A blog post

San Francisco Unified School District & Special Education

Posted on the 02 May, 2011 at 7:47 am Posted by in Dyslexia, Hyperlexia, Parents Education Network - PEN

May 02

During EdRev sponsored by Parents Education Network (PEN) at the Giants Baseball Park one of the seminar discussions focused attention on The Future of the Special Education Services in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) who are transitioning from Youth to Adulthood.

The two leaders were: 

 Cecilia Dodge:  Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, San Francisco Unified School District

Juno Duenas, Executive Director, Support for Families

At the outset the speakers provided a brief outline on the approach being taken at SFUSD.  Their Special Education Services are guided by a US federal law, IDEA  (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  This legislation indicates how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. It addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth to age 18 or 21 in cases that involve 13 specified categories of disability. All States have elected to accept federal funding under IDEA.

Six Principles on which IDEA was built are:

  • Free and appropriate public education
  • Assessment
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
  • Requirement of parent participation
  • Procedural safeguards to ensure rights of children with disabilities and their parents will be protected.

 With this background, the speakers focused their presentation on the needs of a child who will be transitioning out of high school into the work force. They recommended that parents look at this transition process utilizing the following five-step outline.

  • What are the child’s goals for the future? 
  • What skills does the child have?  What skills do they need to pursue his or her goals?
  • What support and services will they need to pursue these goals?
  • Where should your child receive these supports and services and who should provide them?
  • How can a parent ensure that the plan for the child is being implemented?

The speakers commented that if a youth has an IEP, then, by age 16 the IEP should include transition planning.  Juno Duenas, Executive Director, Support for Families, informed us that her organization provides training for parents in the process of transition which also includes strategies to include the youth in this transition planning, ensuring the youth is leading their transition plan by providing input.

At this point, the attendees formed two groups to outline their recommendations for SFUSD. A format was provided:   How do you feel about the topic of transition? 

Some of the comments were:

Relating to the heart: 

  • Kids need to be invested in the process of transition.
  • SFUSD needs to provide employment choices for those who don’t know what they want to do. 
  • Parents, themselves, need to do goal setting.  Be a role model.  Show your child what you see doing when you are older and outline the skills you need to acquire to make that happen.
  •    Provide an environment which sets the student up for success.
    • Let the student/son or daughter  know that if they need you, you are here for them.   Give them space to explore to be sure they have a place to be happy.
    •  Remember fear goes with the unknown.  As a parent, work with your kid to expand the potential of opportunities.  Be careful not to say “no” too often. 
    • One teacher commented that she has a fear for one of her students because her student’s goal is to be a stripper.

 Relating to the Head:   What does your youth need to know and/or what additional questions do you have that would helpful to us in our planning at SFUSD?

  • Make unknown known.
  • Provide the necessary skills for what their heart wants.
    • Recommend that parents let go so their kids can have their head to explore and go for it.
    • Concerns: 

                               How will a supervisor or boss relate to our child?   Perceptions are at issue.

                               Disclosure:  How much do students need to tell future employers? 

                               If students are given a right they have a responsibility.  How do we re-enforce this?

 Relating to Hands:      What ideas do you have for SFUSD to improve the transition to adulthood?   What ideas do you have about community partners?

  • Let the students run the IEP rather than the professionals. Currently students speak the least at the IEPs. 
  • Provide means to assist the student to determine their likes and dislikes.  Students need to learn hands-on skills:  eg vocational
  • Offer more vocational and workablility opportunities.
    • Providing the family with links to organizations and services that the child is interested in.  Parents don’t have the time so school needs to do it. 
    • More mentors and, of course, a common theme, more funding
    • Develop links for networks including social networks: eg  Twitter, Facebook.

I found this seminar very useful.  As I am not involved with the school education process my only connection is through the press.  The details provided by the leaders of this seminar and the feedback from those attending has given me a different frame of reference.    

Contact Info:

            Juno Duenas,  Support for Families of Children with Disabilities (SFCD): 

                        phone:  425 282 7494, e-mail info@supportforfamilies.org

                        www.supportforfamilies.org

            Cecilia Dodge:   San Francisco Unified School District SFUSD

                        Phone:  415-379-7697, e-mail:  dodgec@sfusd.edu

Note:  Juno Duenas reviewed this blog before posting and added information to make the description more complete and accurate.  Thanks, Juno.

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