In this month's guest post, Rene Averitt-Sanzone—a mother of 2 children with disabilities—discusses the benefits of Parent Centers.
Who you gonna call? For those of us who are old enough to remember the movie Ghostbusters this question may have given you a chuckle, but knowing who to call when you are a parent of a child with a disability is not always so easy to figure out. Being a parent alone can send chills down your spine as you are trying to figure out your squirming bundle of joy, but now imagine you have a child with special needs. Yes, the unbounding love is still there, but all of a sudden there is this new language to understand – IFSP, IEP, PLP, Medicaid, ASD, ADD/ADHD, durable medical equipment, LEA, OSEP – just to name a few. I could go on forever with this lingo and the scariest part is I understand every single term!
Why am I proficient in this foreign language?
Well it didn’t happen overnight; it took many frustrating years to learn. The main reason I can speak the lingo like a native now is because I was extremely fortunate to get connected to the most amazing resource when my oldest was only six months old: my state's federally funded Parent Center.
What is a Parent Center?
Parent Centers are funded by the US Department of Education, the Office of Special Education Programs specifically, to be a resource for families. Their role is to help families and give parents access to better understand their child’s disability and their special education rights. The best news is that these services are free of charge to families. Every state has a Parent Center, with larger states having more than one. Check out www.parentcenterhub.org to find the Center in your state.
Why are Parent Centers important?
This blog isn’t long enough for me to tell you all the reasons why, but let me try and give you a snapshot. As the extremely proud mom of two adult, intelligent, accomplished, beautiful daughters, both with disabilities, I can speak firsthand about how the support of my Parent Center helped us all get through some difficult times. When I couldn’t decipher the lingo, they provided the code book. When I had trouble articulating what my children needed, they taught me the communication and collaboration skills I needed to build a team. When I was frustrated and near tears, they were solace and comfort.
The next time you meet a parent who has questions about raising children with disabilities, direct them to their nearest Parent Center. Knowing that one in five individuals in the United States has a disability, and of that 1.1 million children receiving special education services, it is no wonder that there is a need for families to access their Parent Centers. Just last year alone there were over a million contacts to a Parent Center either by individual assistance or training.
At Parent Centers, we always want a family to know who they are gonna call!
Our Disability Awareness Month guest post was written by Rene Averitt-Sanzone, a mother of two and Co TA Director.
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