Exceptional, according to the third definition in Merriam Webster, is “deviating from the norm.” Exceptional Children within our school community do that. We have kids with a wide range of physical differences; children with autism; kids who have learning differences like dyslexia, dyscalculia, or slow processing; kids with ADHD; and kids with intellectual disabilities. Learning differences alone account for approximately one third of the students in Georgia who fall under the 13 disability categories under special education law (Source: ncld.org/stateofld).
East Cobb puts a very high price on success. It’s woven into the fabric of our community, our schools, and attitudes. Parents of Exceptional Children (EC) experience success in very different ways than other parents. Sometimes the lives we lead can feel far removed from the typical hubbub of daily life: Special education school buses that arrive well before the break of dawn transporting children to schools outside their attendance zone for special programs; trips to specialists and tutors; finding social opportunities for both children and the family; not to mention developing and maintaining a relationship with the team at school that orchestrates Individual Educational Plans (IEP). It adds up to an experience within a school that can feel somewhat overwhelming and even oddly isolating in spite of a large student population. Parents of Exceptional Children, even when the kids are integrated into the general education setting, often have a need to connect with parents on a similar path.
As a part of the PTA programming, all schools within the East Cobb County Council of PTAs offer the opportunity for the PTAs to create an Exceptional Children’s Committee. Parents of Exceptional Children (ECs) are encouraged to participate within the PTA to foster awareness within the entire school of the Exceptional population. It can be as simple as taking a spot on the PTA school calendar to create content for an awareness bulletin board. Suggesting alternate programming for these kids to allow access to and derive pleasure from schoolwide events that might be a little overwhelming is another example. The East Cobb Council keeps track of best practices from committees at each of the 35 schools so that units can share and implement what works for their “village.” My elementary school, Sope Creek, offered an hour earlier admittance to the Octoberfest to our Exceptional community so that kids who would otherwise be overwhelmed by a large crowd could enjoy the attractions on their own terms. That’s just one example of creatively including Exceptional Children in an event “EC” parents might otherwise avoid.
As the incoming chair for the Exceptional Children Committee on the ECCC PTA board, I will be working to connect parents with their Exceptional Children Committees, help present opportunities for outreach and education with the Cobb Special Education Parent Mentors, and promote other avenues for parents of Exceptional Children to connect with each other and learn.