Special Education Spotlight San Francisco: Resources for Students, Teachers, and Parents

Special Education Spotlight San Francisco

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Those in San Francisco who are seeking special education resources need not look far for the information they need. From the public school district to nonprofit organizations, San Francisco residents can turn to several institutions to access an abundance of articles, handbooks, online tools and guides designed to help them teach, raise and support those with special needs.

Parents and teachers seeking a better understanding of Individual Education Programs (IEPs) and special education laws, teachers wishing to improve their special education instructional strategies or special needs students and their families eager to learn more about specific disabilities have a large support network in the city of San Francisco.

Special Education Resources Through the San Francisco Education System

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) offers an online Supplemental Guide that details the special education enrollment process, placement options and information about IEPs. In addition, it provides information about other special education services, such as counseling, speech and language therapy, alternative communication and assistive technology.

SFUSD also has a Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. Its site has links to helpful blogs, special education law information and support services for parents of special needs children.

Support for San Francisco Special Education Teachers

The goal of United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) is to help teachers maximize learning opportunities for all students. UESF has a Special Education Committee that provides several resources for teachers, such as links to the California Teacher Association Special Education Resource Guide, teaching tools and tips, California Department of Education intervention guidelines and teacher rights in regards to IEPs.

The Northern California Branch of the International Dyslexia Association serves the San Francisco Bay Area and provides training programs for elementary, middle and high school special education teachers. Both special education and mainstream teachers are taught introductory and advanced techniques proven to help both traditional students and those with special needs.

Special Education Support from Nonprofit Organizations in San Francisco

The non-profit Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) provides parents with information about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is an advocate for special education. Its website provides a link to the Special Education Rights and Responsibilities Handbook. CASE also offers consultative services, parent and teaching staff training and representative services in which CASE advocates attend IEP meetings.

Special Education Spotlight San Francisco

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San Francisco’s Support for Families of Children with Disabilities is a nonprofit organization designed to provide support services for families and students. Online links direct readers to information about parent support groups, special education legislation, advocacy organizations and early intervention programs.

People with Disabilities Foundation of San Francisco has free seminars and workshops designed to help disabled elementary and high school students develop and strengthen coping skills.

KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) San Francisco offers Bay Area special needs children the opportunity to participate in non-competitive recreational activities. Unstructured programs are offered in swimming, basketball, tennis and more.

More San Francisco Special Needs Nonprofit Organizations

Several nonprofit organizations focusing on specific types of developmental or other disorders or disabilities have chapters in or serve San Francisco. Workshops, support groups, youth camps and online articles are some of the resources made available by these types of organizations, which include:

Special Education Spotlight San Diego: Resources for Students, Teachers, and Parents

From educational offices to nonprofit organizations, San Diego seems committed to providing a broad support network for special needs parents as well as special education teachers and students.

Special Education Spotlight San Diego

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Throughout this city, these individuals can find support groups, online links, publications, articles and many other resources that can aid them in teaching and raising special needs children. In  the case of the children themselves, resources are available that will direct them to educational and community support services, as well as literature and organizations that can help them better understand their specific disability.

Special Education Resources Through San Diego Schools and Educational Organizations

The Special Education Division of the San Diego Unified School District operates a Parents Services Office dedicated to supplying aid to parents seeking helpful resources. The office has a Parent Helpline number to assist these individuals in finding information about workshops and other support, including links to support groups, articles and fliers.

With about two-thirds of their schools located in San Diego, the Poway Unified School District (PUSD) can also serve San Diego parents, teachers and students. PUSD has a Parent Resources page on its website with several helpful links. Parents can find assistance for creating Individual Education Plans (IEPs), a link to a handbook detailing parent rights and special education advocacy, information about a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and a link to the PUSD Special Education Foundation, which oversees special education activities and a mini-grants program for teachers.

San Diego County Office of Education is instrumental in providing special education staff development and program reviews, among other responsibilities. The office also oversees an early intervention program for children aged three and under. In addition, the office’s Special Education Unit provides a special education program and as well as services for Juvenile Court and Community Schools students in the county.

Sierra Academy of San Diego provides programs outside of traditional school settings for students with learning and developmental disabilities. The Academy offers speech and occupational therapy, life and social skills training and a behavioral management  program. The academy is run by Specialized Education Services, Inc. (SESI), a national organization with schools throughout California, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania as well as locations in Virginia and Rhode Island.

One Stop Shopping for San Diego Special Education Parents and Students

Parents and special education students in San Diego need to look no further than the Special Needs Resource Foundation of San Diego. This nonprofit organization, created in January 2014 by the for-profit company San Diego Family, keeps resources for special needs children and families in one place. This information can be accessed online or through an annual publication called Flourishing Families.

Special Education Spotlight San Diego

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Want to find a camp for your special needs child? Are you a teacher or educational administrator looking for grant sources? Want ideas of after school activities or fundraising events? Or maybe you’re a special needs child or parent who wants to find out more about your or your child’s disability.

Whatever the case, this foundation has links and contact information for agencies, nonprofit organizations, community organizations and more. Those accessing this website can also find helpful articles, videos and research updates as well as an events calendar detailing information about upcoming conferences, seminars, lectures and other presentations. Many of these are directed at parents or other caregivers and provide hints and practices for managing specific types of disorders.

Links are available to organizations devoted to the support of specific disabilities, such as:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Dyslexia
  • Epilepsy

The site also breaks down resources by areas of need; thus, links are provided for various types of therapies, social programs, advocacy and other support services.

Special Education Spotlight Los Angeles: Resources for Students, Teachers, and Parents

Whether you’re looking for parenting support, to develop a deeper understanding of a learning or developmental disorder or wondering what educational programs are available for your special needs child, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for in Los Angeles.

Special Education Spotlight Los Angeles

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From school-based programs to nonprofit organizations, Los Angeles is home to a great support system for those parenting or teaching children in need of special education. Special needs children themselves will also find many useful resources.

Special Education Programs in Los Angeles Schools

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) provides many resources for special needs students, teachers and parents. From a Community Advisory Committee that offers workshops about special education policies in the district to online links to brochures about developing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), LAUSD ensures that special education is a top priority in this city.

Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) is an educational agency run by the county’s Superintendent of Schools and Board of Education. Through a team effort that includes psychologists, nurses and curriculum specialists, LACOE provides support services for special education students.  These services include counseling, physical therapy, speech therapy and even transportation.

More Resources for Students, Teachers and Parents

Outside of the Los Angeles education system, parents and special needs children will find many organizations designed to help them in various ways.

The Parents Education League (PEL) of Los Angeles, for instance, supplies parents with a list of schools in the area that have strong special education programs.

Several nonprofit organizations also have offices based in Los Angeles. These provide advocacy for or information about different types of developmental disorders and disabilities. One of the main goals of many of these organizations is to raise awareness about specific disorders or disabilities through public speaking events, workshops, free literature and videos. Some of these organizations include:

Special Education Spotlight Los Angeles

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Where Else You Can Go

We’ve focused on organizations and educational institutions in this article, but students, teachers and parents have other resources in Los Angeles they can tap into.

Hospitals, clinics and government agencies are valuable sources of information about developmental disorders. Some include:

As you can see, if you are a Los Angeles resident raising or teaching a special needs child, or if you yourself have a learning or developmental disorder, you are not facing your struggles alone.

A Labor of Love: the Struggles of Parenting Special Needs Children

Parenting Special Needs Children

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“Nobody said it was easy/No one ever said it would be so hard.”

While these lyrics from the British rock band Coldplay reference a love relationship, they could just as well apply to parenting a special needs child.

Parenting is a hard job, arguably one of the hardest. But parenting special needs children raises the bar even higher.

There are added challenges and responsibilities. Therapy sessions. Doctor’s appointments. Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings at school. Not to mention tantrums, or mood swings, or care needed for physical disabilities.

It might all sound overwhelming, and it certainly can be. But no matter how difficult, parenting a special needs child is often described as a labor of love.

Common Struggles

Whether a child has autism or Tourette’s syndrome, many of the struggles in parenting a special needs child are universal.

A few common struggles include:

  • The emotional impact of the disability on parents and other family members
  • The feeling of being alone and isolated when parenting a special needs child
  • Finding the right services for a developmentally or physically disabled child
  • Having the money to pay for extra services or other needs
  • Worrying about how child will function as an adult
Parenting Special Needs Children

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Luckily, there are answers, or at least guidance, for many of these struggles. Numerous support groups, national organizations, government agencies and educational programs are available to the parents of special needs children.

Labor = Hard Work (But Worth It!)

Labor is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “physical and mental exertion; work.”

While that may have negative connotations, there is also much pleasure and satisfaction derived from working hard to reach a specific goal or achievement.

In the case of parenting special needs children, the satisfaction comes, for instance, when that child performs a task that might seem routine but might have required a lot of effort to achieve.

Success stories abound about nonverbal autistic children who utter their first words or communicate in some manner for the first time, or those with a learning disability who grasp a particular concept that’s eluded them. And while the parent of any child feels proud of that child’s accomplishments, the road traveled by a special needs parent might be that much longer, that much rougher.

Much of these successes can be linked directly to the parent. It’s likely they have gone the extra mile to help their children reach a particular milestone.

But is that extra mile devoid of any rest stops? For many, success with a special needs child can depend heavily on taking time for oneself.

Parenting Special Needs Children

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Taking Care of You

So many parents of special needs children will tell you that parenting such a child is not always 100 percent about the child. You can only help the child if you also help yourself.

Some suggestions include:

  • Applying stress management techniques. Take yoga or just go for long, quiet walks. Anything to relax and clear your mind.
  • Joining a support group. It’s been said a million times and bears saying again: it often helps to know that there’s others out there sharing what you’re going through. You might also get helpful tips about what works for them and apply these to your own situation.
  • Pursuing your own hobbies and interests. You’d be amazed to find how re-charged you’ll feel when you can shift your focus off of being a special needs parent and do something you enjoy doing for yourself for an hour or two a day, or even just a few times a week.

There’s no denying that parenting a special needs child is hard work. Laying bricks or paving roads is hard work, too. But bricks and roads cannot share in the joy of achievement, cannot return a hug, cannot express their love.

It’s that love that makes it worthwhile.

How to Bring Technology and Special Education Together to Help Our Children

Most educators would agree that engagement is the key to teaching children. Engagement fuels motivation, curiosity and performance.

Study after study shows that technology plays a vital role in student engagement. Learning through interactive videos and iPads, for instance, has shown to dramatically increase understanding and overall performance in mainstream classroom settings.

Technology and Special Education

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It might be even more important to find ways in which to engage special education students. In many cases, special needs students are more easily distracted or bored. Like most of their peers, though, special education students are drawn to technological gadgets and programs.

Is it no small wonder, then,  that teachers and administrators are turning to technology to help them help special needs children?

A “Bigger Toolbox”

From apps to iPads, technology has permeated school systems around the United States. Seizing what most excites and engages students, schools have introduced video games and other devices in which to teach math, science and other subjects.

At the same time, assistive technology, such as speech-recognition programs, Braille displays and listening systems, has come a long way in the past several years. Many of these technologies are available as apps that can easily be downloaded to various devices.

Combining this type of technology with the technology of tablets, smartphones and other devices has given teachers and administrators a “much bigger toolbox” when it comes to educating special needs children, says Wendy Burkhardt, an assistive technology coordinator for California’s San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

“This technology has been an amazing eye-opener,” says Robin Lowell, a math teacher for the Washington State School for the Blind.Utilizing the most recent advances in assistive technology, Lowell is able to teach remotely through her desktop computer.

The voice and video system such as the one used by Ms. Lowell allows the school to provide students with a teacher who has the proven ability to successfully convey math concepts to disabled students as compared to the methods of less experienced and less trained instructors.

Technology and Special Education

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How It Works

So why is technology proving to be so helpful to special education students? In many cases, in much the same way it helps mainstream students.

Using technology in the classroom has shown to build a student’s confidence and independence by allowing them to take a different approach in the area where they might be struggling. For instance, a student with a learning disability in reading can listen to an audio book.

In short, assistive technology can be used to play to the strengths of each special needs student, from those with learning disorders to those facing physical limitations.

Technology is also helpful when it comes to integration. Special needs students using assistive technology can more easily participate in inclusive classrooms. In many cases, all it takes is modifying existing technologies, such as whiteboards, iPads or web-based tools, that are commonly used in the classroom to accommodate special education students.

Can this type of technology take the place of effective and dedicated teachers? Likely not. But it can, as Ms. Burkhardt stated, be a great tool in which to assist those who take on the challenges of a demanding career in special education.