Friday, February 12 , 2016, 11:28 am | Fair 67º

New Center Serves as Resource for Parents, Teachers of Special-Ed Students

Library offers books, videos and other materials as part of the Santa Barbara school district's efforts to meet FCMAT recommendations

Parent and dyslexia awareness advocate Cherie Rae has helped get the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s new Parent Resource Center off the ground.
Parent and dyslexia awareness advocate Cherie Rae has helped get the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s new Parent Resource Center off the ground.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

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.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 08.27.13 @ 10:45 PM

Will they have resources about what to do with your child when he’s done with high school? College opportunities, job, transitions - that sort of thing.

» on 08.28.13 @ 08:47 AM

Thank you for covering this story! This resource center and much more is needed to help parents of children with disabilities navigate the system and get the support their kids need.

AlexandraFunFit, transitional services are supposed to be provided when a student with an IEP is in high school. Discussion of the transition plan should happen every year at the annual IEP meeting.

» on 08.30.13 @ 06:04 AM

What wonderful progress.  Cherie Rae is continuing the mission of Joan and Les Esposito to have resources and information available to parents, teachers, and students. May this center thrive!

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