Library display raising awareness for children with special needs

  • Greenfield Public Library Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 8/16/2019 5:45:22 PM
Modified: 8/16/2019 5:45:10 PM

GREENFIELD — It’s not always clear where to turn to for help when you’re parenting children with special needs, says Greenfield resident Jodi Falk.

But this month, Greenfield public schools’ Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC), a volunteer group, has books, fliers, brochures and other information available on display at the Greenfield Public Library. She said there are also super hero figures inside the display case, because it attracts children whose parents might then take notice.

“That’s a good start to raising awareness,” said Falk, a member of SEPAC. “We want people to know that we are here for them, and that there are places they can go. Sometimes it feels very lonely.”

Falk said she is grateful that the library chose SEPAC to occupy the display case throughout August.

“We want families to know that SEPAC is a resource for them and their children, both in and out of the district, with any special needs,” she said.

Falk said the display is also meant to get the word out that SEPAC runs meetings open to the public on the fourth Wednesday of every month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the social room at the Greenfield YMCA.

“We talk about everything from how to get an advocate for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting to where to find help to how to get a formal diagnosis and how technology can help,” she said. “We also bring in a lot of speakers, experts, to talk about different issues. It’s very informative, You’re always going to learn something.”

Falk said special education parent advisory councils are mandated by the state. She said the local council has liaisons in each school, so if a parent of a student in a particular school needs help — or just someone to talk to — they can reach someone. Falk, for instance, is the liaison for Federal Street Elementary School.

“We can direct them to resources,” she said. “We can help, because we’ve been there.”

Falk said along with being a resource, SEPAC is a support group, and it advises the Greenfield School Committee and those in pupil services.

“We give parents a voice,” she said. “We hold parents’ rights meetings with the school district and much more.”

She said SEPAC is working with translators to create materials in Spanish and Moldovan, because there are such large populations in Greenfield. She said SEPAC also plans to go into housing communities, like Leyden Woods, for instance, where transportation to its meetings can be a problem.

“We want to bring this service to everyone,” she said. “We want to be as accessible as possible.”

Falk said she is grateful to the YMCA for offering a free meeting space and free child care during the monthly meetings.

“They are just amazing,” she said. “And they are experienced in dealing with children with special needs.”

On its website, SEPAC offers links to all types of resources, including IEPs, state laws regarding special education, a parent’s guide to special education, the Department of Developmental Services, previous speakers and numerous programs.

It also runs a small lending library at Greenfield public schools’ Central Office featuring a collection of books about raising children with special needs. Titles include “Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome,” “How to Teach Verbal Behavior,” “Disconnected Kids” and “The Reason I Jump.”

For more information, call the Central Office at 413-772-1320 or email sepac@gpsk12.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.




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