The newest library resource for parents and teachers of special-education students is down in the basement of the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s main office, which was a maze of boxes and storage until May.
Now, the lower level hosts offices and a cozy Parent Resource Center that has books about learning disabilities, the Individualized Education Program process and special-education research.
It officially opened in June, but the district is trying to find the right staff member — someone bilingual working part-time to help people navigate the library — and funding for it, district spokeswoman Barbara Keyani said.
Parent and dyslexia awareness advocate Cherie Rae meets with people during appointments for now, but the district wants to have it open for a few hours every day.
The district is also adding some iPads, and there is a section meant for general education teachers who want to learn more about including special-education students in their classes.
All of the materials have been donated, with some from the Dyslexia Awareness Resource Center when Joan and Les Esposito retired in 2012, and from Santa Barbara City College and the Special Needs Project after the center opened.
“There are no schools just for kids with learning disabilities in Santa Barbara County, so it makes it even more important to provide resources,” Rae said.
For parents, there are books and movies about parenting, social issues, ADHD, dyslexia, assistive technology, the juvenile justice system and personal stories of people who have succeeded with their learning disabilities.
Rae and the district are doing outreach to parent groups about the new resource, and they hope to hold workshops, movie screenings and maybe even a book club at the center.
More and more children’s and young-adult books have characters with learning disabilities, too, and the resource center has Percy Jackson and Hank Zipzer novels for kids to check out.
Over the summer, a mother came in with her 12-year-old daughter who saw the book All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome and immediately sat down to read it. When she finished, she said, “This is me,” Rae said.
“Her mom and I started crying,” she said. “She was just so self-aware and the book made it OK.”
The center also has books and resources about colleges best for students with learning differences, transition and entering the workplace, Rae said.
Communicating with parents and providing resources for them is a major part of the Special Education Department’s FCMAT report recommendations, which delivered harsh criticism of the district.
Special-education department leaders have been working on the many deficiencies cited in the report since 2009, and more than half of the recommendations have been implemented, Superintendent Dave Cash has said.
In a report to the board in June, Director Helen Rodriguez said the department’s efforts are focused on improving all forms of education and developing training for staff, teachers, administrators and parents.