Our partners at the Bureau of Early Intervention Services recently sent out a letter to families of children with significant disabilities who are transitioning to kindergarten. Here is some more information about why your family received the letter and what the Include Me program offers.  Text from letter is at bottom of page.   Feel free to call (717-234-2621) or e-mail us (ahouser@thearcpa.org) if you have any further questions.

Why you received the letter:

This letter went out to parents and guardians across Pennsylvania who have children with disabilities who are transitioning from preschool to kindergarten. Usually Include Me works with children who have the most complex needs including Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy. This letter and consent form were sent to let you know about the Include Me program.

Note: This letter was sent out by the Bureau of Early Intervention Services. We at The Arc of PA do not have any of your family’s contact or personal information. If you believe you received this letter in error, please contact the Bureau and let them know.

What is Include Me?:

Include Me works in schools across Pennsylvania, in grades kindergarten through 12th, to help students with disabilities be included and learn in regular education classrooms. Include Me helps students with complex needs increase the amount of time they spend with their peers in regular education settings.

Include Me does not offer support for students who are educated only in special education classrooms. The program does work with special education and regular education teachers to help students with disabilities spend more time in regular education settings.

Include Me is a free, non-profit program offered by The Arc of Pennsylvania and the Department of Education. Include Me works in schools and districts that volunteer to work with the program.

What the program does:

Include Me consultants provide support in the classroom by giving educators advice on what kinds of changes would help a student with complex needs. Since every student is different, the type of advice consultants offer varies—it might be seating modifications, or changing the curriculum, or ways to work towards IEP (individualized education plans) goals. Include Me consultants are in the classroom each week, usually for two hours with each student they are working with.

Include Me consultants also offer advice and workshop opportunities for parents, on topics like writing IEP’s and getting assistive technology for their children.

What happens if you send in the consent form:

If you are interested in the program for this child, the parent or legal guardian of this child should sign the consent form and mail it in.

Sending in the consent form does not mean you are signing up for the Include Me program; it just lets the Department of Education know you are interested. The Include Me program gets to offer support in school districts based on how much parent interest there is, so if you are at all interested in the program we would suggest sending the letter in.

If something changes and you no longer want to receive support from Include Me that is fine! You do not have to work with program, even if Include Me gets to work in your district in the 2014-2015 school year.  It is a completely voluntary program.

Include Me will know which school districts it will be supporting in late June of 2014, and you will be contacted by phone or letter to let you know if the Include Me program is available in your area.

If it is past the deadline to mail the consent form:

Please still mail the consent form in if you are interested in the Include Me program!

Here is the text of the letter that was sent out.

January 27, 2014

Dear Parent:

The Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education has partnered with The Arc of Pennsylvania (The Arc) to provide a program called Include Me From The Start for children with significant disabilities in Pennsylvania.  An important step in identifying schools to participate in the program involves contacting the parents/families of these children.

You have received this letter because you are the parent/family of a child in our Early Intervention program who may be attending kindergarten or first grade next year.  The purpose of the letter is to provide you with information about this exciting project and to see if you are interested in having your child’s educational team, of which you play an important role, participate in the project.

School districts and schools will be selected based upon the positive response of parents/families and their participation in the project.  Once schools and students are selected, Include Me From The Start Consultants will work with student teams, including parents, school district personnel to identify and provide the supports and services necessary to enable each participating student to be educated in a regular education classroom.  The goal of the program is to assist you and your child’s educational team in creating a general education classroom environment for your child and participate with his/her peers to the fullest extent possible throughout their school day.

The Arc is a non-governmental agency contracted to administer the program.  Their work will be guided and closely monitored by the Bureau of Special Education.  Your willingness to have your child’s team participate in the Include Me From The Start program requires you to provide permission to the Bureau of Early Intervention Services to release information to The Arc staff involved in the program. The Arc has no information about your child until the consent form has been completed and the district is selected. If you have received the letter in error, please email: ra-ocdintervention@pa.gov at the Bureau of Early Intervention Services.

Given limitations on resources, not all parents who give permission for information to be released will have their child’s team included in the project.  The Arc will follow-up with families whose child’s team was not selected to provide additional information and resources.  Although your team may not be selected as a full participant, The Arc looks forward to training as many parents/families as possible in preparing them to assist their children throughout their school years.

To indicate your interest in having your child’s team participate in the Include Me From The Start program, please complete the enclosed release of information form and return in the self-addressed envelope no later than February 10, 2014.  You may contact Rita Cheskiewicz, Director, Include Me From The Start, 570-822-4369, or 1-877-337-1970; or email ritac@includemepa.org with any additional questions about the project.

Sincerely.

James E. Coyle, Ed.D., Director

Bureau of Early Intervention Services

 

Enclosure

Include Me Program Participation Letters Sent Out

2 thoughts on “Include Me Program Participation Letters Sent Out

  • March 9, 2014 at 11:36 am
    Permalink

    Is there any way that children in second and third grade could participate in the program?

    Reply
    • March 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm
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      Hi Cheryl,

      Thank you for the question! The Include Me School Age program covers grades k-12 based on the districts that we are serving for the given year. As much as we wish we could get to every district in Pennsylvania we simply do not have the resources to do that yet. We go to districts based on our available resources and by which district has the greatest interest and participants. If we end up going to your district we will notify the guardians of students with developmental and intellectual disabilities within that district later this year. If your children are not in one of those districts by no means are you barred from inclusive opportunities. There are many people willing to help work with you on inclusion for students. I’d start by contacting your local county Arc chapter as they will have the most knowledge and resources for you and your school district.

      Reply

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