As a parent to a child with developmental disabilities I’ve experienced firsthand how the world can feel polarizing. We’re not just facing the enormities of parenting in general; we are also facing what feels like a million different pieces to a puzzle that I’m fairly sure will never be completed.
We’re very early thrown into a world most of us know extraordinarily little about: specialists, therapists, state services, and then eventually, we get that IEP. The IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a whole new game.
This is not a sponsored post, but simply one mom sharing a hidden gem resource for other moms who may be feeling overwhelmed at navigating the never-ending options for her child’s needs.
First things first…what’s the power of an IEP?
Children with developmental disabilities have individualized needs to enable their education goals and these vary significantly from child to child. The schools are responsible to meet each need specified on the IEP. When this works, it is wonderful.
Personally, we have experienced nothing but the best in the public school system with our daughter who has spent her educational years in a self-contained classroom. Yet I know this is not the case for everyone.
Many families feel their child’s needs are not being met or want to know they have other options. The school options available to a neurotypical child are plenty. When you are raising a child with developmental disabilities that does not feel to be the case.
I want you to know there are options. There are local options here in our backyards.
If your public school isn’t working for you
I had the wonderful opportunity to virtually visit ACCEL’s Tempe campus recently and interview one of their incredible teachers, Laura Borkovec.
ACCEL School Services provide students ages 5-22 with appropriate academic, behavioral, therapeutic, and vocational programs to maximize skills and increase independence.
The campus also offers an adult program that provides lifelong education and employment training for individuals over the age of 18 who have developmental disabilities. The support provided includes assessments, development of individualized skill acquisition programs, problem behavior identification and reduction, parent and family training consultations, and social groups.
As students age, they must start preparing for the post-school world and ACCEL has a bridge program that works with the families as they transition to either the ACCEL adult work program or another suitable option for that individual. Parents are not alone trying to figure out the next steps once school years have been completed.
A passion from the professionals
I learned so much about ACCEL with my virtual tour and a phone interview with Laura. I was pleasantly surprised to learn the class sizes were small with a teacher (and paraprofessional) to student ratio of 2:1.
The staff appeared to be supportive, compassionate and a safe place for children who need extra support to have their education in an appropriate learning environment.
Laura was an incredible source of information who shared a little about her background that led her to be a teacher at ACCEL. As a sister to 13 siblings, some with special needs she knew at the age of 12, in her heart, she would be in the special education field.
She shared how she plans each day with structure, but knows her day can end up differently than it started. “I don’t rush my kids’ individual time,” she shared as she explained she needs to be prepared for her students processing time. Many tasks cannot be rushed and with ACCEL they can use their time how the students need it to be successful.
The campus felt warm and safe and from all the professionals I spoke to that work at ACCEL they all had the same sense of joy from their job. They have a passion for their students. They feel lucky to serve a community of worthy individuals and there was a comfort for me knowing a place like ACCEL is here for a community of individuals that deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
In-classroom therapy services
Another huge positive to ACCEL is the in-classroom therapy services. They have on-campus a physical, occupational, speech, and music therapist as well as a behavioral specialist and a visiting vision teacher. Having these therapists on campus gives the students who receive these services more individualized care and often more time personally with their therapist.
On my East Valley campus virtual tour, I saw the garden the students use to cook food from, the adaptive playground with equipment that works with the children’s physical needs. I was able to see their huge workshop where the students make all kinds of quality items, teaching them so many skills that come with hands-on experience.
Again, this is not a sponsored post, but simply one mom sharing a hidden gem resource for other moms who may be feeling overwhelmed at navigating the never-ending options for their child’s needs.
If you’d like to take a virtual tour, here’s a link!