PSP (Parents and Schools in Partnership)
RMDSA is the leader for Down syndrome awareness and education for the state of Colorado (and parts of the Rocky Mountain Region). With a rich history of providing services and programs to those living in Colorado with Down syndrome that extends more than three decades, RMDSA has long been recognized as the organization that new/expectant parents, as well as health care professionals look to for information related to Down syndrome. By providing years of quality services, RMDSA has become recognized as the "go to" organization for most issues related to Down syndrome for the Colorado community. Through the years, it has been brought to the attention of the staff that educational services/resources for students with Down syndrome in the state are an area of not only great importance, but great concern for parents and teachers alike. In response to this need, RMDSA has actively sought out and researched various programs or services from across the nation that might benefit the students and educators here in Colorado. The result of this work has led RMDSA to a program designed and developed by the Down Syndrome Guild of Kansas City: Parents and Schools in Partnership (PSP).
This program addresses the needs of the educators as they strive to better serve students with Down syndrome. Parents and educators have similar concerns, common goals, objectives, and many of these require the same resources in order to be achieved. This program will empower classroom educators to best serve those students with Down syndrome. By acting as a conduit between teachers and parents the Down syndrome Specialists will be in a position to alleviate unnecessary calls from parents while at the same time, acting in the child's best interest at a given school. The goal being that RMDSA is a resource to these teachers and Specialists in the least intrusive manner. As more teachers are entering the field for the first time in history we hope that this program helps new teachers understand that they are supported by their school district along with the community at large.
The PSP program looks to directly address these issues. By educating the educators and giving school districts the resources and tools that they need to be successful it has been proven that parents and teachers can work together to provide the best education possible for students with Down syndrome. It has also shown that the sometimes contentious nature of this relationship (parents and educators) can be turned into one of collaboration and support that will ultimately, ensure the academic success of students with Down syndrome. In 2005 Blackorby, et al. "…found that students with disabilities who spend more time in general education classrooms are absent less, perform closer to grade level than their peers in pull-out settings, and have higher achievement test scores." As recently as 2004 federal legislation has supported this claim as well stating (from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004): "nearly 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations and ensuring student's access in the general education curriculum to the maximum extent possible… [and] providing appropriate special education and related services and aides and supports in the regular classroom to such children, whenever possible." (20 U.S.C. 14000(c)(5))
Down Syndrome Specialist
Each participating school district, with the assistance of RMDSA, will identify and assign a Down syndrome Specialist(s) for that district. RMDSA will help the districts understand and solicit those within the district with the skills and qualifications required to be an effective Specialist within that district. Where necessary (due to numbers of students), more than one Specialists may be assigned to a district. In such cases RMDSA will work with the districts to identify multiple candidates for these positions.
Specifically a Down syndrome Specialist will be a school district employee who agrees to volunteer their time to be a liaison between the RMDSA and their district. SPED directors will select qualified staff who are willing to volunteer to fill these positions. It is estimated that this will require 10 hours of work per month of release time from each specialist. Specialists in other cities that are currently running the PSP program are serving in these roles within their districts:
Nurse, school counselor, principal, SPED teacher, general Ed teacher, therapist, diagnostician, student placement personnel, and others.
It is not recommended that the specialist be a parent of a child with Down syndrome as this may cause a conflict of interest and undermine the neutrality of the specialist.
RMDSA is seeking $7,500 ($5,000 of which is already committed) to implement this program. The costs of the program include, but are not limited to:
RMDSA Staff time
complimentary registration to conferences and related materials
Down syndrome Specialists breakfasts
Specialists meetings (set expectations, trainings, etc.)
Flash-drives for specialist documents
The benefits of the program as seen by other affiliate organizations that are currently implementing the program have included the following results:
Increased attendance by educators at educational seminars
Increased number of volunteers from school districts
Increased fundraising and donations from educators
Increased referrals of families by school districts
Increased visibility for affiliate groups in the community
High level of trust between affiliate groups and school districts
School districts naming multiple Down syndrome Specialists
Districts consulting with affiliates on inclusion policies and educator trainings
Increased ability to avoid litigation through consultation
The benefits to participating school districts include:
Increased capacity to effectively serve and include students with Down syndrome in the least restrictive educational environment
Increased opportunities to attend trainings, suggest articles, and provide feedback on areas that the affiliate organization can help train parents
Resource manuals with accurate/updated information for educator use
Free registration to education conferences led by nationally respected speakers in their fields
Access to individualized consultation for districts
Quarterly breakfasts with specialists to obtain feedback and resources
All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent.
-- John F. Kennedy