Parent Mentors Assist Cobb’s Families of Children with Special Needs.
Who can I talk to about something I don’t understand in my child’s IEP? What can I do if my child possibly needs a new accommodation? How can I help my child transition to a new school? Can my child with an IEP go to college when he graduates? Are there any classes or summer camps my child can attend?
These are just a sampling of questions fielded on a weekly basis by CCSD’s Special Education Parent Mentors Stacy Greene and Antoinette Nichols, who are available by both telephone and email. As mothers of students with disabilities themselves, the pair bring a unique perspective to their conversations with these parents as they can identify with their concerns because of having “been there, done that.” Even during these unprecedented times, the mentors are here to offer support and guidance to Cobb’s families.
Designed to help parents navigate the special education process, the parent mentor program is a collaboration between the school district and the Georgia Department of Education. Stacy and Antoinette help fulfill the Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership’s mission by helping “to build effective family, school and community partnerships that lead to greater achievement for students, especially those with disabilities.”
Just how can a parent mentor help you or someone you know who is a parent of a student receiving special education services? “We start by lending a listening ear,” says Stacy. “Oftentimes, parents just need to talk with someone who understands their concerns. We let parents know we have experienced similar challenges and that our goal is to get them connected to appropriate staff or to resources within both district and community.”
Stacy and Antoinette have a combined experience of 26 years and counting of navigating special education, thanks to having sons on the autism spectrum. Both boys began their journeys in CCSD’s Special Needs Preschool after transitioning from Georgia’s Babies Can’t Wait program; each has received a variety of services ranging from therapies to specialized support within their classrooms. The mentors’ personal experiences guide their conversations with parents, but they also expand their knowledge through these interactions – further educating them to best serve fellow parents.
But parent mentoring goes far beyond just speaking with parents of students with disabilities – it extends to hosting workshops, special events like the Community Connections Resource Fair, and new town hall-style P.E.P. (Parents Engaging Parents) Talks. “We manage a robust program schedule so that parents have the opportunity to learn about the IEP process and Cobb’s special education services,” says Antoinette. “Our ‘take it to the people’ P.E.P. Talks this year let us connect with parents outside of a more formal workshop setting.”
Central to the mentors’ efforts is providing resources to parents through either CCSD or an organization offering support or services within the greater community. Parents can find a wealth of information at www.cobbk12.org/specialeducationparentmentors; the website is updated frequently with vital information on a wide variety of topics, as well as a calendar of parent mentor programs and events. Utilizing social media outlets, the parent mentors keep families updated – check out their posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Stacy Greene and Antoinette Nichols
Special Education Parent Mentors