Chris Walsh Center
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A center at Framingham State University dedicated to helping families and educators of children with unmet needs.
Support for Caregivers: Navigating the MA Special Education System
An Offering of the Chris Walsh Center for Educators and Families of Metrowest
When: 5 Thursdays in March from 7:00 - 8:15 PM EST. (March 2, 9,16, 23, & 30)
Where: Virtual via Zoom (link to be provided upon registration)
Who: A group of 15 parents of children and young adults in Massachusetts between the ages of 3 and 22, interested in learning more about the process of identification, eligibility determination, evaluation, services, accommodations, and more.
Facilitators:The group will be facilitated by Courtney Edman, MS, PT, CEIS, and Carol Cohen, M. Ed, CAGS. Courtney is the Founder and Director of 2tametheshamE, a company whose mission is to coach, educate, inform, and advocate for the needs of neurodivergent individuals and their parents and Carol is an educator who has worked in a variety of roles in public and private schools, including guidance counselor, teacher, and assistant principal. Since 2020 she has been the special education administrator in a public school district in Massachusetts.
Cost: Free. Space is limited to 15 participants. All participants must register prior to the start of the first meeting. Registration details can be found at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/support-for-caregivers-navigating-the-iep-process-registration-534126575967
Topic: What is a 504? What is an IEP? Does my child need a 504 or an IEP? How does my child get evaluated for one? What does eligibility determination mean? What services are provided in an IEP? What is an advocate, and do I need one? What is my role as the parent of a child on an IEP and how do I support my child that is on an IEP? What is my child’s role? What do I do if I am told my child doesn’t need an IEP and I disagree? If you have any of these or other questions about the special education process and system, you are not alone! Supporting your child who is on or might need a 504 or an IEP can be very confusing and daunting. We want to help you by providing information, answering your questions, and providing support so you can navigate the process for your child.
For More Information: If you have any questions or concerns or would like to have a virtual meeting with a member of the Chris Walsh Center Staff, please email the Chris Walsh Center at email@example.com.
To Register: Eventbrite URL: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/support-for-caregivers-navigating-the-iep-process-registration-534126575967
Courtney Edman, MS, PT, CEIS
Courtney is passionate about empowering people to pursue their dreams and build the life they want, no matter the obstacles. Courtney masterfully blends her personal background with a professional passion for coaching students, parents, and adults and is committed to making a difference in the lives of others who face challenges, uncertainties, and obstacles that are related to physical, mental, neurobiological, and/or neurochemical factors. Courtney earned her Bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University and a Master’s of Science in Physical Therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a licensed physical therapist who specialized in Early Intervention (birth to three-year-olds) as well as treating patients with chronic, life-shortening pulmonary disease. In 2020 she chose to bring her skills, knowledge, experience, and expertise gleaned from over 20 years as a parent, physical therapist, executive director, and lifelong learner to a new career, coaching people with complex learning profiles and their parents. Her struggle to find help for her son at home and in school is what inspired her to become a coach. Not until he was 17 did she learn the term twice-exceptional, which opened the doors for understanding the challenging journey that she and her son had been on and led her to understand the approach needed to support him. Since becoming aware of that term, Courtney has been on a mission to bring awareness and know-how to the world about neurodiversity and the skills, affirmation, and strategies that neurodivergent people need to thrive in the world. In 2022 Courtney decided to pursue this mission by launching her own company, 2tametheshamE, where she not only coaches but also works to educate, inform, and advocate for the needs of neurodivergent individuals. She produces a bi-weekly newsletter and has recently launched the SEE ME podcast with host Patty Lubold. Courtney also serves on the advisory boards of the Chris Walsh Center for Families and Educators at Framingham State University, the Inattentive ADHD Coalition, and the MA DESE Special Education Panel. She is a trained SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator and a graduate of the PCTI of the MA FCSN as well as a member of MAGE, CHADD, AAPCA, and SENG. Courtney has 3 young adult children and lives in Framingham, MA with her husband and faithful walking companion and dog, Baxter. When not coaching, she can be found competing on the tennis court, enjoying travel, or spending time with family and friends, near and far.
Carol Cohen, M.Ed., CAGS
Carol Cohen has been a special education administrator in a public school district in Massachusetts since 2020. In this role, she works with elementary, middle, and high school students, staff, and families to help students get the support and services they need in order to learn to their fullest potential. Carol started her career in education as an English teacher before becoming a guidance counselor. For the past 20 years, Carol has served in various administrative roles: guidance department chair, assistant principal at both public and therapeutic high schools, and as the coordinator of college and career readiness at a public regional technical high school. Throughout her career and in each role she has played, she has been guided by the question, "What is in the best interest of student learning?"
Carol presented at the International Virtual Conference on Comparative School Counseling as well as the Connected Learning Summit. She published “Trauma-informed high schools: A systematic narrative review of the literature” with Ian Barron. She co-authored “When Practice Belies Policy Intent: Cases from Chile, United States, and Turkey,” and “Innovations that help people: A secondary school computer science curriculum.” She is working on earning her doctorate in educational leadership. Her dissertation is focused on teaching students with trauma. Carol is the proud parent of two adult children, one of whom had an IEP from the time he was 3 years old until he graduated from high school. In her free time, Carol likes to read, knit, and is once again enjoying getting together with her friends.
Hear from Courtney and Carol for more information:
What is the purpose of this group and why should parents join?
Courtney: Parents should join the group if they have an interest in understanding the special education process. From a nuts and bolts perspective - from people who have been through it, but who also understand it from a professional viewpoint also. So they can come and learn everything including, “Is my child a candidate for special education or not? What would result in my child being eligible? What's the eligibility process? What is the role of a parent in the process? What are the roles of other people in the process? What might be the difference between accommodations and specialized instruction? What are the differences between a 504 and an IEP?
We'll be talking about these topics and presenting these questions over the course of five weeks. We will come prepared to present information, but we really want it to be a discussion. We'll present the information in a shorter period of time and then allow for discussion, questions, and answers. It's not just a didactic, “Come and be told” - it's a, “Come and have some information shared.” Bring your questions. Ask questions. Be a participant - not just a receiver of information. Come with your stories, but don't expect us to provide individualized advice or recommendations other than to say, “Well, let's see what the guidelines say. Let's see what the information says.” And there are a lot of great resources that sometimes it's hard to sift through the legalese of it all. And so we're here to try to interpret it, synthesize it, summarize it, share it verbally, in written form, and visually - through virtual means - and then share that information with them so they can take it home.
Why do you feel that this specific topic and group is important and valuable to have?
Carol: Because there's so much information and it is so overwhelming. I don't know about Courtney, but I never got an instruction manual when my children were born. So then you add on the layer of having a child who is different, who has different needs, who is exceptional, and there's even more information that I need to sift through. I mean, it's hard enough to figure out, “How do I register my kid for kindergarten?” let alone, “How do I navigate this big bureaucratic process when I'm not even sure if there's something really wrong with my kid? Is this because of the pandemic? Is there something wrong? Who's going to help me? Who's going to?” There are just so many questions.
Courtney: I also think that the process is extensive, and it's the law, right? And so it's hard to figure out, but it's also educationally related - not medically related all the time. I think that there is disinformation, misinformation, and it also can be emotional for parents. I think it's really important to know what your rights are - to know what the legal process says and to understand that from a non-emotional standpoint. So that when you're in the heat of the moment, you've got the resources and understand them so that you can try to remove yourself from the emotion and and see it from an objective place while also still being an advocate. Because the better and the more information you have, the more empowered you can be to talk with the necessary people and the more information you can have and the more informed and educated you can be. You can have not just have a seat at the table, but be at the table and be informed to advocate.
Is there anything else you want to add about the support group?
Courtney: I don’t want these sessions to be for complaining. We want this to be a place to gather information to be used in collaborative productive ways for the best interest of student learning, right? As Carol says, for you to be able to advocate for your child and be a collaborative team member. Not everybody is going to agree with what the team decides. Not every parent is going to agree with what the team decides, but we're not here to discuss whether team decisions were right or wrong. We're here to say, “Oh, well, I'm not sure, let’s look at the guidelines and see if what the guidelines say were in line with what should have been done.” But that's not for us to make decisions about. We're not going to render judgments. We want to be supportive and empowering, but we also don't want to get into school bashing - special education bashing. We want it to be a positive learning experience.
Other Upcoming Events
Virtual Book Discussion: The Identity-Conscious Educator
The Identity-Conscious Educator: Building Habits and Skills for More Inclusive Schools, written by Dr. Liza Talusan, discusses powerful, practical strategies for creating an inclusive school community that honors the different identities expressed by students and peers. Join the Chris Walsh Center staff as we discuss the book and the strategies presented to make school community more inclusive.
This event will take place via Zoom March 7, 2023 from 7p.m. to 8p.m.
Dr. Liza Talusan Presents: The Identity-Conscious Educator
Based on Dr. Talusan’s recent book of the same title, this 90-minute workshop is focused on building knowledge, engaging in reflection, and moving to action. Identity very much informs our daily work, even if we have not built the habits and skills for seeing its impact. Building an identity-conscious practice means realizing that who we are informed and impacts how we act, interact, and how we see the world around us. To do this, we need tools to explore what our identities are, how they shape our views, and how we might work towards greater inclusion and equity.
This event will take both in person in Framingham State University's McCarthy Campus Center Forum and via Zoom March 21, 2023, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Autism Goes to College Screening and Q&A with Executive Producer Jan Blacher
Autism Goes to College is a film with honest insights for students, parents and educators offering an eye-opening look at what a growing number of neurodiverse students are bringing to campus. After the screening, we will have Executive Producer and FSU alumni Jan Blacher with us to take questions from the audience.
This event will take place in person at Framingham State University's McCarthy Campus Center Forum or via Zoom April 4, 2023, from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
We want to hear from you!
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Resource of the Month
Does your child have or do you suspect they might have ADHD? The United States Office of Education: Department of Civil Rights outlines your rights and your school district’s legal obligations under a Federal civil rights law that prohibits disability discrimination called Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).
This two-page document “Know Your Rights: Students with ADHD” explains these rights and obligations in order to prepare parents and caregivers to work with their school district to get their children the most appropriate support.