Conference focuses on special needs

Glendale Unified superintendent, senator and assemblymen due to attend.

May 13, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

The Community Advisory Committee of the Foothill branch of the California Special Education Local Plan Areas will host a free conference Saturday aimed at parents, educators, support staff and caregivers dealing with special education.

The event will be from 8 a.m. to noon at La Cañada High School and will feature exhibitor tables and educational sessions. The sessions will cover topics such as special education rights for parents and students, social skill development for special-needs children and supporting special-needs students as they transition from school to the adult world.

The conference’s keynote speaker will be special education parent Dr. Michael Escalante, superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District. State Sen. Carol Liu and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino are also expected to attend.


Foothill SELPA comprises the Glendale, Burbank and La Cañada unified school districts, serving about 4,500 students. It is headquartered at an annex at College View School in Glendale. The organization supports each school district’s special education program so they can draw on the resources and professional expertise of the other, based on their geographical location.

“La Cañada is a small district, so they may not have enough students who are visually impaired,” said Foothill SELPA Director Sunita Batra. “So then you join hands with your neighboring districts and you start regionalized programs.”

SELPA, created by the California Department of Education in 1977, comprises 120 similar organizations throughout the state and offers services and programs for all special-needs students, including training for staff and parents.

The Community Advisory Committee is the advisory wing of SELPA, and deals with parent education, recruiting parents and volunteers for various special education activities and administrative duties.

SELPA administrative assistant Suzan Dunbar said parents of special-needs students appreciate the annual conference and regularly ask her how soon the next one will be held.

“They just really love it,” Dunbar said.

The biggest goal Batra has for parents attending the conference, which is themed “Parent/Professional Collaboration,” is that they receive ample information during the educational sessions. And she hopes parents will put that information to use.

“It’s not just us, [the parents] also need to work with [their] child of special needs,” Batra said. “If we are giving information we’re hoping that they’ll use all of this information. If school staff is using those interventions, if home parents use those same interventions, it’s going to make a difference.”

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