“My son, Tony, is eight years old, has a twinkle in his eye, and a gorgeous throaty laugh. He also happens to have a pretty significant learning disability—he cannot read and struggles with writing. But he is brilliant in math!
Tony plays on sports teams through the city recreation department. He is a Webelo Cub Scout and is active in our church’s youth choir. It may sound like I am bragging, but this boy is a success everywhere…except in school.
I recently met with Tony’s teachers to talk about his educational plan for the coming school year. As I left the school, I felt confused about how he would get the right support in the regular fourth grade classroom. I was worried that Tony’s reading and writing difficulties would leave him frustrated and even further behind his classmates.
Then my friend Gwen told me about the Florida Inclusion Network (also called FIN) and how they could help with some of my questions. She gave me a number and encouraged me to call FIN the first Friday morning of the month, when they have a special time set aside just for families to call. After calling FIN all of my questions were answered and I understood just how Tony’s school could help my son learn and get the support he needed in the regular fourth grade class next year!
Although this is a fictional story, it represents a frequent scenario that plays out with families across Florida. It is not unusual for families of children with disabilities to have questions about inclusion and what it means for their child’s education. That is why the Florida Inclusion Network has created opportunities to connect with families in a personal way. They call it First Friday with the FINs. During each First Friday of the month, FIN Facilitators Sallie Payne, from FSU in Tallahassee, Karen D’Avignon, from UWF’s Fort Walton Campus, and M.J. Ziemba, from Escambia County District Schools look forward to connecting with families!
First Friday is a combination webinar and toll-free conference call that families can access from any location. While some parents dial in to chat or share issues and ideas, others join the online webinar to view and examine useful resources described by FIN Facilitators. Either way, those who participate enjoy the camaraderie…and learn something new!
Each one hour First Friday session begins with introductions and a bit of socializing to break the ice. Next, a FIN Facilitator demonstrates and describes practical family resources on topics related to inclusion. Afterward, the family members have time to share successes or concerns and ask questions. The facilitators address each member’s concerns in a positive and proactive way, offering information and suggestions to help them communicate and work more effectively with schools and teachers. And the group always takes time to celebrate each family’s successes, no matter how small!
These positive, solution-based conversations will soon reach across the Sunshine State to all Florida families. Beginning on September 7, 2012, at 10 a.m. Eastern or 9 a.m. Central time, First Friday with the FINs will be offered to families in every school district! Please visit the FIN website this summer for more information on how you can join a First Friday session next school year. We look forward to hearing from you!
(From top, left to right) Nicole Brown, Parent, Pensacola, M. J. Ziemba, FIN Facilitator, Escambia County , Karen D’Avignon, FIN Facilitator, UWF/Ft. Walton, Sallie Payne, FIN Facilitator, FSU, Susan Byram, Parent, Santa Rosa County, Judy Burns, Parent, Santa Rosa County