Friday, December 4, 2009

Workshop Recap: Understanding Psychological Learning Disability Testing

On Tuesday November 10th Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center held a workshop entitled “Understanding Psychological Testing: Getting the Most from Your Child’s Evaluation.” The workshop was conducted by Dr. Ed Petrofsky, a licensed psychologist who specializes in dyslexia / learning disability testing as well as assessments of behavioral and emotional concerns. Dr. Petrofsky covered the different types of psychological tests that are currently used and discussed the various components for each test. For information on upcoming workshops visit our calendar of events.


Sinergia Participates in Race to Deliver

Sinergia 's Day Habilitation and Up-Living Programs have but one mission: to assist individuals in improving their quality of life and integration into their community.  One of the more recent success stories we have is about the individuals who participated in the Race To Deliver, sponsored by God’s Love We Deliver, who are prominent figures in the program.  Frank, Sol, Vanessa Jay, Terri, Edith, Maria, Joseph and Michael have been active participants in activities that have improved their health and fitness. By joining the YMCA, Riverbank State Park and enjoying fitness walks in their community, they have improved their overall health and became motivated to participate in the 4-mile walk.

During the race, which was held in Central Park on Sunday, November 22nd, Sol was cheerful and kept greeting other marathoner’s and was determined to complete the race, which he did with a big smile on his face.  Frank, who in the past has been adamant about not leaving his residence, was free spirited and engaging during  the walk.  Once he got to the finish line he said, “I will do this again”.  Joseph and Michael kept a steady pace and were leaders among some of their peers and staff.  Terri, Vanessa and Edith walked a brisk walk and kept far ahead of their peers.  Maria and Jay, were stars among the group and completed the 4 mile walk with a smile on their faces.  Needless to say, the staff, coordinators and administrators of Sinergia are very proud of all the participants,  not only for completing the walk-a-thon but for also giving back to their community and helping others in need.

Peter Sartori
Up Living Assistant Coordinator, Sinergia

Workshop Recap: Behavior Management for Parents of Children with ADHD

On November 13th, Criando Nuestros Hijos, one of Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center (MPC) programs, hosted a workshop on Behavior Management Strategies for Parents of Children with ADHD. The presenter, Miriam Cusicanqui-Messoud, LMSW at St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital, provided an introductory parent skills training that focused on a methodology that emphasizes the liberal use of praise and rewards, having clear household rules and consistent follow through. Research supports the effectiveness of behavior therapy for parents and has shown that teaching parents these techniques is one of the best predictors of success in adulthood (See US News & World Report article "ADHD Medication: Can Your Child Go Without? Behavioral therapy for ADHD—and parent retraining, too—can be good alternatives to medication).

MPC parents receiving this type of therapy have reported incredible improvement in their child’s behavior and helped to maintain their child in a less restrictive environment.

For a full list of upcoming workshops visit Sinergia's calendar of events.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Workshop on housing for people with disabilities

Sinergia cordially invites you to:

 A workshop on housing options and services for people with disabilities

Learn how to get access to housing-related services, activities and programs including Supportive Housing, SRO’s, NYCHA, Section 8 and others. Get help ensuring compliance with local, state and federal housing laws, ordinances in various developments and new housing constructions.

Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Time: 11:00 am –1:00 pm
Location: Morningside Heights Public Library‘s Community Room, 2900 Broadway @113th Street
Train: 1 or B train to 110th Street
Bus: M11-Amsterdam Ave. or M104-Broadway
Contacts: Housing Advocates Michael Cortes & Maria Pabón, (212) 678-4700; email: mcortes at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Senate Bill Fights to Ban Use of "Mentally Retarded"

Rosa's Law Would Eliminate "Mental Retardation" and "Mentally Retarded" From the Federal Lexicon

The ongoing campaign to mainstream individuals with disabilities and reduce the stigma attached to outdated labels such as “mentally retarded”, “retarded”, and “retard” picked up some considerable support with the introduction of “Rosa’s Bill”.   U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) introduced to the Senate a bipartisan bill on November 17, 2009 that would eliminate the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" from the federal law books. U.S. Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is the Republican sponsor of the bill.

The bill is called "Rosa's Law", after a constituent of Sen. Mikulski's, a child diagnosed with an intellectual disability. The bill calls for the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" to be replaced with "intellectual disability" and "individual with an intellectual disability" in federal education, health and labor law. The bill does not expand or diminish services, rights or educational opportunities. It simply makes the federal law language consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the President of the United States, through his Committee on Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.  It was the family of 8 year-old Rosa Marcellino, including her 13 year-old brother and 12 and 10 year-old sisters, that provided the impetus for the law as they grew less and less tolerant of the language they heard even their friends use when speaking of Rosa.  The family started the movement locally by insisting that the words “mentally retarded” be removed from Rosa’s school documents.   The issue was then brought to the attention of a local Maryland politician who in turn brought it to the attention of Senator Mikulski.  Sinergia supports legislation such as this and looks forward to the day when all people are looked at as individuals first and foremost.

Photo: Del. Bob Costa, R-Deale, poses with Rosa Marcellino, 7 of Edgewater on the photo to the left, at a hearing for “Rosa’s Law” in the Maryland General Assembly in January 2009.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Workshop for Parents of Toddlers with Speech Delays

The NY City Council Autism Initiative at SINERGIA is holding a workshop entitled “Helping Mothers to Promote Their Child’s Communication Through Play,” on Tuesday Nov. 17, 2009 from 10am to 12noon.
This Parent-Child Center workshop seeks to inform parents of the possibility of transforming playtime into an opportunity to support children with language delays, at risk of developing autism, and/or children already diagnosed with pdd/autism, to develop their communication and social abilities.

Does your child take an interest in other children?

Does your child ever use his/her index finger to point, to indicate interest in something?

Does your child ever bring objects over to you (parent) to show you something?

Does your child ever imitate you (e.g. you make a face and your child imitates it?)

Does your child respond to his/her name when you call?

If you point at a toy across the room, does your child look at it?

If you answered "no" to several of these questions, you will benefit from the information provided in our workshop.

Date & Time:  Tuesday, November 17, 2009 from 10AM – 12Noon

Place:  Sinergia, 134 West 29 St., 4th Floor, between 6th and 7th Avenues

Transportation:  Subways # 1, N, Q, R, to 28th or 34th Streets

Contact: Call Gina Peña-Campodónico to confirm your attendance at 212-643-2840 x 305

Made possible with funds from The New York City Council.

Note: If you are interested, you may be eligible to participate in a in free Hunter College’s Communication and Play Lab Early Intervention study for parents with 16- to 30-month old children, using playtime to encourage a child's development. It will identify strengths and weaknesses in the the way a child communicates, and determine which techniques work best for the child.

The workshop was very successful as evidenced by the large turnout of parents who eagerly participated and had many questions and comments to share.  It was conducted by Michael Siller, Ph.D. an assistant professor of psychology at Hunter College (City University of New York). Dr. Siller studies the development of social and communication skills in young children. He is particularly interested in how parent-child play interactions contribute to the social, emotional, and communication development of young children with autism spectrum disorders. He directs the Communication and Play Lab at Hunter College. For pictures visit our Facebook page.

Friday, October 30, 2009

New housing options for individuals with disabilities

The Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities' (OMRDD) 2009 Fall Housing Conference was extremely informative as organizations such as NeighborWorks America, Concepts of Independence, Dunn Development Co., The New York Association on Independent Living, USDA Rural Development and many more gathered to discuss the type of housing services and care their organizations provides.

The focus of the conference was to unify the fragmented world of available housing services provided for individuals with disabilities. The housing divisions of all of these organizations are vital to the our community as many aspire to live a more independent life and ultimately attain their dream of homeownership. This dream can now become a reality through OMRDD's Home of Your Own (HOYO) program.

HOYO was created to not only assist our consumers in purchasing a home, but it is also designed to help income-eligible parents, legal guardians and direct support professionals that care for them to purchase a home as well.

The requirements of each classified individual vary in eligibility for the program, but some common requirements are that you must:

1)    Be a first time homebuyer
2)    Be a New York State resident
3)    Meet the designated income-eligibility requirements
4)    Complete a HUD-Certified First-Time Homebuyer training

One of the main benefits of HOYO is it allows you to open an Asset For Independence Individual Development Account (AFI/IDA). AFI is a federal grant program from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that finances a five year Individual Development Account (IDA). Through these accounts OMRD and AFI will match your rate of savings 1:4, so that every dollar you place into your IDA account will be matched four times over, up to the account's allotted maximum. The mortgages for these homes will be provided through the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA). SONYMA will finance 100% of these mortgages for a term of 30 to 40 years and have a fixed interest rate of 4%. There are currently 12 counties in New York where AFI/IDA accounts will be available. For more information contact Michael Cortes at (212) 678-4700 or mcortes at

Friday, October 16, 2009

The “We Are Parents Too” Quilt Project

This past summer Sinergia launched a quilt project aimed at parents who are disabled and unable to care for their children themselves. Entitled "We Are Parents Too", the project was created to allow participants to express themselves about their children and their parenthood. The idea for the project came from our Executive Director, Myrta Cuadra-Lash, and culminated in a collaborative effort between three of our divisions: the Parenting Training Program, the Residential Program, and the Day Habilitation Program.

The quilt has places for parents to put pictures of their children, and as the project progressed, it increasingly became a real creative expression and therapeutic experience for its 15 participants.

Once completed, we would like to welcome the public to come see and admire the quilt, which will decorate a prominent wall at the new Sinergia offices we'll be moving into by year’s end. Check back to see how it progresses!

Quilt Project Advisors: Isabel Malavet, Coordinator of the “We are Parents Too” Parenting Training Program; Carmen Mejia Boil, Recreation Therapist at Sinergia; and Maria Torres Bird, Expert Quilter and Sinergia Quality Assurance Director.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Moving your special needs child to another school

The fall season is associated with change. Summer ends and autumn begins, bringing with it the majestic change in the color of the leaves. But the biggest change in the fall is the return of our children to school. For most of us this means our children will go back to learning in a safe environment in the company of their friends and teachers whom they love and trust. Unfortunately, not all our children experience school in this manner. Many of our special needs children experience school differently because they encounter basic problems such as getting down five flights of stairs in a wheelchair, having appropriate support on the bus, and receiving the necessary services to ensure a successful school experience. As caretakers we act quickly when we’ve identified a problem and expect, as we should, a quick response from the school to remedy the issue(s).

Often times our response doesn’t come in a timely manner, if at all. Some of us have found creative ways to get schools to comply, while others become increasingly frustrated and resort to changing schools. Changing schools may be a good option and definitely something to consider. However, problems will be encountered with every school -- we know because we work with many schools in Manhattan and the Bronx -- and we need to find ways to make ourselves heard in our current school. This means identifying the problem and articulating it clearly and concisely to the responsible persons. If no results are obtained, make your way over to Sinergia and talk to an educational advocate who will help you present your concerns to the school's special education team. The advocate will even accompany you to a mediation session and/or an impartial hearing if necessary.

If changing schools is still the only option, speak to Sinergia well in advance of the change so we may help you prepare appropriately. Making such a change is difficult for you and your child and preparation is the key. Acquire information about the school by visiting and talking to parents about their experiences. Refrain from changing schools during the months of September and October as it will only complicate your situations. Not only will your current school be unprepared to help you make the transition, but the new school will not be prepared to accept you. Schools need time to adjust to their schedules coming out of summer break and a little patience on your side can go a long way. Evaluate your happiness level various times during the school year and if you’re ready to change schools, attend Sinergia’s “selecting your school” seminar which we offer on the month of August and let us help you through this difficult process.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Education Advocacy for Parents Workshop Series : Some changes in the sequence of workshops

The Education Advocacy for Parents Workshops will start on Tuesday October 2nd at 10 AM. Please note that there has been a change in the sequence of the workshops. Workshop #5 has been shifted from October 22nd to October the 20th and will look at the Dispute Resolution Process. We were able to obtain two wonderful and competent mediators, Michelle Kirschbaum and Lourdes Rivera-Putz, professional mediators from Safe Horizon. They will discuss what the mediation process is and how parents who are encountering problems obtaining, changing or improving services for their children can employ this strategy. This workshop will also look at the impartial hearing/resolution session as another option available to parents regarding dispute resolution.
Workshop #6 (the last workshop) will examine NYC Dept. of Education Discipline Policies and how they affect students with disabilities.
This session will also discuss how Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a Civil Rights law that prohibits discrimination of persons with disabilities in programs that receive federal funds. 504 Plans can be helpful for students who have a disability and do not meet the specific eligibility requirements under special education law—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Please refer to the education advocacy workshop series announcement posted in September in this blog for information about workshops 1-4.

2009 Summit for Family Engagement in Education

On September 23-23, 2009 a Summit for Family and Parent Engagement was held at the Marriott Hotel in Albany, NY. This event is a continuation of a series of dialogues that were initiated last year in Albany to address the issue and challenges of engaging families in their children’s education in New York State. The purpose of the conference was to hold dialogues with a variety of stakeholders on how to "create systemic change in effectively engaging families and communities in closing the achievement gap". The summit is also known as the “On the Same Page Summit for Family Engagement in Education.”

The achievement gap for children in Title I schools (schools that receive special federal funding because of the high numbers of students and families living in poverty) in New York State is well documented. The NYS Board of Regents outlines policies which require and support parent involvement as a way to help close that gap, as well as request schools and agencies to work together toward this end. Research supports parent involvement as an effective method in improving a child’s achievement record, and the Board has recently adopted policies and implementation plans that require more comprehensive collaborative efforts. One of the major goals of the Summit was to provide the Regents with recommendations as to how to implement this policy. To this end, Summit participants were placed into eight “Action Teams” in order to address specific areas outlined by the Board of Regents Policy Statement. The Action Teams were:

Higher Education and Professional Certification Programs
This action team discussed possible ways to prepare teachers, administrators, and school personnel to engage families, utilizing training and assessment incorporated into professional preparation and certification processes.

Professional Staff Development Opportunities
This team discussed the creation of family engagement training and development for parents, teachers, and administrators, exploring the link between parental involvement and student achievement, integrated training and best practices programming.

Family Engagement Assessment Tools
These team members considered options for assessing family engagement such as measures on School Report Cards, self-assessment rubrics for school-based teams, and surveys to gauge public sentiment.

Parent Involvement/Family Engagement Quality Indicators
This team explored ways to improve how family engagement is addressed in current review and intervention processes for schools in New York State, and considered how family and community feedback, cultural competence enhancement, and parent-to-parent outreach can be used in school improvement planning.

Engaging Diverse Families/Cultural Competence
Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center participated in dialogues regarding the importance of cultural competence in increasing family involvement. This team will examine definitions of diversity and cultural competence, ways to assess and lessen cultural gaps, and examples of strong cultural connections between homes, community, and school that impact student achievement.

Engaging the Social Welfare/Healthcare Community
The team worked to define potential partners within the social welfare and health care community who can help support engagement of non-traditional families, promote family engagement in education through inter-agency networks, and identify at-risk students in order to provide school outreach programming.

Promoting Partnership with Families of Children with Disabilities
The Metropolitan Parent Center also worked with participants from advocacy organizations to consider the definition of an expanded support mechanism based on collaboration of services and resources, development of standards for parent advocacy on behalf of children; and creation of collaborative online information sources for families of children with disabilities.

Engaging the Business Community
Team members looked at ways to encourage the business community to develop policies friendly to family involvement in education. They will also consider how the schools and businesses can communicate systematically and collaborate to enhance family engagement and to prepare students for the workplace.

The teams met over the two-day summit to discuss engagement issues and then reported their recommendations to the NYS Board of Regents and Summit participants. While the Summit is over, the work of the teams is not. Each group will engage in teleconferences to discuss next steps, review research and to start setting the stage for the next Parent Engagement Summit.

In a future post we will look at specific recommendations made by the Action Teams, please visit us again soon.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Free Informational Autism Workshops for Parents

We are happy to announce that as part of the City Council Autism Initiative, Sinergia’s Autism Project has been refunded. This program directs outreach and programming to parents of children with autism, in particular to Latino parents who are not yet able to communicate in English. It also addresses families living in poverty and those who may have limited access to information and services and lack knowledge of the service systems, and/or have limited or no knowledge of their children's educational rights or how to navigate the special education system.

The project provides simultaneous translation services at workshops for non-English speaking parents. Some workshops are now provided directly in Spanish to facilitate the learning and greater participation of Latino parents.

In order to increase outreach, and to meet the language and cultural needs of Latino parents as well as to offer a parent support group, the project has incorporated a series of Desayunos/Encuentros. This format provides parents a way to come together, learn, and share experiences and ideas in a more intimate and informal setting. The Encuentros offer parents the opportunity for clarification and reflection on information derived from previous workshops, and facilitates a dialogue with their peers.

Sinergia’s Autism Project will continue to bring parents together and help to create a network of support, which incorporates educational, scientific, art and service organizations. Collaboration with these entities will help parents to learn about services and resources and foster a greater understanding of how systems work and how parents can utilize services to benefit children and sustain their families.

Our project provides information and support for families of children with autism. Hopefully the entire network of the Autism Initiative will create greater awareness of autism and increase community understanding of the complexities and needs of children with autism and the challenges faced by their families.

The “Desayunos/Encuentros for Latinos” at the moment are scheduled at the end of every quarter. After the last one held on October 2nd, it has become clear that our families need them with more frequency, at least once per month. We will be looking for funding to increase the number of Breakfasts/Dialogues, so important for parents of children with autism in our community. Ideas and/or suggestions for funding this program are welcome.

Please call our coordinator Gina Pena at 212-643-2840 for upcoming training sessions or for any further information about the Autism Initiative.

Upcoming events:

September 24, 10am to 12:30pm
“Accessing Services and Programs for Children with Autism” (simultaneous translation to Spanish provided).

October 2, 10am to 1pm
“Desayuno/Encuentro with Spanish-speaking parents.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Help For Parents of Children Entering Preschool

Education Advocacy for Parents of Children with Disabilities - From Birth to Age Three
The Metropolitan Parent Center (MPC) is launching the Early Childhood Program designed to address matters of interest and concern to parents of young children from birth to age three. As a parent you may feel some anxiety if your baby, toddler or preschooler is experiencing developmental or other delays, and may need information and support. The MPC Early Childhood program is designed to help make sense of these concerns, and support parents in making appropriate decisions about their child’s development and learning.

On October 15, 2009, the MPC will offer a special presentation during the fourth session of our “Education Advocacy Workshop Series” focused around young children that will be entering preschool, a crucial time for decision making about children's services. This session will address what parents need to know and do in order for their child to experience a seamless transition. The workshop is called:

“Transitioning From Early Intervention Services to Preschool”

Please call Godfrey Rivera, Co-director of the Metropolitan Parent Center at (212) 643-2840, ext. 307 or e-mail at grivera at for further information or to register for the presentation.

Simultaneous interpretation (Spanish-English) is available upon request.

Date: October 15, 2009
Time: 10:00am to 1:00pm
Location: 134 West 29th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10001

Sinergia e-mail: information at Website:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Children with disabilities at higher risk for swine flu

As a follow up to our last post, there's a new report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) which found that children with disabilities are at higher risk of contacting the H1D1, or swine flu. According to this article from Disability Scoop, "of the 36 children who died from swine flu by early August, two-thirds had a chronic illness or developmental disability such as cerebral palsy, developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, respiratory troubles or cardiac problems."

And from "Swine flu risk higher for children with disabilities, CDC reports", here are some warning signs to look for:

-Fast breathing or trouble breathing

-Bluish or gray skin color

-Not drinking enough fluids

-Severe or persistent vomiting

-Not waking up or not interacting

-Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

-Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

But the good news is that only one shot shot is needed, which effectively doubles the supply of shots available, as reported in this video clip from Bloomberg:

So make sure you get all your family vaccinated this season!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tips For Staying Safe During Flu Season

Flu season will soon be upon us and we will need to be particularly careful due to the presence of the Swine Flu or H1N1 virus. The Swine Flu is now being called Novel H1N1 because it is a new flu virus that is causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus is unique in that it is a combination of flu virus strains that have been observed in pigs, birds and humans. This virus is spreading from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. The World Health Organization is classifying the novel H1N1 flu as a “pandemic” because it is a new virus strain that has never infected people before and also is affecting people on a global scale, spreading from one continent to another.

The symptoms of novel H1N1 flu virus in people include fever (over 100 degrees), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus. The effects of novel H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe and most people who have become ill with this new virus have recovered without requiring medical treatment About 70 percent of people who have been hospitalized with novel H1N1 virus have had one or more medical conditions previously recognized as placing them at “high risk” of serious seasonal flu-related complications. This includes pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease. Interestingly, the information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that novel H1N1 flu has caused greater complications in people younger than 25 years of age than older people. At this time, there are few cases and few deaths reported in people older than 64 years old, which is unusual when compared with regulas seasonal flu. So far, novel H1N1 appears to have the affects of seasonal influenza and the feared deadly impact has not been apparent.

What To Do
People infected with seasonal and novel H1N1 are contagious, and may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick 5 to 7 days after. This can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weakened immune systems and people infected with the new H1N1 virus. A person with novel H1N1 illness should be excluded from school, work, and related activities and should not go into the community, except to seek medical care, until they are symptom-free (no fever without fever control medications and feels well) for at least 24 hours. In order to protect yourself and to stay healthy, you should do the following:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners or hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol are also effective. Wash with soap and water with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice).

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

• Stay home if you get sick and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

By Godfrey Rivera

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sinergia is moving!

Sinergia is thrilled to announce that we will be moving to a new location in December 2009. Our new offices will be taking up two floors of a building being constructed at 2082 Lexington Ave., on the corner of 126th Street. This signifies the return of our agency to upper Manhattan, close to the people which Sinergia has historically served throughout the past three decades.

We now have the opportunity to consolidate our 902 Amsterdam Avenue office, which housed the residential and housing assistance programs, with our main office on 29th Street, where our administrative, fiscal, programmatic and day habilitation programs are found.

Our new location is easily accessible by Mass transit and is at the crossroads of East Harlem, the cradle of the Puerto Rican migration, and Central Harlem, which has played a historic role in the Black experience.

The space will include a state-of-the-art parent training and education center and will be an accommodating and welcoming place for visitors and workshop participants. If you would like to contribute to our capital campaign to help facilitate our relocation, please call us at 212-643-2840.

Education Advocacy for Parents Workshop Series

Sinergia is offering a comprehensive three-week workshop series to help parents understand their rights, learn about special education issues and learn how to navigate the special education system in New York City in order to be effective advocates for their children. Parents will be provided with information on a variety of issues relating to special education.

All workshops are offered twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 AM- 1 PM and are free of charge to parents of children with disabilities.

The following is a breakdown of the topics that are discussed:

I. Workshop One
A. Introduction and Overview of Series
B. What is an advocate: Role, Responsibilities and Ethics
C. IDEA and the Rights of Parents of Children with Disabilities: The Six Principles of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act
D. The New York City Special Education Structure: Offices and Personnel You Should Know

II. Workshop Two
A. The Continuum of Special Education Services
B. Special Education Services in New York City
C. The Special Education Process
1. Early Intervening Services, Response to Intervention and Prereferral Strategies
2. Child Find and Referral for Special Education services
3. Evaluation/Classification
-Purpose, Personnel, Roles and Responsibilities
-Understanding the Evaluation and Classification Process
-Disability Categories
4. Placement Issues

III. Workshop Three
A. The IEP Process
1. Components of the IEP
2. How to design a quality IEP: The parent as a member of the IEP team
3. How to prepare for an IEP meeting

IV. Workshop Four
A. Early Childhood: Birth to Three
1. Early Intervention and the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
2. Transition to Preschool and transition to kindergarten
3. Transition to Adulthood: Procedures and Services
B. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Law and Special Education

V. Workshop Five
A. NYCDOE Discipline Policies and Children in Special Education
B. Sec 504 Remedies
C. The Dispute Resolution Process- Part One: Filing a Complaint

VI. Workshop Six
A. The Dispute Resolution Process- Part Two
1. Mediation presentation by Michelle Kirschbaum from Safe Horizon
2. The Impartial Hearing and the Resolution Session
B. End of Series Celebration

Registration for this FREE workshop series is limited! Please call Godfrey Rivera at 212 643-2840, ext. 307 or e-mail at

To see the full calendar click here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

MPC Launches “Raising Our Children” Program

The Metropolitan Parent Center announces its new program, Raising Our Children. The goal of the program is to assist parents of children with disabilities whose children are experiencing behavioral difficulties at school. Advocates at Sinergia state this is an issue that is fast growing and is not being adequately addressed at many schools. In some cases, Schools are pushing students out of their schools for behavioral reasons without having conducted a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), a process that should take place before a student is considered for a more restrictive placement. Failure of schools to properly conduct a BIP stems in part from the lack of professional training in this area and their disconnection with community resources.

Under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students whose behavior impedes their or their classmate’s learning are eligible for support and services that will allow a student to benefit from instruction. Some inappropriate behaviors may include impulsivity, disruptiveness, anxiousness, or inattentiveness.

The Raising Our Children Program will assist parents by offering:

• Workshops on the causes of innapropriate understanding behavior, behavior management strategies, effective behavior interventions plans, and student’s special education rights
• Special education advocacy
• The shared experiences of other parents
• Connections to community resources
• Relationship-building between community resources, parents and their child’s school

If you have an experience in this area you would like to share, we would like to hear about it. For more information about Raising Our Children, please call (212)643-2840 ext 330.

Monday, July 27, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling for Parents of Special Ed Students

A U.S. Supreme Court Ruling You Should Know About
By Cassandra Archie

On Monday, June 22, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 that parents of special education students can seek public reimbursement for private school tuition. The ruling involved a case in Texas of a high school student with learning disabilities who was found not eligible by his school district for special education because the school district said his disorder did not affect his educational progress.
His parents placed him in a private residential school and sought reimbursement.
The school district thought for sure the 1997 amendment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, which prohibits reimbursement for students who never received special education services in public school, would be the deciding factor in this case.
But Justice John Paul Stevens who wrote for the majority said, “It would be strange for the act (IDEA) to provide a remedy, as all agree it does, where a school district offers a child inadequate special education services but to leave parents without relief in the more egregious situation in which the school district unreasonably denies a child access to such services altogether.”
Justice John Paul Stevens concluded “IDEA authorizes reimbursement for the cost of private special education services when a school district fails to provide a (free appropriate public education) and the private school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school.”

Is this ruling a victory for parents and students who are seeking private school placement, or a drain on public school special education dollars?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tape Recording IEP meetings

IEP meetings involve the private information of a student. Should parents be permitted to record their child's IEP meeting? What role should the IEP team have in permitting/not permitting the parent's recording of an IEP meeting?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Parent Involvement in their Children's Schools

It has been known for many years that families have a major influence on their children’s achievement in school and through life. When schools actively support families to be involved at home and at school, students of all backgrounds achieve at higher levels. Studies find that when parents have a sense of confidence and power, their children do better in school. When parents are involved in education, children do better in school, and schools get better.
There are many practices that help empower families, and it is not known by many that these practices are actually required by the the federal No Child Left Behind law. Some of these practices include:

•Engaging families in planning how they would like to be involved at school. Parents have a voice in determining school policies and practices;
•Procedures that make it easy for parents to meet and discuss concerns with the principal, talk to teachers and guidance counselors, and examine their children's school records;
•Schools offering workshops for families on child development and communicating with their children. Parents can suggest topics, such as talking with children about drugs, dating, problems with friends or family, and values.

When parents are engaged with the school, they feel empowered to change and control their circumstances, and their children tend to do better in school. When schools work with families to develop their connections, families become powerful allies of the school.

However, the reality regarding some New York City schools may be quite different for many families and parents as they try to engage the schools their children attend. Too often they encounter problems and barriers as they attempt to get involved. Sometimes even the act of trying to get into the school building proves to be difficult.

What are some of your stories concerning how you get involved in your child's school?
Does the school support your involvement or create challenges?
What are some of your ideas for improving communications with school officials and teachers?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Persistently Dangerous Schools and Safety Transfers

What can you do if your child attends a school that’s considered “persistently dangerous”?

Since 2003 the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to identify “persistently dangerous” schools. It also allows parents of transfer students that attend these schools. In general, if a student becomes a victim of a violent crime, parents can request safety transfers through their borough's enrollment office. In cases where the child attends a special education program, a safety transfer can be obtained through the Committee on Special Education (CSE) office which collaborates with the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Student Enrollment Planning and Operations (OSEPO). The list of "persistently dangerous schools" is made available to parents through the NY State Department of Education (click here to view the word document). Parents also receive a notification from the State Education Commissioner.

Does this mean that only students who are victims of crimes can request transfers?

It is the general understanding that unless the parent has made a police report or the school has generated an incident report, the student would not be awarded a transfer for safety reasons. But why wait until an incident occurs? For many parents and advocates it makes sense that these student be granted a transfer when requested and not necessarily after an incident had occurred. The State Education Department releases the list of "persistently dangerous schools" late in August which gives parents little time to request transfers.

How is this related to Special Education?

Children in special education programs are the most affected by crimes and insecurity in schools. The “persistently dangerous” list generated for the 2008-09 school years includes thirteen District 75 schools (specialized schools for children with disabilities).

What are your choices?

If your child’s school appears in the list of “persistently dangerous” schools you have the right to request a transfer under NCLB. You can also reject a placement offer based on these criteria. For more information you can visit the NY State United Teachers info page.

By: Yesenia Estrella

Metropolitan Parent Center @ Sinergia

Friday, June 19, 2009

The 6th Annual Sinergia Family Picnic will be held from 12:00 to 3:00 on Friday, July 10, 2009 on the west side of Central Park at 66th St (just across the street behind the Tavern on the Green restaurant). This event is held each year to celebrate summer with the families that we serve. Families and freinds are most welcome to attend and there is no admission. So, if you would like to come enjoy some games, gifts for the kids, food and fun for all, please call 212-643-2840 for more information or to confirm your attendance. Here's a link to view the flyer.

Welcome to La Esquinita/L'il Corner!

Welcome to La Esquinita, Sinergia's blog! We are a community-based non-profit organization that's here to help parents of children with disabilities.
We offer workshops and special events. We're going to be having a picnic in Central Park for the families that use our services and this will be next month in July. We're hoping for a great weather!
We have a special program for parents of children with autism that offer great information and opportunities that you will just great! We want parents to know about autism, what it is, how it affects children and how to obtain effective services and supports.
This blog is about you and for you. We'll have parents having lively conversations, sharing opinions and ideas. In this blog you will find topics like autism and other disabilities

So visit our website, check out our calendar and give us a call to get more information!