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01-11-12-special-ed.jpgIt’s happened to most everyone. You need a resource or information and cannot find where or how to access it, or you have a resource/information that you know will be useful to many and can’t seem to get it into the hands of the people it will help the most. It’s beyond frustrating. When the two come together, so much good can happen. And that is apparent in the Cumberland County Schools.

Parents of special-needs children are aware of how diffi cult it can be to unlock the resources that the public-school system provides. So is Dr. Franklin Till, the Cumberland County Schools superintendent. He, along with the Exceptional Children Parents Advisory Council, has spent the last two years trying to find a way to better connect parents of special-needs children with the right programs and resources within the school system. What the group has found that is in most cases, the programs are already in place. The problem comes in connecting the the right families with the right resources. The result of their efforts is the Special Education Parent Teacher Association, or SEPTA.

Joan Owen and Julie Rufenacht are parents of special-needs children. They know first-hand the extra effort it takes to meet the myriad education needs of children with special needs.

“There was not a way for parents to connect,” said Owen.“There was a lot of miscommunication in the system and parents were not educated on how the system works. They don’t know what services are offered and things like that, so this is a way for them to work within the school system and see what is available. It is a way for parents to connect with other parents who may have a child with a similar diagnosis.”

Two years in the making, SEPTA was formally organized in August 2011 and held its first meeting in November. Owen and Rufenacht were both thrilled when more than 100 people showed up. “A lot of these parents have all they can handle and they don’t get involved in PTA’s because they feel like it is not suitable to them,” said Rufenacht. “This is a way to build a platform for these families and their children to come together and learn from each other, learn the school system and learn how we, as families, can help each other.”

The next meeting is scheduled for Jan 19 at Maxx Abbott Middle School The program topic IEP/504 and How We Can Work with the System will be presented by Angela Rafferty of the Family Support Network. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. To find out more, contact SEPTA at [email protected]

Photo: The Special Education PTA works in conjunction with the Cumberland County PTA to unite families of special-needs students and educate them about resources provided through the school system. 

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