Commission on Disabilities Hears From Federation for Children With Special Needs at Monthly Meeting

The Revere Commission on Disabilities held its regular monthly meeting on January 9 via Zoom. Chair Ralph DeCicco and fellow members Pauline Perno, Mario Grimanis, Ellie Vargas, and Jason Barone-Cichocki.

The commission’s guest speaker was Pat Cameron, an Arlington resident who is with the Federation for Children With Special Needs and who has worked in the field of Special Needs education for 40 years. 

Cameron made a Powerpoint presentation regarding the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN), a federally-funded program that is located in Charlestown, that provides parent training and support for families of children with special needs.  The Mass. FCSN was the first such program in the country and has served as a model for the entire country. She also noted that the 1974 Massachusetts law, known as chapter 766, that guarantees specialized education services for children, became the model for later federal legislation.

The federation works with parents of children with disabilities from birth through adulthood to provide information about access to education and recreation programs for which families may be eligible.

“Each family is unique and families are their child’s first and best advocate,” said Cameron. “We want to make sure that we set a high bar for excellence for children. When families, schools, and communities work together, student outcomes improve. Everybody working together, including custodians, the receptionist, and bus drivers, not just teachers and administrators, is essential to improving educational outcomes for children with disabilities.”

Cameron said that the FCSN, whose services are free, provides a wide range of workshops, training, individual consultation, support for collaborations, peer support, and leadership and skills development. The federation offers its programs in eight languages and is using artificial intelligence (AI) for up to 250 languages.

The federation conducts annual conferences, including the upcoming Visions of Community in March, which will offer 45 workshops on a wide range of topics for professionals and families. The federation’s offices in Charlestown can be reached at 800-331-0688.

“I’m absolutely thankful for all of this information,” said Perno at the conclusion of Cameron’s presentation, a sentiment that was echoed by DeCicco, who said that he continually is approached by parents of children with special needs about how to obtain appropriate services for their children and the federation is a “one-stop shop” for such parents.

“Although we have come a long way in the past 50 years, we still have much more to do,” concluded Cameron.

In other business, Perno told her fellow members that she is working on future speakers for the commission’s monthly meetings.

DeCicco attended the January meeting of the regional CODA (Commissions on Disabilities Alliance) group and updated his fellow commissioners on what was discussed. He noted that the State Senate passed the Wheelchair Warranty repair bill, which now moves to the House.

There also were discussions pertaining to the promotion of advocacy plans for accessible and affordable housing and regarding what APEX curb cuts are, where, and why they are used. 

He said that those in attendance emphasized that local commissions on disabilities do not have any official power or authority by law, but exist  to provide resources and any applicable information they can.

He said that a member from Newburyport mentioned two items that could be useful for people with disabilities. They are, which is a web-based company, and the second is an app that was also mentioned on Chronicle Newburyport is currently a part of access navigators.

“Both of these sites are set up, or can be set up, to show the accessibility and accommodations that places such as restaurants and businesses have in a community,” said DeCicco.

DeCicco read the commission’s usual monthly announcement:

“The Commission on Disabilities office number is 781-286-8267. Residents can also call Revere 311 directly and speak to their staff Monday through Friday. They will be able to answer most questions but if they are unable to or if you would like to speak to our department directly or to schedule an appointment, please ask to be transferred to the Disability office. If we are unavailable, please leave a detailed message and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

“As always please let us know if you would like something discussed or brought up and added to our monthly meeting agenda. You can let us know if you would like to speak on any issue or concern. The Commission is here to help and assist all the disabled residents and families of Revere.

The commission’s next meeting (via Zoom) will be held on Tuesday, February 13, at 6:00 PM.

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