Archives for posts with tag: amherst

Sorry for the late notice but The Basic Rights Workshop has been changed to 10/29/13 at Amherst Regional Middle school in the Professional Development Room. It will be from 6:45pm to 9:00pm. more information will be posted on the website:

Tonight SEPAC will address the School Committee regarding the proposed move of the AIMS program for students with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder.  Once again, SEPAC fights for transparency, and the option for parents to have a well-informed voice regarding changes and decisions made within the special education program.

Talking about the proposed move only to the individuals directly connected is insufficient, because many parents are unaware of their options or rights.  Administration has an obligation to do what is best for students, but administration cannot cleave itself from its other obligation:  the bottom line.  Therefore, discussing the AIMS move solely with those parents directly involved not only eliminates the voice of parents whose students may be in AIMS in the future, it also leaves the current parents in a situation where their chief information is coming from someone with multiple, potentially conflicting obligations.

Maybe SEPAC would agree with administration’s decisions, maybe not; this is not the point.  What SEPAC wants once again is transparency.  Constituents of SEPAC are the parents of all special education students, and just like regular education students, we want to be heard, and to support each other in any decisions regarding the education of our children.

The following letter was co-drafted by multiple SEPAC families, some of whom have children in the Aims program.  It will be read to the School Committee tonight.  We welcome your responses.

Loving WildwoodMay 8, 2012

Good Evening and thank you for this opportunity to speak tonight on behalf of SEPAC,

 I am Melissa Paciulli, Co-President of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council for the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District. I am before you tonight to address recent concerns brought to me from several parents of Special Education Students currently in the AIMS program housed at Wildwood.

Some of you may be knowledgeable about this program, currently housed at the Wildwood Elementary School; but for those of you who are not I will read the description of this program from the Amherst School site: 

 The Academic Individualized Mainstream Support (AIMS) Program – is specialized programming for students who have a high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder or other neurological conditions with pragmatic language, executive functioning, socialization and sensory regulation difficulties. These programs offer individualized, comprehensive, and intensive intervention to address these areas.

 The District currently has an AIMS program at Wildwood Elementary, Amherst Regional Middle School, and the Amherst Regional High School.

 These students are our vulnerable population and should be treated with equal respect as other students in the District. An April notification was issued to the parents of these students that the Program will be moved to Fort River. This decision was made without consultation with the children’s families, SEPAC or to the best of knowledge the School Committee.

 Without the opportunity to discuss this, the District has provided a solution to the overcrowded schools resulting from the re-districting, by moving the autism support program, out of their present environment school and into another.

 Children in this program with an autism spectrum disorder, struggle in social relationships, transitions, and often, academic performance. Children on the higher range of the autism spectrum, currently served by the AIMS program at Wildwood school, are much more likely than their peers to be socially isolated, socially ostracized and find it difficult making new friends. For our children on the spectrum, served in Amherst by AIMS, the risks are much greater. As a result, they face a greater incidence of depression and attempted suicide than their peers. A mid-elementary school move is challenging for all children and reduces academic, social and mental health outcomes.

 Children in the AIMS program at Wildwood have struggled hard to find a sense of security and community at Wildwood. They are now being told for now clear reason, aside from their difference, that they must move. For the children whose disability is subtle, the move, taken in a year no one else is moving, discloses their disability without their consent. It is disconcerting that a program based on inclusion would do clearly segment these children from their community.

In addition, Fort River is home to the Building Blocks program for children with mental health challenges. This has raised another set of concerns. Some parents of children with these needs are worried that their classroom teachers will be overwhelmed by two included, yet often behaviorally challenged groups of students.

 As recent School Committee decisions have led to the overcrowding at Wildwood, we would ask that you please look very closely at this decision and reconsider this move that has the immense potential to impact our vulnerable student population.

Thank you for your time – 

It is critical to keep communication going between administration and SEPAC; it is especially pressing that we discuss the AIMS (Academic Individualized Mainstream Support) program potential move from Wildwood to Fort River in Amherst. Many parents are deeply concerned about this,  alarmed at how the special education students of Wildwood have been singled out to compensate for the reorganization of the district elementary schools. SEPAC is hearing from concerned parents that this reorganization was done without parent consent or discussion. Any information on why this move, for the most vulnerable of student populations, is being initiated would be helpful to the Community. SEPAC Co-President, Melissa Paciulli, will represent concerned parents tonight in a statement to the School Committee. As always, your support is welcome.

How has your experience been with special education?

Click here to let us know your thoughts about special education. Your opinions are important to us!

As many of you know, roughly 1.5 years ago the Amherst Special Education Department underwent two reviews from outside agencies. The PCG and CPI survey and analysis identified strengths and areas of improvement for the District.

The PCG Report provided an analysis of the Special Education services as well as how parents were feeling about the process and their respective involvement. This report looked at many things, and SEPAC reviewed this in detail providing the Amherst Regional School Committee with feedback on areas that we felt strongly reflected the parents we were hearing from in the Special Education Community. The other report, the CPI report looked at the use of restraints within the district as well as techniques and training surrounding de-escalation and restraints and also provided some useful insight into this process. SEPAC will continue to advocate and monitor the findings in these reports and continue to provide parent feedback regarding both positive and negative experiences from parental perspectives regarding Special Education services here in the District.

We want to hear from you about your experience to date since these reviews were conducted. Please take a minute to provide feedback to SEPAC and follow this link to a TWO minute survey. This is not intended to replicate the previous evaluations, but provide a mechanism to families that we can monitor and evaluate and thereby provide parental input into systemic changes in special education within the District.

Please take a minute and tell us your thoughts !

Thank you, Melissa Paciulli SEPAC Co-President

In January of 2011, a teen with disabilities came forward in South Hadley, alleging that she continues to be bullied in school.  Since the tragic death of Phoebe Prince, this high school student with Asperger Syndrome claims that little has changed in the culture of her school in regard to bullying.  We at the ARPS SEPAC are acutely aware that children within the special education system are more often victims and perpetrators of bullying than their general education peers; rates are even higher for special education students in self-contained classrooms compared to those in inclusion settings (Rose, et al., 2009).  We at SEPAC applaud the ARPS Anti-Bullying Task Force for their acknowledgement of this, and to their sensitivity to the needs of special education students.

The following points concerning special education students were pulled from the 2010 ARPS  Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan:

  • We understand that members of certain student groups, such as students with disabilities, students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and homeless students may be more vulnerable to becoming targets of bullying, harassment, or teasing.  The school or district will take specific steps to create a safe, supportive environment for vulnerable populations in the school community, and provide all students with the skills, knowledge, and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing  (p. 8).
  • Professional development will also address ways to prevent and to respond to the needs of students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and students with Section 504 plans, especially for students whose disabilities affect the development of social skills  (p. 10).
  •  As required by M.G.L. c. 71B, § 3, as amended by Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010, when the IEP Team determines the student has a disability that affects social skills development or the student may participate in or is vulnerable to bullying, harassment, or teasing because of his/her disability, the Team will consider what should be included in the IEP to develop the student’s skills and proficiencies to avoid and respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing  (p. 11).