Mrs. Leah Steinberg, director of Agudath Israel's Project LEARN

Mrs. Leah Steinberg, director of Agudath Israel’s Project LEARN

On February 2nd and 3rd, parents in Brooklyn and Queens attended important workshops on special education. Hosted by Agudath Israel’s highly successful Project LEARN, the workshops featured a step-by-step, detailed explanation of the application process to obtain special education services. Parents were able to interact directly to members of the New York City’s Committee for Special Education (CSE), asking questions and clarifying options in seeking help for their children.

As Claire Donnellan, Deputy Executive Director of the Committees on Special Education (CSE), explained, these workshops were created to make the process of obtaining services less mysterious for parents, as well as to build communication and partnerships between the CSEs and families. Jennifer Lozano-Luna, CSE Chairperson, and Lynette Aqueron, Senior School Improvement Specialist for Special Education, guided parents through a slide presentation that addressed every aspect of the process for both preschool and school-age children. They then answered such questions as how long parents can expect each step to take.

The five steps of the process are: Referral, Consent for Evaluation, Evaluation, the CPSE (Committee on Preschool Special Education) or CSE Meeting, and the Annual Review or occasional Reevaluation. The presenters stressed that parental consent is essential for the process to move forward, and that by law, all evaluations must be completed within 60 calendar days from the time a parent gives consent. If the process has stalled, parents can always reach out to their CPSE or CSE Chairperson to investigate. Participants received a sheet with the names and phone numbers of local committee administrators. CSE Chairpersons Esther Morrell and Arlene Rosenstock stayed after the workshops to meet privately for one-on-one consultations. In the question and answer session at the end of the meeting, some participants expressed concern about delays they had experienced in finding service providers for their children once services were approved.

Parents appreciated the detailed explanation and the clarifications of often confusing terminology. “It was a good beginning,” one mother said, “just to get the background terminology so that when I proceed, I understand.” A service coordinator who attended added, “They really gave a clear description of who to contact for each issue, and where those issues may arise.” Many parents also were happy for the opportunity to meet directly with members of the Department of Education. “It was nice to have people to meet with, when you have problems,” said one mother. Another parent remarked, “Making the connection was more important to me than the lecture.”

Mrs. Leah Steinberg, Director of Project LEARN, remarked, “These workshops were a huge help to parents. I thank Bais Yaakov of Queens and Prospect Park Yeshiva for Girls for providing meeting space, and the Department of Education for sending so many professional presenters. There was a true spirit of collaboration in the room for the benefit of the children. I hope that this will be the first of many such workshops to help parents navigate the complex process of securing special education services for their children.”

(Author: Judith Dinowitz)