Special Needs PTA

Updated on April 17, 2015
O.L. asks from Long Beach, CA
10 answers

I'm very much interested in developing a PTA role at our school that is led by a special needs parent--someone who could advocate for the special needs community. We have PTA representatives at my children's school but there are no special needs parents on it. Kinda sad, if you ask me.

Question for those of you who have kids with school age kids with special needs... Does your school have a support network for special needs kids/families? I'm wondering if there is a special needs parent representative on the PTA?

What resources have been developed? Any fundraising for special programs? Would love to hear any and all info you're happy to share =)


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answers from Tampa on

I am President of the PTA at my children's school. You don't need to formally create this position. If you are interested in doing this, step up and be this. PTA is ALWAYS looking for volunteers. Every volunteer typically brings something to the table that is their passion. Mine is science. Since I have been on the PTA Board, I have pushed for science initiatives. We now give money to the science department. We have a science show each year now. Step up and advocate.

9 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

What is it you want to accomplish? Districts in my area have a parent organization for special and gifted. Their goals are different then the PTA. They host educational seminars targeted to parents of special and gifted and do various other things. As a special needs parent I volunteer in my kids school in ways I feel are meaningful. You rarely see special needs parents on ptas (I've heard this many times) because they are extremely busy. Have you checked with your district to see if there is a special / gifted parent org?

The district wide group I mentioned also puts on awareness /:diversities days. I'm not sure if the PTA is the right or wrong channel for what your aiming to accomplish.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

Special needs parents often don't have the time to dedicate to regular volunteer hours, which is why it is rare to see them in a long-term position of leadership in elementary school.

A special needs liaison sounds like a great idea. You have the drive, so the question is, do have the time to take on that role personally? As a leader and communicator, you can work towards integrating SN kids and their parents, even if the parents themselves don't have a lot of free time.

I was a PTO board member for three years. We were regularly approached by people with ideas. Some of the ideas were really wonderful. The problem is that we didn't always have the existing manpower or resources to be able to implement the idea. We would ask the person with the idea to take on the role and/or do what was necessary to see it happen. About 90% of the time, the person with the idea wants someone else to do the work. They are unable or unwilling to do it themselves. Do approach your PTA with the idea, but do so willing and able to step into the role.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Rather than make/add a new role, why can't the parent of a special needs child just run for/be on the board?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

There are a wide range of special needs, so what did you have in mind? Is there a particular concern, like with bullying or resources? As others have said, most of the parents I know with children with special needs (some physical, some not) have to focus on their child's IEP, the specialists, etc. Have parents come to you to say there is something that needs to be done for their children? Sometimes meeting special needs is simply just meeting needs. Like childcare for PTA meetings. Or finding out the source of the sour milk smell in the hallway. Or getting another bus if the kids are always late from one area.

In our school, there is a high number of Latino families, so they created their own offshoot committee. However, seeing that need, we enlist the help of bilingual staff for PTA meetings. Some meetings are mostly in Spanish with English translation and some are mostly in English with Spanish translation. The PTA requested all newsletters to go home in both languages.

We don't break it down into "Spanish needs and English needs". SCHOOL needs are all budgeted out at the start of the year. Even if people cannot attend the meeting, minutes are always emailed out afterward to everyone who joined the PTA. Some families are "on the books" PTA members only, and it might be the same for your special needs families. They come out for fundraisers, answer questions about general school resources, etc. but cannot be there every first Tuesday.

It sounds like this is something you feel is needed in your school and you are passionate about it. I'd mention it to the PTA and be willing to head that committee.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

As the parent of a special needs child, I want to say "thank you" for even thinking of this! Our schools have been great as far as 504 plans for our son, but that's all there is (unless he had a learning disability, in which case there's a resource specialist on staff to help). There is no support network for parents.

Our son has asked about who the other special needs kids are at school (his are brain disabilities, so you can't tell just by looking at him). I've had to say "I don't know." If the PTA could find some way for special needs families to connect, that would be awesome.

It may be a challenge getting a special needs parent involved, though, simply because their lives are already chaotic. They may also not want to draw attention to their child's medical issue(s), either.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I think this sounds wonderful! I was PTA President at 2 of our daughters schools. I also sat on the City wide Board of directors for 2 years. I really do not recall any Special education Representatives, but I think it would have been totally embraced.

I will tell you at each campus, the PTA always sent out forms to every teacher asking them , what types of help did they need.
Money for supplies?
Donations of in kind.
Sometimes snacks for the Special education kids. I also recall a new washing machine was need for special ed once.
Money for field trips.

We also came up with Campus wide needs. The update for the school playground, was a long term plan. It was going to cost over $100,000. To cut this price we worked with the school district, the City Parks and Recreation, the neighborhood Association and the PTA provided money and volunteers/ Manpower to put it together once it was delivered.

We gathered input from the Special education Teachers and the District wide Special education department to guide us on what these students would want and need.

Figure out what your focus each year will be and advocate for it, Make it a line item for each year in the PTA budget.. As well as volunteer section.

We even used to match funds for different special teacher workshops and training. Of course these things were proposed and we would review them and put them up for a vote through the PTA. The teachers were great about explaining how all of this would benefit the students.

Examples of requests.
Book shelves were needed in the Library
Bean bag chairs for first grade reading nooks.
Back Packs for Prek kids
Snacks for the kids in tutoring.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Our school district has a program run by the regional PTA rather than by each school. It is called SPARK - Special Education Parents Accessing Resources and Knowledge. There is a monthly meeting with a speaker on topics of importance to the special needs parent community. I have not attended one, but it's promoted at every building PTA meeting, and I know the woman who is the chair person.

Our school building PTA has a packet of information that goes home with every new family to the school and at the beginning of each school year. A packet like this would be a good way to let parents know about specific information that includes contact information for support or questions about navigating the system at your school. A special education teacher or social worker may even be willing to partner with you.


answers from Washington DC on

I think a parent of a special needs child would need to volunteer just like other parents. And special needs can run the gammet. It isn't just visible things that make someone special needs. So there may very well already be a special needs parent on the board.

But just run for it, like any other parent.

I honestly don't because I don't have the time. With full-time work and 3 very active kids, I don't make it to half of the things the kids want to attend at the school as it is.

Great idea, just be willing to be the one to volunteer.



answers from Beaumont on

NewName2013 nailed it. Ditto to all she said. I too would love a support group. Public school by me do nothing, no fundraising, no resources nothing. Your effort would be a Godsend to lots of people.

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