Services and Resources For Families

I am the parent of a child with special needs. Because he is my first and oldest child, I was quite unfamiliar with issues surrounding children with diagnoses, as well how to help my child obtain the help which he needed. Between the ages of six months and four-and-a-half years, my son was enrolled in a total of seven schools, and he left five of those facilities due to behavioral challenges. We received frequent verbal and written complaints from teachers about his behaviors and, and most of the Center Directors expressed concerns about their staff being unprepared and unequipped to handle his challenges. My husband I felt a great deal of frustration and disappointment as each school seemed to give up and request that we withdraw him. It also often felt isolating because, although we saw the many gifts of our wonderfully spirited son, we kept sensing that he was being mislabeled as a “problem child” which schools did not want to deal with.

As all of this was transpiring, we were also just being introduced to the idea of service providers and learning about what types of supports were available to him. Because this was a new process for us, it took us a little longer to navigate the process of scheduling evaluations, obtaining diagnoses, and requesting supportive services. Much of what we were finding out was simply by word of mouth from his medical provider, childcare providers, and other parents. While we were able to secure some services fairly quickly, there were others which were not in place until more than a year after his initial diagnosis, and by this time, he had already been transferred several times.

Despite the fact that he has always been and extremely bright and friendly individual, my husband and I continued upon what felt like an uphill battle to find my son an adequate and accepting environment to meet his learning and developmental needs.

During the time that my son was enrolled in his seventh and last preschool, we were still experiencing challenges. It was at this point that a relative connected us to a Parent Advocate from the Pennsylvania Education for All Coalition (P.E.A.C.). She listened to our story, and she took the time to educate us about the educational rights which our son was entitled to. She made herself available on countless occasions via telephone, e-mail, and in person to respond to our inquiries and address our concerns. She even attended school planning meetings with us, so that she could support us as we worked to advocate for our son and his right to an education in an inclusive setting. She also provided us with many resources and referred us to other individuals and organizations to help us obtain additional support as was needed. Most importantly, as the mother of a child with special needs, she was empathetic and provided us with a tremendous amount of compassion and encouragement. She has been incredibly helpful to us and our son, and she has helped to transform our journey into one that was less isolating and more productive.

I am pleased to share that our son has successfully completed Kindergarten and is now preparing for First Grade! I am also grateful that we have remained in touch with our Parent Advocate, and we still reach out to her for advice and direction. My husband and I are truly humbled by what both our Parent Advocate and P.E.A.C. have done for our son and for us as parents, and it is an absolute honor and pleasure for me to support the work of this amazing organization.

Lauren K. Tankersly