It’s essential for parents of children with disabilities to understand the process of obtaining an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that meets their child’s needs. That’s why Thomas Rosa, the chapter leader at PS 751, the Manhattan School for Career Development, a District 75 school in the East Village, came up with the idea of a virtual resource fair, which was held in May.
“The IEP process can be arduous for some parents,” said Rosa, who is the dean of students. He knows Black and Latino students are overrepresented in special education. Arming parents with information about other academic and social supports for students could help them better advocate for their child’s needs and rights.
Rosa, who became a member of Manhattan Community Board 3 two years ago, had long sought a way to better advocate for children with disabilities. “I became a voice on the board for special education students,” Rosa said. As a board member, he went through community engagement training to better accomplish his goals.
The resource fair focused on informing parents how to navigate the IEP process. It featured a panel of experts and advocates, including members from the local Community Education Council (CEC), to answer questions. UFT representatives were also on hand. “Now they can contact the CEC and other agencies directly,” Rosa said. “We pointed them in the right direction.”
His colleagues praised Rosa’s advocacy.
“This kind of effort is important and valuable to continue,” said Jeannette Montolio, a school psychologist who was a panelist at the fair, where questions ranged from identifying dyslexia to student transportation.
Montolio said Rosa’s energy made it happen. “He’s very enthusiastic, and it’s contagious,” she said. “His energy is positive and productive, and it’s nice to be around it.”
Paraprofessional Paula Thomas, the chapter leader at P4@PS179 in Queens and another panel member, said the fair forged a stronger parent community. “The connections made on the spot were phenomenal,” she said. “Thomas created a platform and environment where parents can get together and not feel alone.”