Wantagh SEPTA (Supportive Education Parent Teacher Association) is a district-wide (K-12) PTA that addresses the issues of students whose learning needs may be different than the general population, including those that require the support of special education or related services (Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy/Speech/Resource Room/504/Reading or Math Support). SEPTA provides resources and information as well as a forum for all parents to share their concerns. We support one another through shared experiences and are constantly learning how to navigate the world of obstacles and detours associated with having a child with special needs. Most importantly, we strive to sensitize the Wantagh community to the needs of children who are differently-abled and aim for an inclusive environment where all children and their families feel welcomed and supported.
Back in 2010, as I was leaning on the chain link fence at Wantagh Elementary School’s playground hoping someone would ask my kindergartner to play, a parent tapped me on the shoulder asking me if I would consider joining the SEPTA Board. Little did I know the significance of that gesture and how it would change the trajectory of my involvement as a parent in the Wantagh School District and more specifically, the SEPTA organization. SEPTA was for all intents and purposes, on the brink of extinction. The needs of our children were overlooked, unheard or non-existent. That school year, there was something quite special about the particular cohort of parents whose children were in the ICT (Integrated Co-Teaching) class. We came together to establish a voice for the students with special needs and their families. Each year, we worked extremely hard to cultivate a respectful and productive relationship with administration to enhance and preserve the programs and services provided to our children.
Much of what we do happens behind the scenes, through advocacy and awareness. Throughout the 12 years I have been on the SEPTA Board, I have seen a positive progression in the district’s perception and appreciation of the importance and value that SEPTA has in the schools and community. These extraordinary efforts have resulted in significant changes to our programs, staffing, inclusivity and awareness. Our fundraising efforts support our senior scholarships, teacher grants, guest speakers, family events and more. However our job is never done – there is no finish line. We must always have our finger on the pulse of special education services to ensure that our programs continue to support our students’ needs. This requires parental involvement. By becoming involved in SEPTA, you not only ensure the strength and effectiveness of the organization, but you are welcomed into a community of fellow parents ready to listen, guide and support you. While this journey of being a parent of a child with special needs is not an easy one, it does not have to be a lonely one. So please consider this article my tap on your shoulder, inviting you to become involved. Whether it is joining the SEPTA Board, attending our meetings, participating in our events or helping out where you can; your involvement is essential to the future of our organization.
The article was contributed by Elizabeth Beatty, who is the Co-President of Wantagh SEPTA.