HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — 6-year-old Bowie has autism. 3-year-old Gabrielle is one of only 30 kids in Connecticut with Angelman Syndrome and 6-year-old Ruairi also has autism. They are three amazing kids with three super moms who are leading the way and uniting other parents in similar situations.
“My son was struggling in his classroom and needed a quiet space,” said Venezia Michalsen, Bowie’s mom.
Venezia founded the Hamden Special Education PTA, also known as SEPTA, after the school said they couldn’t provide a divider to give him some quiet time.
“I said okay, so can the PTA raise some funds and they said there’s no PTA for special education kids and I said so what do I need to do to start it?” said Venezia.
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Venezia joined forces with Jacqueline Beirne and Anna Blanding to rally other special needs families in the district. Attendance at their meetings has more than doubled since the first one three months ago.
“There’s so many who of all demographics, all ages, ethnicities, classes, different age of children, different schools who really have been waiting for this,” said Blanding.
“It’s gone better than we ever imagined and the administration has completely supported us. We’ve got teachers, we’ve got admins, we’ve got speech pathologists joining our group so it truly is a PTA,” said Beirne.
The moms agree learning to navigate the special education system can be difficult for any parent. The idea behind SPETA is to help each other out by sharing experiences and knowledge.
“Being the parent of a special needs child can be so isolating and there’s so much that you need to know,” said Venezia.
“Now we are a resource for each other. We’ve got parents of high school, middle school, elementary school and pre-k and those that are in the high school can now help those of us with younger children, this is how you work through the system and this is how you get what your child needs,” sad Beirne.