Spotlight Series: Family Support Program and Community Parent Resource Center
Arkansas Support Network’s Family Support Program (FSP) plays an important role helping children who have disabilities at home and in healthy settings with their families. FSP also includes the Northwest Arkansas Community Parent Resource Center (NWA CPRC). The resources provided aren’t just focused on the child who has a disability but the family as a whole. Parents of all children have a big job to do. They are often faced with challenges like communicating with doctors or teachers about their children. This is especially true for parents of children with disabilities.
Jasmine Pham and her family were able to benefit from FSP through the NWA CPRC. Pham first found Arkansas Support Network when her son was in elementary school. She needed some help after her son was diagnosed with autism and had some issues at school. English as a second language made communication with schools even more intimidating. A friend told her to contact ASN and see what they could do for her.
“I can’t express how much the staff here have helped Jack and me. They stand behind me and they help me feel confident,” said Pham. ASN supports her in meetings at schools to help the administration understand what Jack needs.
Language barriers can cause confusion between families and schools sometimes. Family Services Specialist and Educational Advocate, Irene Clark, said, “Communication is important both with parents to schools and schools to parents. There are two sides to every story and you should listen to them both.” It’s important for parents to be involved with IEP plans and to ask questions before there is ever an issue. Opening that communication right away will help the child in the long run.
FSP staff recommend parents of children with disabilities take someone with them for support anywhere they go in the community, including the school, doctor visits, and the Department of Human Services office because there will be a lot of information. Parents can also write down questions, concerns, and things they want to talk about ahead of time. “Remember to pay attention to what’s actually written in the plan. If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen or it won’t happen,” says Clark. The NWA CPRC can also help. In addition to educational advocacy, they offer a series of trainings both in-person or on online videos.
Many parents deal with suspensions and expulsions in school settings. There is a process to determine if the incident is a manifestation of the child’s disability. Specific laws determine what supports a school is obligated to provide, like a paraprofessional in the classroom. What is appropriate for one child may not be appropriate for another child.
Jack is now in high school and has made a lot of progress and continues to do so. The road isn’t the same for any two parents. What will be the same is that families can count on the Family Support Program at Arkansas Support Network to guide, answer questions, and advocate for the child and the family.
Pham says that ASN has worked with her to decide how best to help Jack: “They discuss our problems and then help me be fully prepared at meetings.” She adds, “I don’t have the words to thank them for what they’ve done for him.”