A focus on special education

WTAE Listens: A focus on special education as students head back to school

GOOD MORNING AND WELCOME TO WTA LISTENS. I’M MICHELLE WRIGHT HEADING BACK TO SCHOOL IS A TIME OF TRANSITION FOR EVERY FAMILY BUT FOR PARENT WHOSE KIDS HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS OR OR WHO STRUGGLE IN THE CLASSROOM SETTING THOSE STUDENTS UP FOR SUCCESS CAN TAKE EXTRA EFFORT. THIS MORNING, WE’RE HEARING FROM LEADERS, ADVOCATES AND EDUCATORS ABOUT SPECIAL EDUCATION DOING SPECIAL EDUCATION RIGHT. CAN TAKE AN ENTIRE TEAM THERE ARE ABOUT 18% OF THE TOTAL STUDENT POPULATION THAT REQUIRES SPECIAL EDUCATION, SUPPORT AND SERVICES. THE NEED IS GREAT AND THERE IS HELP AVAILABLE, BUT FOR FAMILIES FINDING OUT WHAT TO DO OR IF YOUR CHILD NEEDS HELP CAN BE A MYSTERY. I THINK, YOU KNOW, THE TRANSITION TO ATTENDING SCHOOL IS OFTEN CHALLENGING ENOUGH, AND WHEN YOU ADD SOME OF THOSE THINGS INTO THE PICTURE, IT CAN BE MORE DIFFICULT. AND I THINK IT’S JUST SOMETIMES A SIMPLE LITTLE CHANGE OR TWEAK THAT CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE. TODAY WE SPOTLIGHT SEVERAL RESOURCES THAT CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE FOR STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES. OUR FOCUS IS REALLY ON ENSURING THAT KIDS RECEIVE THEIR RIGHTS UNDER THE IDEA OR SPECIAL EDUCATION AND A BIG PART OF THAT IS INCLUSION. WE REALLY ENCOURAGE FAMILIES TO HAVE THEIR CHILDREN EDUCATED IN THEIR HOME SCHOOL, WITH THEIR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS AND AND SIBLINGS PROVIDING SUPPORT TO HELP MAKE BACK TO SCHOOL EVEN BETTER. I CANNOT SAY ENOUGH ABOUT PLAY AND I JUST WANT OTHER PEOPLE KNEW THAT THEY HAD THE SERVICES AND THEY COULD USE THEM. BETWEEN PENNSYLVANIA’S DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND THE 500 LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS ACROSS THE COMMONWEALTH, PENNSYLVANIA HAS 29 EDUCATION SERVICE AGENCIES KNOWN AS INTERMEDIA UNITS. THEY WERE CREATED BY THE STATE LEGISLATURE IN 1971. IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY, A BIG PART OF THE INTERMEDIATE UNIT’S MISSION REVOLVES AROUND SPECIAL EDUCATION. I WANT TO THANK BOTH OF OUR GUESTS FOR COMING HERE TO SHARE SOME INSIGHT TODAY. FIRST OF ALL, DR. JAMES PALMERO, THE ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL EDUCATION AND PUPIL SERVICES FOR AIU. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE, AS WELL AS HOLLY MCELHENNEY, THE DIRECTOR OF OCCUPATIONAL AND PHYSICAL THERAPY FOR THE AIU AS WELL. ALL RIGHT, DR. PALMERO, LET’S START WITH YOU. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THE INTERMEDIATE UNIT DOES AND WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT REGARDING SPECIAL EDUCATION IN PENNSYLVANIA, THE ALLEGHENY INTERMEDIATE UNIT SERVES EVERY LEARNER, AND THAT IS WHAT WE TRULY BELIEVE IS OUR CORE MISSION WITH REGARD TO SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES, THERE ARE ABOUT 18% OF THE TOTAL STUDENT POPULATION THAT REQUIRES SPECIAL EDUCATION SUPPORT AND SERVICES, AND MOST OF THOSE STUDENTS ARE ABLE TO BE EDUCATED IN THEIR HOME SCHOOLS AND DISTRICTS, WHICH IS REALLY IMPORTANT. AND FREQUENTLY WE PROVIDE THE KIND OF SUPPORTS AND SERVICES THAT THE DISTRICTS NEED. IN ADDITION TO THE STAFF THEY ALREADY HAVE AVAILABLE TO THEM. SO WE PROVIDE PEOPLE SUCH AS SPECIALIZED OCCUPATIONAL AND PHYSICAL THERAPISTS, SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGISTS, SPECIALISTS IN VISION AND HEARING. BUT WHEN SCHOOLS CAN’T EDUCATE THEIR STUDENTS IN THEIR HOME SCHOOL OR DISTRICT BECAUSE OF THE PROFUNDITY OF THE NEEDS THAT THOSE STUDENTS HAVE, WE ALSO HAVE SPECIALIZED SCHOOLS WHERE THE DISTRICT’S CAN SEND THOSE STUDENTS TO OUR PROGRAMS AND WE CAN EDUCATE OUT THOSE STUDENTS AT AT EITHER SUNRISE MOM VALLEY OR PATHFINDER, OUR THREE BUILDINGS. I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE WATCHING FROM HOME MIGHT NOT REALIZE THAT THE NEED IS SO GREAT. DESCRIBE WHAT THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES ARE FOR YOU ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS. I THINK THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THAT ANY DISTRICT, CHARTER SCHOOL OR INTERMEDIATE UNIT HAS IN PROVIDING THESE KINDS OF SERVICES REALLY GETS BACK TO STAFFING AND THE STAFFING CRISIS THAT WE ARE FACING ACROSS THE COMMONWEALTH AND FRANKLY, ACROSS THE NATION AS WELL. WHEN THERE AREN’T ENOUGH QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL AND PARAPROFESSIONAL PEOPLE TO STAFF OUR CLASSROOMS, OUR PROGRAMING BECOMES MORE CHALLENGING AND MORE COMPROMISED. AND WE KNOW THAT STAFFING IS A BIG ISSUE IN PENNSYLVANIA. THE PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, IN COLLABORATION WITH FEDERAL THE FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, IS WORKING TO SOLVE THESE STAFFING PROBLEMS. SO IMPORTANT. GIVE US AN IDEA MAYBE OF WHAT A TYPICAL STUDENT WOULD GO THROUGH IN THE PROGRAM IN THE OCCUPATIONAL AND PHYSICAL THERAPY PROGRAM. UM, WE PROVIDE SERVICES TO SUPPORT STUDENTS IN ACCESSING THEIR EDUCATION IN OUR SERVICES CENTER AROUND LARGE MUSCLE AND SMALL MUSCLE SKILLS. SO OUR OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS LOOK AT THINGS LIKE STUDENTS HANDWRITING, SMALL MOTOR SKILLS SUCH AS SCISSORING, ALSO ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING. HOW DO THEY MANAGE THEIR MATERIALS THROUGHOUT THE SCHOOL DAY? WE ALSO HELP WITH STUDENTS WHO MAY HAVE SENSORY PROCESSING ISSUES THAT IMPACT THEIR EDUCATION. AND OUR PHYSICAL THERAPISTS LOOK AT MORE OF THE LARGER MUSCLE SKILLS. SO THINGS LIKE ACCESSING THE EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT, WALKING THROUGHOUT THEIR SCHOOL, BUILDING, ACCESSING THE CAFETERIA, THE PLAYGROUND, PHYSICAL EDUCATION CLASSES, THE SCHOOL BUS. AND HOW ARE YOUR SERVICES DIFFERENT THAN MAYBE WHAT THE SCHOOL DISTRICT ITSELF CAN PROVIDE? SO WE ARE CONSIDERED A RELATED SERVICE. SO AS PART OF WHAT WE DO IS WE HELP TO SUPPORT THE EDUCATIONAL TEAM. SO WE ARE ADDRESSING WHAT THE DISTRICT IS PUTTING OUT THERE AS FAR AS IN TERMS OF CURRICULUM AND WHAT THE STUDENTS ARE WORKING ON. SO WE’RE ACTUALLY EMBEDDING OUR SERVICES WITHIN THAT SCHOOL CURRICULUM. WE ARE A RELATED SERVICE SUPPORT, WHICH MEANS THAT WE ARE DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE STUDENT’S EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMING. SO A LOT OF PEOPLE WATCHING FROM HOME ARE GOING TO HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT THEIR OWN CHILD. AND SO I WANT TO ASK YOU, WHAT RIGHTS DOES A CHILD HAVE WHEN GOING TO SCHOOL? SURE. SO UNDER THE INDIVIDUAL WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT, SPECIAL EDUCATION PROVIDES AIDS SERVICES FOR STUDENTS AND RIGHTS TO STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS IF A PARENT IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE ACADEMIC, SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR CHILD, THEY HAVE TO BRING THAT INFORMATION FORWARD. THEY MUST SHARE IT. THEY NEED TO SHARE IT WITH THEIR CHILD AIDS TEACHER, THEIR CHILD’S PRINCIPAL, ALL THE DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL EDUCATION. WE GO THROUGH A PROCESS, THEN IN ANY OF OUR DISTRICTS OR CHARTER SCHOOLS OF IDENTIFYING THOSE STUDENTS BASED ON CONCERNS OR NEEDS THAT EITHER THE SCHOOL HAS OR THE PARENT IN TERMS OF IDENTIFYING IF THERE IS ACTUALLY A SPECIAL EDUCATION NEED AT HAND. TESTING IS SO TOUGH FOR PARENTS, THOUGH, TO THINK ABOUT TO COME TO GRIPS WITH. SO I WANT TO ASK BOTH OF YOU FINALLY, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE? FIRST THING THAT’S IMPORTANT FOR PARENTS TO REMEMBER IS THEY ARE THEIR CHILD’S NUMBER ONE ADVOCATE. THEY GIVE THEIR CHILD VOICE UNTIL WE SUPPORT THEM SO THAT THEIR CHILD CAN GAIN THEIR OWN VOICE AND BE ABLE TO SELF DETERMINE AND SELF ADVOCATE AS WELL. AND SO THEY MUST THEY MUST SPEAK WITH THEIR CHILD’S SUPPORT TEAM ABOUT ANY CONCERNS THEY HAVE IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY AT THE AIU, WE SERVICE 9500 STUDENTS ACROSS THE COUNTY WITH SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS. THAT DOES NOT ACCOUNT FOR THE NUMBER OF SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS IN EACH DISTRICT. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE TOTAL NUMBER OF KIDS IN THE COUNTY THAT DO RECEIVE SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES, IT’S A LARGE NUMBER. WE’RE THERE BECAUSE WE WANT TO HELP EVERYONE TO SUCCEED. WHETHER IT’S A RELATED SERVICE LIKE PHYSICAL OR OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY OR AN ACADEMIC SERVICE SUPPORTING STUDENTS WITH AUTISM LEARNING. SO SPORT SKILLS, ETCETERA. THE ISSUE THAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW IS THEY ARE NOT ALONE. THEY’RE NOT ON THEIR OWN. AND AS A TEAM, WE WORK TOGETHER TO SUPPORT THEM. AND I’LL GIVE YOU THE LAST WORD. SHE SURE. I THINK ONE OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS THAT WE TALK ABOUT OFTEN IN OUR PROGRAM AND AT THE AIU IN GENERAL IS PARENTS KNOW THEIR CHILDREN BEST AND THEY ARE A MEMBER OF THE EDUCATIONAL TEAM AND IT’S IMPORTANT FOR THEM TO REMEMBER THAT THEY HAVE A VOICE AND CERTAINLY WE ARE LOOKED AT AS THE QUOTE UNQUOTE EXPERTS IN THE FIELD. BUT WE WANT TO HEAR WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY AND WE WANT TO SUPPORT THEIR STUDENTS IN ANY WAY THAT WE CAN COULD MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE. YES, ALL RIGHT. THANKS FOR BEING HERE. THANK YOU. STILL AHEAD ON WTA LISTENS. WE’RE REALLY ENCOURAGED FAMILIES TO HAVE THEIR CHILDREN EDUCATED IN THEIR HOME SCHOOL WITH THEIR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS AND AND SIBLINGS, STOPPING SCHOOLS FROM SENDING STUDENTS AWAY. COMING UP NEXT, HEAR FROM ADVOCATES ABOUT WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO KEEP AS MANY CHILDREN AS POSSIBLE WITH THEIR PEERS. PLUS, WHERE FAMILIES CAN TURN IF THEY NEED EXTRA HELP TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. WELCOME BACK TO WTA. LISTENS. FOR MANY OF US, SPECIAL EDUCATION SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING THAT’S SEPARATE FROM ORDINARY PUBLIC SCHOOL CLASSROOMS. BUT ADVOCATES SAY KIDS HAVE A RIGHT TO STAY AND LEARN WITH THEIR NEIGHBORS, HELPING MAKE THAT HAPPEN IS WHERE ADVOCATES LIKE THE PEEL CENTER COME IN. I’D LIKE TO WELCOME OUR TWO GUESTS NOW. THANKS SO MUCH FOR COMING IN. MARY HARTLEY, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE PEEL CENTER, AND CINDY DUKE IS THE DIRECTOR OF INDIVIDUAL ASSISTANCE WITH THE PEEL CENTER AS WELL. MARY, LET’S START WITH YOU. KIND OF EXPLAIN THE MISSION OF THE PEEL CENTER. SO PEEL IS REALLY DESIGNED PARENTS WORKING WITH PARENTS ON ISSUES IN SPECIAL EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE. WE SERVE OVER 50,000 FAMILIES A YEAR AND DO TRAININGS AND INDIVIDUAL ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT FOR FAMILIES. SO WHAT IS YOUR FOCUS? I KNOW YOU WANT TO KEEP KIDS IN THEIR REGULAR DISTRICTS. TALK ABOUT THAT A LITTLE BIT. SO OUR FOCUS IS REALLY ON ENSURING THAT KIDS RECEIVE THEIR RIGHTS UNDER THE IDEA OR SPECIAL EDUCATION AND A BIG PART OF THAT IS INCLUSION. WE REALLY ENCOURAGE FAMILIES TO HAVE THEIR CHILDREN EDUCATED IN THEIR HOME SCHOOL WITH THEIR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS AND AND SIBLINGS, AND ALSO TO ENSURE THAT THEY RECEIVE MEDICAL CARE AND SUPPORTS SERVICES, NOT ONLY IN SCHOOL BUT OUT OF SCHOOL AS WELL. CINDY, ELABORATE ON THAT A LITTLE BIT. WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO KEEP KIDS WITHIN THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD? WELL, THAT’S YOU KNOW, WE LOOK AT FAMILY AS THE AS THE MODEL FOR INCLUDING KIDS IN SCHOOL. AND KIDS ARE ALWAYS INCLUDED IN THINGS THAT THE FAMILIES DO. SO IN SCHOOL, WE WANT THAT SAME THING. WE WANT THEM TO HAVE ACCESS TO A SIMILAR CURRICULUM, JUST ACCESS WITH SUPPORTS AND SERVICES. WE WANT THEM TO BE ABLE, LIKE MARY SAID, TO GO TO SCHOOL WITH THEIR NEIGHBORS, THEIR SIBLINGS, AND JUST TO HAVE A SENSE OF BELONGING THAT THEY BELONG. AND TRUTHFULLY, RESEARCH SHOWS THAT THIS IS THE APPROPRIATE SETTING FOR MOST KIDS. THEY’RE GOING TO BE APPROPRIATELY CHALLENGED AND LEARN MORE. CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF HOW PEEL HAS HELPED A STUDENT ACCESS THE SERVICES HE OR SHE NEEDS? MANY TIMES WHAT WILL HAPPEN IS, YOU KNOW, EACH CHILD HAS AN IEP TEAM, WHICH INCLUDES THE PARENT AS AN EQUAL PARTNER ON THE TEAM, ALONG WITH SOME SCHOOL PERSONNEL, THE REGULAR EDUCATION TEACHER, GENERAL EDUCATION TEACHER AT. AND A DECISION IS MADE AS FAR AS WHERE THEY’RE GOING TO ATTEND TO MEET ALL THE NEEDS THAT ARE IN THE INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PROGRAM, THE IEP AND SOMETIMES YOU KNOW, RECOMMENDATIONS WILL BE MADE BY THE SCHOOL TO PLACE A CHILD OUTSIDE OF THEIR SCHOOL DISTRICT AWAY FROM THOSE NEIGHBORHOOD FRIENDS, AWAY FROM THEIR SIBLINGS AND NOT PARTICIPATING WITH THE ROLE MODELS THAT THEY HAVE WITH TYPICAL PEERS. SO THE PEEL CENTER WILL HELP FAMILIES BY GIVING THEM RESOURCES AND INFORMATION. THIS IS RESOURCES FROM THE FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL EDUCATION AND FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION IN PENNSYLVANIA. RESOURCES THAT HAVE BEEN VETTED AND ARE RESEARCH BASED TO SHOW THEY WORK. SO WHAT KIND OF NEEDS DO YOU HELP WITH FAMILIES OUT THERE WATCHING MIGHT THINK, OH, I NEED TO TAP INTO THIS. WHAT ARE SOME TYPICAL THINGS THAT YOU ADDRESS WITH FAMILIES AND STUDENTS AT PEEL CENTER? WE ADDRESS THE ISSUE THAT THAT PARENT IS HAVING RIGHT THEN. SO A LOT OF TIMES FAMILIES WILL HAVE MULTIPLE ISSUES AT ONE TIME AND WE REALLY TRY TO FOCUS ON THE ISSUE THAT IS AT HAND. IT COULD BE THAT THE INDIVIDUAL STUDENT IS NOT RECEIVING SERVICES THAT WOULD ALLOW THEM TO STAY IN THAT CLASSROOM OR THEY NEED ADDITIONAL SUPPORTS AND SERVICES. THE SCHOOL DISTRICT MIGHT NEED TO TO PROVIDE OTHER SUPPORTS THAT THEY’RE NOT CURRENTLY PROVIDING. AND SO WE’RE SUPPORTING THE FAMILY TO ADVOCATE FOR THEMSELVES TO IDENTIFY WAYS TO GROW THEIR OWN ABILITIES SO THAT THEY CAN MAKE SURE THEIR CHILD GETS WHAT THEY NEED. CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF MAYBE A SPECIFIC CHILD THAT HAS BEEN HELPED JUST SO PEOPLE CAN KIND OF GET A BETTER IDEA OF THAT? WELL, I WORK WITH FAMILIES ONE ON ONE AND AND IN IN A RECENT CASE, YOU KNOW, THE SCHOOL HAD SUGGESTED OR RECOMMENDED THAT THE CHILD BE PLACED IN A DISTRICT OUTSIDE OF THEIR DISTRICT OR THEIR HOME DISTRICT. AND AND THE CHILD SHE HAS THE ABILITY SHE SHE HAS SOME ADDITIONAL NEEDS, PHYSICAL NEEDS, SOME EDUCATIONAL NEEDS, ACADEMIC NEEDS. BUT IT’S NOT AS IF THOSE CAN’T BE MET IN HER HOME SCHOOL DISTRICT. SO I SUGGESTED TO THE FAMILY, THERE’S A FANTASTIC SUPPORT RESOURCE THAT’S BEEN PUT OUT BY THE PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF ED, CALLED FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESS AND BELONGING. THEY CALL IT FAB. AND THIS IS A SYSTEM ATTIC WAY OF THE IEP TEAM. TAKING A LOOK AT WHAT COULD BE PROVIDED FOR SUPPORT THAT ISN’T CURRENTLY AND WE FOUND THAT THE CHILD COULD CAN BE INCLUDED WITH HER TYPICAL PEERS AND AND JUST A FEW MORE SUPPORTS PUT INTO THE CLASSROOM ROOM. SOME COST NO MONEY. IT’S JUST, YOU KNOW, PROVIDING ACCOMMODATIONS FOR HER AND SHE WILL BE STARTING KINDERGARTEN IN HER HOME SCHOOL. AND THE FAMILY IS VERY HAPPY ABOUT THAT. SO WHAT DO YOU TELL PARENTS OUT THERE WATCHING WHO FEEL THAT THEY THEIR CHILD NEEDS A LITTLE EXTRA HELP? MAYBE THEY FEEL THINGS HAVE STALLED WITH THEIR IEP OR WHATEVER THAT THEY’RE WORKING ON, IF THEY FEEL LIKE THINGS AREN’T MOVING FORWARD. AS WE WRAP UP, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PARENTS WITH THAT? WELL, I WOULD FIRST SAY THAT WE HAVE A NUMBER OF TRAININGS THAT WE PROVIDE AT THE PEEL CENTER, AND YOU CAN GO ONLINE TO OUR WEBSITE AND LOOK AT THE TRAINING CALENDAR AND SIGN UP FOR THOSE. AND THAT WILL SORT OF MAYBE HELP JUMP START YOUR EDUCATION. SO IT DOESN’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE INDIVIDUAL ASSISTANCE, BUT IF THERE IS A SPECIFIC NEED, YOU CAN CALL THE PEEL CENTER AND THE LOCAL NUMBER HERE FOR. 122814404 WILL LEAD THEM TO TO OUR INTAKE PROCEDURES. THEY CAN ALSO GO ONLINE AND DO AN INTAKE FORM AND WE COULD SEE THEM TALK TO THEM GENERALLY. WITHIN 24 TO 72 HOURS. AND SO WE’RE HAPPY TO DO THAT. YEAH. ALL RIGHT. THANK YOU BOTH FOR SHARING TODAY. STILL AHEAD ON WTA WTAE LISTENS, EVERYONE IS JUST REALLY HAS HELPED US FAMILY WISE AND I’M SURE OTHER FAMILIES TOO. BUT IT’S JUST BEEN A WONDERFUL RIDE FOR US. WE’RE HEARING HOW SPECIAL EDUCATION HELPS NOT JUST THE CHILD, BUT THE WHOLE FAMILY UNIT. WELCOME BACK TO WTAE LISTENS WHEN IT COMES TO SPECIAL EDUCATION, IT’S NOT ONLY THE CHILD WHO HAS NEEDS TO BE MET. WE SPEAK WITH A GRANDMOTHER, AND THE LOCAL GROUP, SHE SAYS, IS HELPING HER WHOLE FAMILY. THANK YOU BOTH FOR COMING TO SHARE YOUR STORIES. GRETCHEN KELLY IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PLEA AND SUE ELDER HAS A GRANDSON THAT’S TAKING FULL ADVANTAGE OF THIS. AND SO I CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER. FIRST OF ALL, WHAT DOES PLEA STAND FOR? PLEA AT ONE TIME STOOD FOR THE PARENTS LEAGUE FOR EMOTIONAL ADJUSTMENT WHEN WE WERE FOUNDED ALMOST 60 YEARS AGO, PARENTS CAME TOGETHER BEFORE AUTISM WAS TERMED AUTISM. IT WAS CONSIDERED AN EMOTIONAL DISORDER. SO FAMILIES CAME TOGETHER AND FORMED WHAT WAS CALLED THE PARENTS LEAGUE FOR EMOTIONAL ADJUSTMENT. WELL, I’M GLAD TO SEE HOW FAR WE’VE COME SINCE THEN. SO LET’S MOVE FORWARD TILL TODAY. TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENT THINGS THAT YOU OFFER IN TERMS OF EDUCATION. SURE. SO WE HAVE BEEN A PROVIDER OF EDUCATION SINCE BEFORE THERE WAS RIGHT FOR EDUCATION IN THE LATE 60S. AND SO WE STARTED AS A PRESCHOOL FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM BACK THEN, EMOTIONAL DISORDERS. AND SO WE HAVE ADVANCED SO MUCH SO THAT WE NOW PROVIDE SERVICE UP TO AGE 21. AND SO OUR OUR PLEA SCHOOL BASED PARTIAL HOSPITAL PROGRAM SERVES CHILDREN FROM KINDERGARTEN UP TO AGE 21. AND WE PROVIDE VOCATIONAL SERVICES FOR THOSE KIDS ON THE OLDER AGE. IN ADDITION TO A HOST OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT PROGRAMS THAT WE ALSO PROVIDE THROUGH PLEA. AND WE KNOW THE NEED IS SO GREAT AND SO IT’S SO NICE TO HEAR EVERYTHING THAT YOU’RE DOING. SUE TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR FAMILY HAS TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THIS. WE HAVE BEEN VERY BLESSED WITH PLEA. THEY ARE. THEY’VE HELPED US IN MANY WAYS. HUNTER HAS. HUNTER HAS A MENTALITY OF LIKE AN 18 MONTH OLD. SO HE’S THINKS HE’S A BABY AND PLEA IS JUST BEEN THIS WHOLE STAFF FROM GRETCHEN DOWN THE DOCTORS EVERYONE IS JUST REALLY HAS HELPED US FAMILY WISE AND I’M SURE OTHER FAMILIES TOO BUT IT’S JUST BEEN A WONDERFUL RIDE FOR US. SO WE’RE TALKING ABOUT BACK TO SCHOOL. IT’S ABOUT THAT TIME OF YEAR. WHAT DO PARENTS EXPRESS TO YOU DURING THIS TIME OF YEAR? WELL, WE DO HAVE SOME BREAKS FOR OUR FAMILIES, SO WE PROVIDE A TYPICAL SCHOOL YEAR, BUT THEN WE PROVIDE AN EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR PROGRAM OVER THE SUMMER. SO RIGHT NOW, ALL OF OUR FAMILIES ARE ON A THREE WEEK BREAK BEFORE WE BRING ALL THE STUDENTS BACK AGAIN TO PLAY. AND SO THIS IS A CHALLENGING TIME, BUT IT’S A TIME THAT WE HOPE THE FAMILY SUPPORT THAT WE PROVIDE IS THE MOST HELPFUL BECAUSE THEN WE GET THE STUDENTS BACK AGAIN FOR THE SCHOOL YEAR AND WE START ANOTHER EDUCATION YEAR. ALL OVER AGAIN. AND I KNOW PARENTS GET EXCITED ABOUT THE BEGINNING OF THE SCHOOL YEAR FOR THAT REASON. I’M SURE. YES. TELL ME ABOUT HUNTER’S EXPERIENCE IN THE CLASSROOM. HOW HAS PLEA HELPED WITH THAT? IT’S VERY ONE ON ONE, PRETTY MUCH WITCH HUNTER NEEDS BECAUSE HE NEEDS TO BE REDIRECTED A LOT. HE’S NONVERBAL. HE’S A RUNNER. HE ELOPES. SO AND HE HAS A DEVICE WHICH THEY USE THE DEVICE WITH HUNTER AND THE TEACHERS ARE JUST I CAN’T SAY ENOUGH ABOUT PLEA. I REALLY CAN’T BECAUSE THEY JUST REALLY HELP. HUNTER A LOT. YOU KNOW, LEARNING, TEACHING HIM DIFFERENT THINGS THAT HE COULD DO BECAUSE SOME OF THE THINGS HE JUST DOESN’T HE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND. AND HIS MENTALITY IS 18 MONTHS. SO IT’S KIND OF HARD. SO HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT? THERE’S ALL DIFFERENT LEVELS, BOTH PHYSICAL AGES AND MENTAL AGES. SO HOW DO YOU HANDLE THAT VARIETY? WE HAVE AN AMAZING GROUP OF STAFF THAT WORKS AT PLAY, AND SO WE DO PROVIDE A LOT OF ONE ON ONE SUPPORT AND MOST OF OUR STAFF, THEY REALLY ADAPT TO THE CHALLENGES AND THE NEEDS OF EVERY STUDENT IN A VERY, VERY IMPACTFUL WAY FOR THE STUDENTS WE HAVE IN OUR CLASSROOMS, BOTH SPECIAL ED TEACHERS, MENTAL HEALTH THERAPISTS AND THEN AIDES TO HELP WITH THAT. SO THEY ARE A CORE TEAM. THEY SUPPORT EACH OTHER. AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THAT WE DO AT PLEA IS WE PROVIDE TRAINING. SO THAT OUR OUR STAFF IS AS FLEXIBLE AS POSSIBLE BECAUSE WE DO HAVE CHALLENGING STUDENTS, BUT WE SUPPORT THOSE STUDENTS IN A WAY THAT WE KNOW THAT THEY’RE GETTING THE ABSOLUTE BEST EXPERIENCE FROM OUR EDUCATIONAL SETTING. WHAT DO YOU WANT FAMILIES TO KNOW ABOUT THIS PROGRAM? I JUST WISH THAT FAMILIES ALL KNEW ABOUT PLEA AND THAT THE SERVICES THAT THEY PROVIDE. LIKE I SAID, NOT ONLY FOR HUNTER BUT OUR WHOLE FAMILY AND THE FAMILIES THAT ARE ASSOCIATED WITH PLEA, THEY JUST I JUST WISH EVERYONE KNEW. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS OUT THERE THAT PEOPLE DON’T KNOW AND IT’S JUST NOT IT CAN BE OVERWHELMING FOR FAMILIES TO REALIZE THAT THEY DO NEED THAT EXTRA SUPPORT AND THEN TRYING TO FIND IT. HOW DO PEOPLE FIND YOU? WELL, WE ARE WHEN YOU LOOK AT SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND AND THE OPTIONS THAT PARENTS HAVE, WE ARE ARE AN OPTIONAL PLACEMENT FOR STUDENTS THAT SPECIAL ED DIRECTORS AND IN SCHOOLS HAVE ARE ABLE TO REFER FAMILIES TO US TO COME AND SEE THE SERVICES THAT WE HAVE. SO THAT’S THE MAIN WAY THAT FAMILIES LEARN OF US IS THROUGH SPECIAL ED DIRECTORS AT THEIR THEIR HOME SCHOOL DISTRICT. YOU’RE WATCHING WTAE WTAE LISTENS. WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK. WITH WELCOME BACK TO WTAE LISTENS WHETHER YOU LIVE IN ONE OF PITTSBURGH’S NEIGHBORHOODS OR ANY OF OUR OTHER SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES, TELL US ABOUT WHAT’S WRONG AND WHAT’S RIGHT IN YOUR AREA SO WE CAN LISTEN. YOU CAN SEND US AN EMAIL WTAE WTAE LISTENS AT FIRSTCOM. THANKS FOR JOINING US. HAVE A GOOD WEEK.

WTAE Listens: A focus on special education as students head back to school

Heading back to school is a time of transition for every family. But for parents whose kids have special needs or who struggle in the classroom, setting those students up for success can take extra effort. On “WTAE Listens,” we’re hearing from leaders, advocates and educators about special education.Watch this week’s full episode in the video player above.

Heading back to school is a time of transition for every family.

But for parents whose kids have special needs or who struggle in the classroom, setting those students up for success can take extra effort.

On “WTAE Listens,” we’re hearing from leaders, advocates and educators about special education.

Watch this week’s full episode in the video player above.