2018-07-06 / Front Page

EFMP to host support group

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office

As summer vacation winds down, parents across the Central Savannah River Area will be preparing to send their children back to school next month.

For most families, that means getting a jumpstart on shopping for school supplies, getting back into a sleep routine, and discussing a before and afterschool game plan.

For families with special needs, preparing for school is typically more complex.

The Fort Gordon Exceptional Family Member Program will host a Parent Information Exchange/ Support Group on Aug. 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Family Outreach Center.

The main purpose of the event is to help prepare caregivers and their children for the school year by educating them on resources available to them.

“With school starting back, it can be overwhelming with a special needs child, especially when parents are new to the area and are just confused,” said Dr. Barbara Brown, EFMP manager.

The target audience is those who have children with an Individualized Education Program, 504 Plan, or Response to Intervention; students who are transitioning from middle school to high school or from high school to college, families with special needs who have recently relocated to the area, and anyone with concerns regarding schooling.

Several experts and agencies will be presenting information and ready to answer questions.

Pamela Rachal, EFMP specialist, said one of the most common challenges exceptional family members encounter when returning to school is transferring their child’s IEP or 504 Plan. Rachal has met countless panicked parents over the years due to a lost IEP at the beginning of the school year.

“A lot of times it will fall through the cracks when they just take it to the school and they give it to a guidance counselor or receptionist, but in actuality it may not go anywhere,” Rachal said. “Parents need to go to the school board office so they have a copy.”

Rachal recommends that families bring a copy of their plan to EFMP so she can scan it and send to the appropriate county.

Along with resources, there are laws in place that protect and promote student learning many parents do not know about.

The BRIDGE ( Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy) Act, House Bill 400, is one example.

Signed into law in May 2010, the BRIDGE Act mandates all middle and high school students receive career counseling and regularly scheduled advisement to choose a focused plan of study.

It also mandates that students choose a career field, create an Individual Graduation Plan, and graduate high school prepared for higher education or to enter the workforce.

“There’s stuff in place, but unless somebody actually looks and investigates, they don’t know, and then we have to tell the school,” Rachal said. “I honestly believe that they want to help, but it’s just that they haven’t trained all their people, which is why they’re doing a lot of training now.”

Another lesser-known benefit for EFM’s in high school is they may be eligible to receive waivers for college applications and the ACT/SAT exams. Also important to note is they can receive special accommodations when test taking.

“By having this support group and bringing the key players together, that is the time to find out what is available and what should you be doing,” Brown said. “And as (Rachal) stated, those laws are in place for those things to be taking place, and parents are not aware of what is available to them.”

The Parent Information Exchange/Support Group is open to all military ID cardholders. Childcare will not be available, but there will be on-site supervised table activities for children.

The FOC is located at 33512 Rice Drive, behind Woodworth Consolidated Library.

For more information, call (706) 791-1918/4872.

Upcoming EFMP events

• July 21, 7 to 9 p.m. – Exceptional Family Members Family Pool Party

• July 21, July 28, and Aug. 11, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. – 2018 School Screening

Oct. 23, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Information and Awareness Fair

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