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When I first became the Special Education Chair (now Specialist) I thought that there would be a lot of SEPTA units throughout the state. Before my kids graduated, I had been involved in my local SEPTA and just assumed that everyone else would be to. Boy was I was surprised to find that it wasn’t the case. But then I stepped back and decided to look at the bigger picture. I was asked so often “Why SEPTA?” that I developed a workshop about it. So why SEPTA? Let me list just a few reasons.

SEPTA is a place for families to seek out opportunities to meet others who are in similar circumstances. SEPTA provides organizational structure, resources and the opportunity to be a collective voice not only for their child but for all children. But the most important reason is that special education families (siblings and extended families as well) have needs that are unique. They need to learn how to work with the special education teachers and other specialist who educate their children. They need to understand the system of special education and their rights under the law. They need to understand how issues such as Common Core and lack of a valuable/attainable diploma will impact their children. But most of all, families need to have a safe place where they can linger and talk. They need to connect to a community that understands them and their kids and want to support them fully. Parents and educators need to be able to exchange information and support each other on the many problems our kids face. SEPTAs are special because they allow us to celebrate our diversity. Some of my best friends came from my involvement in SEPTA. In SEPTA, we are all different and come to the table with different needs as well as talents. SEPTA can be a place where students who experience difficulties in the classroom can learn leadership skills by becoming involved. Talk about a win-win situation.

Special Education students are among the most vulnerable and need people to speak up for them. Too often changes occur because nobody spoke up or didn’t know how. Our kids are facing unique challenges that will impact their ability to be successful. There are questions to be asked and our kids need to have a voice at that table. Parents, teachers, administrators and all those concerned about the education of children need to be vigilant and keep updated on the possible changes so that we can advocate for what is important for children’s’ education. It is really easy to do. Seek out your local SEPTA or if there is none in your area consider starting one. Reach out to your region or contact me. Together we can make a difference for all the student of New York. So the next time someone asks “Why SEPTA?” My answer is “Why not SEPTA

Joyce Cattani,

Special Education Specialist

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