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Special ed workshop unites, educates parents

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW Parents and educators of children with special needs met the evening of Nov. 29 to attend a Basic Rights Workshop, hosted by Julie Sinclair of The Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) at Birchland Park Middle School.

Parents and educators from the Longmeadow, East Longmeadow and Hampden-Wilbraham school districts came together for the workshop.

"This is the first time we've had a joint meeting," Kelly Phillips, president of the East Longmeadow Parent Advisory Council and special education teacher, said. "I'm very excited."

"Many parents don't know about their basic rights," Sinclair told Reminder Publications after the workshop. "Schools usually send out a small tri-fold pamphlet once a year. Parents understand there's something there, but don't really grasp the full realm of it."

The FCSN is an agency that's been working for more than 30 years "for parents who want more than to just have their special education students in a school building," Sinclair explained.

Trying to get the best for a child with special needs can be very difficult at times, however.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm playing a board game without knowing the rules," Sinclair, who's also a mother of a child with special needs, said. The "Basic Rights and Beyond" presentation she hosted late last month had a goal of teaching parents those rules.

"We want parents to find out what the special education laws and processes are so they can ask powerful questions," Sinclair said. "A lot of this can be like a foreign language to families. It's really a journey."

Her workshop included a slideshow and a 25-page packet of information for parents to keep for future use. Staying informed and active are two ways parents can make sure their children get the education they deserve.

"Parents who are active in their kid's education result in smarter children with more social skills," Sinclair said. "The most important thing is learning, no matter what environment they're in."

She added, "Parents are the most resilient and the most creative people I know." When parents are involved, basic rights information and implementation may become a bit easier.

"Family networking is really important," Sinclair added.

Sinclair is available for speaking engagements to share information with families free of charge. She said anyone can make a request.

To contact Sinclair, email her at

Visit for more information about The Federation for Children with Special Needs.