work together as team and as a community in order to reform our public school system.  Parents/guardians spoke out in all 5 boroughs and the information shared was documented by the ARISE Coalition.  You can still share your story by sending an e-mail to


Monday, March 21, 2011

What Does Transition Mean To You?

The Webster dictionary defines Transition as a passage from one state, stage, or place to another.  A movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another.
As a parent of a child with a disability, the word Transition can take on an entirely different meaning that leaves you with many questions, concerns, and fears.  The transition process does not have to be that intimidating, but you do have to inform yourself, be prepared, and prepare your child to be able to self-advocate.

Transition Services under IDEA 2004:
34) Transition Services - The term `transition services' means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that-

(A) is designed to be a results-oriented process, that is focused onimproving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
(B) is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child's strengths, preferences, and interests;
(C) includes instruction, related services, community experiences, thedevelopment of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. (

Here at Skillful Squad Seraphs, Inc. we want to provide you with as much FREE information as you need as well as valuable resources, so that all transitions are smooth for you and your child. Take a moment to look over the questions below.  What information do you need more about? What are your concerns? We want to hear your comments and provide you with FREE information so, be sure leave a comment!

1. As the parent, I am automatically allowed to continue to advocate for my child even when they are attending college or a vocational school?
2.  At what age must transition planning be part of the IEP?
3. Can assistive technology (AT) be part of transition planning?
4. Is your child allowed to participate in IEP meetings?
5. Can you request several IEP/Transition Planning meetings per school year?
6. Should you discuss transportation needs?
7. Should I teach my child to self-advocate?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How would you rate your child's education?

There has been plenty of publicity over the years that relate to how students with special needs are educated. There has been controversy over IDEA, NCLB, inclusion vs. self-contained, restraints, behavior plans, teacher qualifications, the list goes on.  Recently in New York City, parents became outraged because "Mayor Bloomberg called on state legislators to make it harder for special education students to attend private schools at taxpayer expense" (Fertig, 2011).  The question is, are our public schools able to provide an appropriate education to students with special needs? In the "spring Congress is expected to take up reauthorization of the nation's primary education law-the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, now known as No Child Left Behind" (Diament, 2011). The question is, where is the accountability? "The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to bring all students to a proficient level in reading, math and science by 2014. School districts and states must provide detailed report cards to the public about their progress toward this goal. This law affects every state and school district. Districts that receive Title 1 funding are affected the most" (  The statistics since the implementation of NCLB:

The U.S. Department of Education reports that:
  • 32 percent of 4t h graders can read at grade level.
  • 17 percent of 12th graders are proficient in math.
  • 18 percent of 12t h  graders are proficient in science
Yes, the implementation of these laws are with great intentions, but there seems to be no follow through.  Just because something is said, does not mean it is happening. Recently, I had a conversation with someone who is trying to help a family who has an autistic girl in kindergarten.  In the IEP it states that she is to be provided with a 1:1 aide, it is now February, no aide...The child is regressing and the public school wants her on meds...Makes you scratch your head and ask, how is this going on?

We want to hear your thoughts and comments about your child's education...What is working? What needs work?

"Education is a critical national security issue for our future, and politics must stop at the schoolhouse door." ~Bill Clinton, former president

Fertig, B. (2011). Bloomberg takes aim at special ed costs. WNYC News Blog:
Diament, M. (2011). What's next for special education. Disability Scoop:
U.S. Department of Education
Wright,P., & Wright, P.  (2007). Special education law. Hartfield, VA: Harbor House Law Press, Inc.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Topics Are You Interested In?

A New Year...A New spin on our blog.  This year we are going to blog about topics you are looking to gain more information about.  Please post a comment regarding the information you are seeking in order to be an effective advocate for your child.  Below you will find sample topics that you can refer to in order to help you get started. We are eager to hear from you and eager to provide you with the assistance that is most meaningful and beneficial to you.

Sample Topics:

  1. Special Education Law
  2. Behavior Modifications
  3. Communicating with the School District
  4. Preparing for Annual Reviews
  5. The I.E.P
  6. Assessments
  7. Academics
  8. Life Skills
  9. Social Skills
  10. Transitioning 

We are looking forward to reading your posts!