A Voice for Every Child Jen Lugo VP Communications Wiley Middle School PTA
hile Wiley PTA President Anna Smith attended the 85th session of the Texas Legislature to advocate for her own children with special needs, she saw an essential ally in Texas PTA for the fight for inclusion. She realized that PTA is more than fundraising and school dances. It could help ensure that all children feel included at school. 23% of the students at Wiley Middle School in Leander ISD are enrolled in the special education program. After Anna spoke with other parents who are advocates for inclusion, it was decided that a solution-based approach was needed at our school. What resulted was the formation of an Inclusion Committee within Wiley PTA. “The Inclusion Committee of the Wiley Middle School PTA provides an exciting venue for parents and the school district to work together; share information and resources; and create an on-going dialogue about issues relating to students with learning differences and disabilities,” said Wiley PTA President Anna Smith. “The committee is not a separate special education entity (SEPTA), but rather a part of the PTA. It will address the needs of a broad range of students, not just those with an IEP, and increase acceptance and inclusion of students with learning differences in our school community.”
The first meeting of the Inclusion Committee was held this past January and has had three meetings since. This committee has a wide range of goals, including: To provide information and support to parents of children with special needs, so that they can help their children maximize their potential; To work as a team with the school to assist in most effectively helping children with special needs; To provide information to all parents and community members about children with special needs, so that they can understand and support all children; To help all children understand and appreciate challenges faced by children with special needs; To work legislatively to secure and retain adequate laws (funding for them) for children with special needs. “Parents of children with special education need to know what services are available to them and exactly how the schools can help their children learn to their fullest potential,” said Tara, a parent at Wiley Middle School. “I don’t feel we had the information we needed back when our kids were in elementary school to help us advocate for them. I’m hoping that this group will help us.” At the most recent meeting, there was a great exchange of ideas and support among all who attended, including Wiley teachers, special education staff, parents, the principal, and an Executive Board member from the PTA Council.