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PALS February 2020 - PALS Officer Vacancy, Polar Plunge, 504 Plan, Accommodations, Stress/Anxiety

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

PALS Meeting Minutes

February 26, 2020 9:15 a.m.

Roots of Faith

800 Main Street Pittsburgh, PA 15215

Open Forum

Open Forum is an opportunity for participants to come together and discuss a variety of topics, offer resources, and ask questions related to special education. Today's meeting is a great example of how we can help each other through sharing our questions and experiences with one another.


Did you know that PALS: Parent Advocates for Learning Support has been helping our community for nearly 20 years? Yes! TWENTY YEARS! As a parent driven non-profit organization, PALS supports the community through the gracious volunteering of people passionate about helping children and their families. In order to continue to support our community we need help. We need people, we need your time, we need your passion! We are currently seeking to fill a number of positions, starting with that of President. As President of PALS, this volunteer will be a member of the community who has experience (at any level) with advocating for a member of their family with differing abilities. The President is asked to be the face of PALS within the community while sharing the responsibilities of obtaining guest speakers, preparing for meetings, and running meetings. Sharing is the key word in that last sentence. We understand everyone is busy with little time to give. With shared responsibility the time spent and commitment is not as overwhelming as first thought. Please consider giving your time to this wonderful organization that has helped so many families and looks to continue well into the future. Please send us an e-mail today!

Polar Plunge

The Best Buddies Team at Fox Chapel Area High School are coming together to participate in The Pittsburgh Polar Plunge on February 28th at Heinz Field. This event raises funds and awareness for Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA).  Cool Schools plungers commit to “Freezin’ for a Reason” and raise a minimum of $35 to jump on into icy waters. Funds raised from the plunge support the nearly 20,000 athletes that participate in Special Olympics activities across the state of Pennsylvania.

For more information and to make a donation to any student or school, visit 2020 Pittsburgh Polar Plunge - Cool Schools.

Adjusting Homework

A parent with a student receiving modifications under a 504 Plan posed the question, who decides what the modifications are? In this case the modification is adjusting the amount of homework. The question is WHO is deciding the amount of homework? Currently the teacher is sending home the same amount of homework for the student as all other students, leaving the parent to determine the actual amount the student will complete.

The best possible solution is to discuss the concerns with the teacher directly. In this case the parent believes the teacher is a better judgment on which items within the homework should be completed by that particular student. The parent feels the teacher has better and the most up-to-date data to determine which items of homework the student needs to complete.

Here are a few articles addressing the topic of adjusting the amount of homework for students for a variety of reasons. Even if the reason doesn't fit your family's situation, the information may help point you in a direction you think might work:

Accommodations & Assistance

A few years back we had a conversation about recent high school graduates feeling lost and short changed after graduation. They graduated thinking they had successfully fulfilled their requirements to receive a high school diploma and therefore were ready to enroll in college. However, many found themselves struggling or flunking out of college within the first semester. This lead to stress, anxiety, and in some cases depression. For students who had spent their entire education receiving As and Bs to be faced with the inability to even follow along in a college classroom was devastating. (see our April 2017meeting minutes)

Today we circled back around to this question as it relates to the amount of assistance provided to students receiving accommodations by special education teachers at all grade levels. One parent addressed the concern over hearing middle school teachers remark on "previous (elementary) teachers doing a disservice to students", "preferring special education teachers or support other support professionals are not in the classroom so that students can do the work on their own", or "preferring that a student stay in their classroom to complete an assessment instead of going to the special education classroom".

The first thought upon hearing such remarks is, "What about the student's IEP? SDIs? The school is not adhering to the IEP!" The situation is not one where the general education teacher does not want to follow the student's IEP. Rather the teacher's intention is to support the student in doing the work the teacher knows the student is capable of doing on their own. This reminded us of that April 2017 meeting and the question becomes how does a parent address concerns over too much assistance? How does a parent figure out what is really going on in the general education classroom, the special education/resource classroom, before school and after school assistance programs? In education there are many paths that require a parent to read-between-the-lines, and this is one. In this instance the general education teacher is trying to do right by the student, but it is highly likely that so is the special education teacher. How do you walk the fine line of tactfully inquiring about how the work is really getting done and who is really doing it without stepping on toes or getting anyone unintentionally in trouble?

The solution? Flat out asking the teachers and the student. The question then is will they answer honestly? Google searches on the topic did not provide any results on the specific topic. The closest was this April 2012 article/survey from AND the comments following it: Teachers weigh-in: Do we over accommodate? Join the debate...

Student Anxiety & Stress

We briefly spoke about stress, anxiety, and panic attacks in children as they relate to attending school. A parent is working toward getting their child to attend school, however the child suffers from anxiety and the parent cannot get the child to school. The family has tried homeschooling and homebound instruction, but what they really want is for their student to attend school.

Every family's situation is different and what works for one may not work for another, but by sharing our experiences we may come across an idea we haven't tried yet. In this case a fellow parent shared how they started in steps. Their scenario went from getting their student out of pajamas and into school clothes, to carrying the student down the stairs and to the car (screaming), to getting the student from the car and into the school. Of course this all sounds simple, but it was a process, multi-layered and happening over a period of time, not in a day or a week. Even-though the student now attends school regularly, their concern still exists.

Here are few articles on the topics of stress, anxiety, and the panic attacks plaguing school age children and ways adults may help:

For more information about Pennsylvania's attendance requirements as it relates to Homebound Instruction visit PDE's Homebound Instruction webpage.

For more information about Pennsylvania's Homeschool Instruction policies visit PDE's Home Education and Private Tutoring webpage. You may also be interested in visiting the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency (PHAA)

Concerned about absenteeism? Here is more information about Pennsylvania's attendance requirements vist PDE's Guidelines for Reporting Regular Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism

Reference Material

Need information regarding the rights to special education in Pennsylvania? The Education Law Center’s “A Guide for Parents and Advocates” is a great start.

Next Meeting: March 25, 2020 9:15 a.m. Market District Café Atrium 910 Freeport Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15215 currently scheduled as an Open Forum.

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