By Abby Braithwaite
The first class of the NWDSA kindergarten cohort graduated in May. They celebrated their hard work with a party, complete with cake, camaraderie and inspirational words from Michael and Eleanor Bailey. Participants shared stories of the spring’s IEP meetings, and offered tips to cohort members whose meetings hadn’t happened yet. A small but crucial detail not to be forgotten -- bring something sweet to the meeting!
On a more serious note, while the value of inclusion is clear for all children, there is no question that choosing an inclusive path for your child can be challenging and isolating, as you come face to face with the realities of underfunded schools and overstressed systems. For many families, the start of kindergarten is an isolating and mysterious process, and the NWDSA partnered with wonderful speakers to help demystify the process, from eligibility requirements to evaluations, from classroom supports to the nuts and bolts of the Individualized Education Programs that drive our children’s education. The cohort also provided participating families the opportunity to connect with other parents, sharing stories and strategies as the series of trainings progressed. All the cohort members have agreed that the connections they made this year will be an important part of their support network as children start kindergarten in the fall, and IEP’s are implemented.
As part of the final session in May, cohort members reflected on the series of trainings, and shared their thoughts about the six months they spent learning together. Here are a few reflections that participants shared:
- The session on the details of Special Education law was useful and enlightening. To have grounding in the actual rights and intent of IDEA will give us the confidence to stand our ground if necessary in the future. But another vital message was to balance the legal and potentially confrontational side of things with a good dose of collaborative energy and grace.
- The most valuable part of the cohort for me was the feeling of community and support. I find this whole process very challenging, difficult and often times lonely. The cohort is a good reminder to me why I am doing this for my son and why it is so important.
The NWDSA is currently accepting applications for the 2011-2012 cohort class. If you have a child who will be starting kindergarten in the fall of 2012, who experiences a developmental disability, please consider taking advantage of this unique opportunity. The Cohort is open to families across the Portland Metro Region and Southwest Washington, and is cross-disability opportunity. Visit the NWDSA website at www.nwdsa.org or call the Resourcefulness Center at 503-238-0522 for more information. Applications are available for download on the website.