OCALI NOW | Issue 35 • February 2022

Surrogate Parent for a Child with a Disability

Surrogate Parent for a Child with a Disability

Each student with a disability is granted the right to be represented by a parent regarding special education matters by federal and state special education laws. Some students do not have a “parent” to represent them in matters relating to identification, evaluation, and educational placement. Therefore, these students need a surrogate parent—someone acting as the parent on their behalf. A surrogate parent steps in and becomes a part of a team of educators and other professionals to ensure the student’s voice is heard, educational needs are met, and to support their success. The surrogate parent ensures the student has the same protections as all students eligible for special education services.  

The Role of a Surrogate Parent 

Jenny Keesee shares her experience about how she became a surrogate parent.  

“I have a friend who’s been a foster parent for over 30 years, and she asked me to attend an IEP meeting for a child who was in her temporary custody,” shares Keesee. “After I left that meeting, I really felt a desire to help, and I recognized this was a very vulnerable population. Although I couldn’t take a child into my home, being a surrogate parent seemed like a way I could help make an impact on a child’s life in such an important way.” 

Keesee has served as a surrogate parent for children ages 3 to 17, students in preschool, kindergarten through 12th grade, in public schools and in residential treatment facilities, and has represented children who have been moved hours away from their home, and those who continue to go to schools that they’ve always attended. 

“I hope that when I attend these meetings I treat every child with the same thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and concern as I would my own child,” shares Keesee. “I review educational evaluation reports and IEPs, and when I attend these meetings, I’m an active participant. I ask questions, I get clarification, and I hope that I’ve done my best with the information I have to ensure the child has opportunities for success in their education.” 

In many regions of Ohio, there’s a shortage of surrogate parents. Many children who are in need of surrogate parents are in foster care or are homeless youth and have experienced trauma related to being separated from their families or other adverse circumstances. It’s extremely important that these vulnerable children have a caring, concerned person to represent their interests throughout the evaluation and special education process. 

Is Serving as a Surrogate Parent Right For You?  
If becoming a surrogate parent sounds right for you, it is important to consider the following questions:  

  • Are you sincerely interested in children with disabilities?  
  • Are you willing to work with others for the benefit of the child? Having good communication skills and a collaborative spirit will make working with others easier. 
  • Do you have time to devote to getting to know the child and to attend multiple meetings? It can be very time consuming to be a surrogate parent. You will need time in your schedule to review education records and attend meetings. These meetings will typically be scheduled during the school day, so it’s important for you to have access during that time frame. 

New Training Available 
The online training, As a Surrogate Parent For a Child With a Disability, has recently been updated. The training includes 10.5 hours of self-paced content. Each module begins with a video presentation explaining key concepts and resources. That’s followed by activities to extend your learning. Then there are reflection questions for you to think about on your own and quizzes. Each module must be completed in order, but you can pause in your completion of those modules. After completing a module and passing the quiz at the end, the next module will be unlocked for you to access. Learn more at www.OhioSurrogateParent.org.  

“Please don’t rule out becoming a surrogate because you don’t have teaching experience or you don’t have experiences of being a parent of a child with a disability,” shares Keesee. “You don’t need special skills or experience. All you need is the desire in your heart to help a child.” 

Get the Details 

These are just a few of the topics explored in the recent InspirED Virtual Learning Series episode, Surrogate Parent for a Child With a Disability. Explore best practices, key concepts, and resources to increase knowledge, understanding, and skills to serve as or support a surrogate parent in Ohio, as well as learn how the Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities and federal regulations apply to the rule. 

Ask Abbey & Friends: Word Recognition Toolkit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners
A free Interactive, three-part learning experience!
Ask Abbey & Friends: Word Recognition Toolkit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners

New Series Launching This Week

Ask Abbey & Friends: Word Recognition Toolkit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners

Expanding off of the original Ask Abbey series, this new interactive, three-part learning series is designed to provide practical, easy-to-use strategies on how to increase word recognition skills for learners who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Reading research highlights the importance of phonological awareness, and more specifically phonemic awareness, as an integral component of successful literacy instruction. Students whose primary language is visual still need access to this set of skills to fully unlock the English code and become proficient readers. 

Each 30-minute session will include simple tip and strategies, followed by live Q&A with Abbey Weaver, an itinerant teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Ohio and other ‘friends’ who are expert practitioners. The sessions are free, but registration is required. Certificates of completion are available for the series. Join us for one or all three. 

We recently connected with Angelica Gagliardi, Outreach Specialist for the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI and project lead, to find out more about this new series. 

Why was this series created? 
“The series was created as a way to share practical strategies and information with educators in a format that was quick and accessible to them.  We also wanted to introduce educators to the variety of strategies that can be used to help Deaf and Hard of Hearing learners access word recognition skills. Additionally, while the series was designed with Ohio educators in mind, people from all over the country will find useful strategies to incorporate and use right away.” 

Why should someone attend? 
“This series was tailored to the specific needs we were hearing from educators around reading instruction for Ohio’s DHH learners. We found experts in each topic to introduce the system and strategies to attendees and leave them with ways to learn more and grow their toolbox of supports for learners. The presenters are so knowledgeable and passionate and will leave those who attend feeling inspired to try something new.”  

What’s something that people may not know before attending, but will learn after? 
“Every learner that educators serve needs the right recipe of tools and points of access to support their success. I think those who attend will see how the systems and strategies in each session can be used in conjunction with one another to create a set of tools students can pull from as they read challenging text. Many times we feel we need to find ‘the key’ that will unlock the code for readers. This series may shed light on the need to find ‘the keys.’”  

What’s New at OCALI

Computer with screen that says We Are Hiring with OCALI logo on bottom
We are Hiring! Apply to become a Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coach

We’re Hiring!

Looking for a way to make an impact in the lives of young people, while growing a rewarding career? OCALI is hiring professionals with a passion for making a difference as Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coaches in NE Ohio.

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Healthcare Professionals Virtual Roundtable

March 8, 12 pm
Healthcare Professionals Virtual Roundtable: Improving Outcomes for People with Disabilities

People with disabilities experience consistent barriers to clinical care, preventative services, and good health. Join the Ohio Association of Health Plans, OCALI and an amazing lineup of speakers to build your confidence, skill and ability to improve access and outcomes for people with disabilities.

InspirED Virtual Learning Series computer and sun logo
InspirED Virtual Learning Series

March 17, 4 pm
Ohio Deaf History Month: Recognizing and Celebrating Deaf Education in Ohio 

Culture is defined as “customs, languages, arts, and social achievements of a nation, people, or other social group.” Explore Deaf culture by honoring Ohio’s contributions as we celebrate Deaf History Month. 

The Journey: A free Webinar Series with photo of four teens looking at city skyline
The Journey: Free Webinar Series

March 28, 2:30 pm
Journey Webinar Series: Functional Behavior Assessment for Youth with Complex Needs – Beyond A-B-C

Youth with complex and intensive needs often present with distressed behaviors that are difficult to understand. A Functional Behavior Assessment or FBA is helpful to determine the root cause of these distressed behaviors, however, the assessment must take into multiple factors. Join us for a discussion of the type of FBA that goes below the surface and beyond the typical Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence model.   Resources to assist in this process will be introduced.

InspirED Virtual Learning Series logo of computer and sun
InspirED Virtual Learning Series

April 21, 4 pm
The Earlier the Better: Recognizing Autism in Young Children  

The earlier young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are identified, the more opportunity early childhood professionals have to provide services and supports that will benefit children for a lifetime. Gain a deeper understanding of ASD diagnosis and educational eligibility determination, insight into differences in presentation of ASD in boys and girls, and considerations for making decisions about services and supports. 

Various young children lying on carpet with title: Myths & Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism
Myths and Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism

New: Myths and Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism

Intended for district evaluation teams, but also helpful to families, community clinicians, and other partners, this document was created to address the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the educational identification of autism

Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners
Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners

Check out this video-based learning series that explore practical, easy-to-use resources designed to ensure ALL learners have access to the general curriculum.

Innovation Series: Relationships Matter

2022 Innovation Tuesdays 
Honor our relationships and learn how to improve person-centered planning, community membership, and employment opportunities across Ohio. Learn more and register.

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Recite Me web accessibility tool

Website visitors can use this innovative cloud-based software to increase accessibility options. Have the text on our website read aloud (including PDFs); change font sizes and colors; access a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus; and much more.