Thursday, August 15, 2013

Facts about Bullying

Bullying has many faces and consequences and it’s difficult to define it. However, if you wanted a basic definition, this one developed by a well-known bullying expert is helpful: “Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself and is repeated over time.” Here are few interesting points about bullying:

•  While we may be familiar of how commonplace bullying is in our in our schools and playgrounds, bullying is also now being found in social media websites such as Face book, Twitter and in texting.  This is known as cyber bullying (or online bullying) and uses the Internet, computers, smart phones and I Pads to cause harm. Cyber bullying can be especially difficult on individuals with special needs because many of them use the Internet as a major form of communication and interaction with others and where they can feel just like their friends, unless someone decides to bully them;

• Children who are bullied are more likely than their peers to suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress, and they are at heightened risk of suicide;

• Children who bully are more likely than others to experience peer rejection, anxiety disorders and academic difficulties;

• Children who both bully and are targets of bullies (known as “bully/victims”) who, unable to control their anger and frustration at being bullied, turn to bullying others and tend to have all of the problems of the bully and the victim plus are at greater risk for psychiatric disorders and criminal offenses in young adulthood.

Although anyone could be bullied, the targets are often children who are perceived as being different or vulnerable in some way, including kids who are sick or have special needs. It is clear that children with disabilities are especially vulnerable to bullying. This is shown by numerous studies, including one that found that up to 94 percent of students with disabilities report experiencing some form of bullying. Bullying has increased for students with disabilities as more are included in classes with non-disabled students. For instance, students with disabilities may demonstrate a lack of social awareness that makes them vulnerable to bullying.

The Metropolitan Parent Center of Sinergia will be addressing these and other issues at our annual anti-bullying event that will take place on Wednesday October 2, 2013 from 10AM-1PM. October is also National Bullying Prevention month so please check our website for further details about this event.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs


Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor
Jeff Wise, Executive Director

OPWDD and the Implementation of the - New York State Justice Center on June 30th, 2013-

June 30, 2013 is the date when the implementation of the new New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs began. The June 30th date marked the culmination of a process spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature of legislation creating the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs (Justice Center) last year in May 2012. Following a series of articles in the New York Times, exposing abusive behavior from some direct care staff from state agencies serving individuals with disabilities that went unpunished; the 2012 Protection of People with Special Needs Act(PPSNA) legislation represents the Governor’s initiative directed at transforming how the state protects over one million New Yorkers with disabilities in state-operated, certified, or licensed facilities and programs. This new law, the 2012 Protection of People with Special needs Act, (PPSNA), establishes a set of uniform standards to be implemented by the Justice Center for the protection of people receiving services from facilities and programs that are certified and/or operated by a number of state agencies, (including OPWDD and other state agencies like Department of Health(DOH), Department of Education(DOE) and Office of Mental Health(OMH). These agencies are all required to develop and enforce regulations in accordance with the applicable statutes.

OPWDD provides services directly and through a network of approximately 700 non-profit service providing agencies, with about 20 per cent provided by OPWDD state-run services and 80 per cent of services provided by a network of 700 private non-profits serving individuals in programs sponsored by OPWDD. Our agency, Sinergia Inc. forms part of this non-profit network of agencies and for many years has participated in incident management regulations through our Incident Review Committee in conformance to OPWDDs previous incident management guidelines. However, the new incident managent procedures established by the newly created Justice Center are not only autonomous from OPWDD and its network of non-profit agencies but will have real legal authority to investigate all significant incidents involving people with special needs. It’s Special Prosecutor/Inspector General has the authority to prosecute allegations that rise to the level of criminal offenses;

What are the responsibilities of the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs? The Justice Center created in legislation known as the “Protection of People with Special Needs Act” establishes the strongest standards and practices in the nation for protecting people with special needs. It serves both as a law enforcement agency and as an advocate for people with special needs. The Justice Center’s responsibilities include:

· Advocating on behalf of people with special needs and overseeing the quality of care they receive; · Operating a 24/7 Hotline which receives reports of allegations of abuse, neglect and significant incidents. Reports are made by service providers and others who are “mandated reporters” as well as by any individual who witnesses or suspects the abuse or neglect of a person with special needs;

· Ensuring that all allegations of abuse and neglect are fully investigated while maintaining a comprehensive statewide database that tracks cases until they are resolved and allows the Justice Center to monitor trends and develop abuse prevention initiatives.

· Previously to the implementation of the Justice Center, there were incident management review procedures for OPWDD and its network of nonprofit agencies to investigate and manage abusive situations experienced by individuals served by an agency, whether they were state or non profit agency operated. However, the Justice Center not only will function autonomously from OPWDD, DOH, DOE , OMH or other agencies functioning under its statuses, but the Justice Center has legal authority to investigate all significant incidents involving people with special needs. Its Special Prosecutor/Inspector General has the authority to prosecute allegations that rise to the level of criminal offenses

· Beginning on June 30, 2013, the Justice Center will maintain a “Staff Exclusion List” of individuals found responsible for the serious abuse or neglect of a person with special needs. Anyone entered into this statewide register is prohibited from ever working again with people with special needs in New York State.

It should be mentioned that OPWDD has been working with the Justice Center to develop regulations and procedures necessary to implement provisions of the 2012 Protection of People with Special Needs Act (PPSNA mentioned above. While this work is still underway, OPWDD has been updating their nonprofit network of agencies like our agency, Sinergia, Inc., with information delivered in the form of informational presentations, webinars as well as video presentations in the different regions this summer. Based on the latter updates and information received this summer; our agency has embarked in the process to update our incident management procedures , staff trainings and employee hiring procedures to deliver information and training to be in compliance with the PPSNA and new OPWDD regulations that were implemented on June 30, 2013.

For more detailed information on the Justice Center you can access it’s website at:

Support Group for Spanish-speaking Latino Males

The Metropolitan Parent Center and the Fathers Forum of NY, a men only support group for males who are raising children with special needs have entered into a partnership to create a support group for Spanish-speaking Latino males. The group had its first meeting Wednesday evening on April 3, 2013. Latino fathers were welcome to attend so they can share their stories regarding what it is like to raise a child with special needs.  

They  spoke of unique challenges which they had to confront including the lack of support from family and the struggle to get and keep jobs in order to try to address the needs of their children. They spoke of feeling loneliness and isolation because they were living in communities that were less than supportive with no connection to a support system. However, their stories were not just about struggles, frustration and despair. They shared wonderful and illuminating observations such as how they learned about patience, compassion, and acceptance and expressed their relationships with their children as being something precious.  

This unique support group offers Latino males with the occasion to get together with other males and to share their stories, challenges and their dreams and hopes for their children.
This support group will present fathers and other males with an opportunity to create and grow a community of Latino Fathers who will then reach out to other men who are raising children with special needs and invite them to join this unique group. This is an important objective because it is vitally important for males who have children with special needs to become more involved in the lives of their children. The next meeting will be taking place in the fall of 2013.  

You can visit the Sinergia website, and click on the calendar for the announcement regarding the date of the next meeting.

Back-to-School Tips and the Common Core

Back-to-School Tips and the Common Core

The new school year starts on Monday September 9th for New York City students. Getting off to a good start can influence children’s attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically. Here are a few suggestions to help promote a successful school experience.
It’s important to know the people who will work with your child during the school year. Try to introduce yourself to your child’s teachers, paras, school secretary, pupil accounting secretary, the principal and assistant principal Make sure you have their full names and titles, their telephone numbers and location in the school (room numbers) and an understanding of their roles and responsibilities. In addition, there are a number of important documents that you should either have or request. These include the school’s discipline code and your child’s most recent individualized education plan (IEP,) When dealing with school officials, teachers and service providers, it’s important to document, document, document!  Write things down, keep a record of phone conversations, and establish a “Paper Trail. Also become informed about your child’s special needs affects their behavior and their ability to learn in the classroom and at home.

You should have a conversation with your child’s teachers and tell them about your child’s interests, fears, health concerns, etc. The best way to support your child’s needs is to build and maintain a strong, positive relationship with all the people at school who play a role in educating your child. Now is the time to nurture alliances with teachers, support staff, parents, students and others who impact you and your child.

Parents should also note that this is the second year that the Department of Education is carrying out the Common Core Learning Standards or the Common Core. These are national standards for teaching reading and math designed to a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. The Common Core focuses on testing students from the third grade through high school; while students in kindergarten through second grade will not be tested, the Common Core will also affect them. Because the Common Core has more challenging expectations, many students who take these new tests will encounter great difficulty in achieving a passing score. Parents should be aware of this situation and be prepared to lend greater support to their children.

2013 IDEA Leadership Conference


MPC  Co-Directors Attend The 2013 IDEA Leadership Conference

On July 29 – 31, Cassandra Archie and Godfrey River, Co-Directors of the Metropolitan Parent Center, attended the 2013 IDEA Leadership Conference held at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  The goal of the conference was to support better outcomes for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families by providing opportunities for key leaders and partners to interact with Department staff and OSEP-funded technical assistance providers. 
The two and half day conference provided many opportunities to hear from experts in the field and to learn about evidence-based practices that will support our work with families to improve results for their infants, toddlers, children and youth. 

The two and half day conference provided many opportunities to hear from experts in the field and to learn about evidence-based practices that will support our work with families to improve results for their infants, toddlers, children and youth. 

Cassandra Archie – MPC Co-Director with Michael Yudin Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) - U.S Department of Education, provide opening remarks highlighting the values of inclusion, equity, and opportunity as they relate to improving results and outcomes for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities, and the importance of working with Parent Centers to achieve these values.

All means all, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the audience and said “Children with disabilities are a part of, not separate from, the general education population,”

One of Duncan’s priorities is Preschool for All plan. Duncan said that through the plan “we have an opportunity to give every child in America an equal chance to succeed.”

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has a long, successful history of ensuring that infants, toddlers and preschoolers with disabilities have access to early education services. We will use what we have learned from those programs as we move forward in supporting the development of high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds.

Currently, of the nearly 746,000 preschool children served in IDEA-funded preschool programs, about 35 percent are in segregated settings. We want to see all children participating fully in quality, inclusive programs.

Duncan said that the Preschool for All proposal will result in more inclusive early education options for preschoolers with disabilities. This increase in options will help to identify children with disabilities earlier, giving them a strong start.

Reception on The Hill
MPC Co-Directors, Cassandra Archie and Godfrey Rivera with Joyce Brown – Education Staff from Representative Charles B. Rangel’s office.

On Tuesday, after the conference, there was a reception on the Hill honoring the parents of the 6.9 million children with disabilities.  We shared information with Joyce Brown about the work the MPC is doing and the families we serve in Manhattan. During the reception Senator Tom Harkin was honored for his tireless work on behalf of families of children with disabilities.