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Special Ed Parents Launch Lecture Series

Norwalk’s Special Education Parent Action Committee launches a monthly lecture series, starting this Wednesday, designed to educate parents.  “Parents of special needs children need knowledge so they can advocate for their children,” says Natalie Alonso, president of the PAC. Alonso says approximately 15 percent of NPS students are identified as special needs.  “I believe that number is going to go up in the future,” says Alonso, mother of two children at Cranbury Elementary School, highlighting the rise in autism.

The October 20 lecture will feature an overview of Special Education services presented by Pauline Smith, the recently hired department director.  On November 10, the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC), gives a talk about children’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Other speakers planned include a developmental psychologist, a family therapist and a reading specialist.  Visit the website for the spearkers' schedule for the rest of the school year.

“We are trying to educate parents on what are the questions to ask:  What are the best practices for including children with special needs in the classroom? What does good co-teaching look like?  How do you address the needs of a child with autism?,” Alonso says.

Started in June 2009, the Special Education PAC was created as a result of the CREC report-- a critical assessment of the special education department that highlighted communication problems in the department. Last year, the newly formed group created a parent handbook and sent out a parent survey.  “The lecture series came about because of what we read on the parent surveys,” says Alonso.  Next, the PAC is working to expand its membership.

Alonso is excited about the future of Special Education in Norwalk, especially because of the district’s new leadership. Smith started as the district’s new Director of Special Education in July.  “Pauline is on board.  She is the key element we were missing.   She is approachable and collaborative.  She's also very knowledgeable and knows the law.” Alonso is also optimistic about the district’s new superintendent, Susan Marks.  “I have a renewed hope and excitement about our schools.  This is our time to turn things around.”

Wednesday's lecture, which is free and open to the public,  will take place at 7 p.m. at Norwalk City Hall, 125 East Avenue.  Call (203) 854-4126 for more information.

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