November 2018

Message from the Special Services Director – Dr. Shannon Hitch

One of the best parts of my job is having the opportunity to meet families. It was wonderful to meet many of you at our first Special Needs Group PTA meeting last month. If you were not able to make it, I have shared my presentation slides and believe they will be posted on the Special Needs Group website. In my presentation, I spoke to the fundamental beliefs of our department. These core beliefs were developed within our leadership team and they are the foundation of our work. I’d like to share them with you:

Lake Washington Special Services Beliefs


We believe….

Each individual child has unique strengths and abilities and it is our responsibility to create opportunities to build upon these strengths. All students can learn when provided the right supports.

Effective communication is critical for creating a sense of community and to solve challenging problems. We must create a brave space rather than a safe space.

Every child has a right to a high quality instructional program with evidence-based curriculum, progress monitoring, tiered supports and effective teaching.

It is our ethical and moral imperative to ensure equity and support students within general education; every child belongs in our community.

One of our fundamental responsibilities is to coach and build capacity with staff so they can meet the variety of needs that our students demonstrate. We are all teachers.

To meet our goals for student achievement and foster a growth mindset amongst staff, we need to offer ongoing professional learning in collaboration with other departments.

If we are going to eliminate the achievement gap, we must work collectively with families and our community to ensure that each child can fulfill their potential. We work in partnership with parents.

Behavior is a form of communication and positive relationships are essential to ensure student success. Many of the children we struggle to teach are those that need us the most.

We are advocates for students with special needs. Every child has a voice that should be recognized, honored and uplifted.

I also spoke to the creation of a new parent advisory group to create and develop collaboration between families and special services administration. We are seeking representation of parents from elementary, middle and high schools and programs throughout the district. Click on this link to access the application. This link will also be available on our district webpage.

There is so much potential here in LWSD, I can’t wait to see what we accomplish!

Resources for Parents of Students with Disabilities

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to take a look at the Special Needs Resource Flier, created by the Lake Washington PTSA (LWPTSA) Council Special Needs Group/Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) and the Special Services Department. You can also pick up a hard copy at your child’s school, and/or from your child’s 504 or Special Education Case Manager at your annual review meeting.

The Arc of King County - Healthy Relationships Program Accepting Participants for Fall

The Arc’s Healthy Relationships Program is open to community members this fall in Seattle and Federal Way in partnership with local Parks and Rec programs.

In Seattle, weekly classes will be held Monday nights from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the Laurelhurst Community Center for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities age 18-24. Classes run from September 24-December 3. Those older will be considered on a case-by-case basis. For registration information, contact Jill Ellison at and indicate you want to participate in The Arc’s Healthy Relationships program.

In Federal Way, weekly classes will be held Wednesday afternoons from 3:00-4:30 p.m. at the Federal Way Community Center for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities ages 14-18. Classes run from September 19-November 21. For registration information, contact Kevin Hutchinson at

The Healthy Relationships Program helped individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn interpersonal skills to promote their safety and ability to establish and maintain meaningful relationships with friends, family, coworkers and their community. Through games, art and conversation, students practice skills in a safe and fun setting with their peers. Lessons include:

  • Recognizing different kinds of relationships (e.g. family, friends, coworkers, romantic partners)
  • Assertiveness
  • Consent
  • Social Media Safety
  • Appropriate Public Behavior
  • Recognizing unhealthy relationships and reporting abuse
  • And much much more!

Parents/caregivers can meet the instructors and preview materials at any time. Additionally, the first class is designed for family involvement with the opportunity to ask questions and express potential concerns about this complex topic. Additionally, conversations started in class can be continued at home with daily “Letter to Trusted Adults” sent home after each session that summarizes each class and outlines strategies to continue the discussion at home.

The benefits of the Healthy Relationships program go beyond friendly and romantic relationships; they improve self-esteem and empower students to engage with their communities!

For additional questions, contact our Healthy Relationships team at or 206-829-7059.

The Arc of King County: IEP Parent Partner Program – Accepting Applications Now!

Do you have experience navigating the special education system, either as a parent, educator, interpreter or student? Would you like to support other families navigating the Special Education system? If so, we’ve got a great program for you!

The Arc of King County’s IEP Parent Partner Program trains volunteers to provide support to other families navigating the system. They are offering a 15-hour volunteer training this fall. In this training, you will learn about Special Education laws, using assessments and evaluations for data-informed decision making, navigating complex situations such as behavior supports and communication and conflict resolution skills. Trained volunteers commit to providing one-on-one support to at least one family over the course of the school year. Volunteers do not provide legal advice and are not professional advocates. Rather, they help families understand their education documentation, develop strategies for family advocacy and provide emotional support at 1-2 school meetings.
The volunteer training is free! Previous volunteers report they learned skills to better support their own child within the Special Education system, as well as felt empowered to support other families.
We are offering this training in English and in Spanish.
The application is available online and via paper. Click here for access to the IEP Parent Partner Job Description and to start your application.
Contact Rachel Nemhauser ( or Patricia Gonzalez ( for questions or to request an application.

Featured Article

Saying Goodbye to a Technology Pioneer and Innovator – Paul Allen (1953-2018)
The world recently lost a technology pioneer and innovator who helped make computers/technology accessible for a majority of the population. Paul Allen, Co-Founder of Microsoft, recently passed away due to a longtime battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Not only did Paul Allen have an impact on technology being so easily accessible for the world’s population, but he also started two large-scale public initiatives: the BRAIN Initiative, which explores our brain activity and seeks to deepen understanding of the inner workings of the human mind and to improve how we treat, prevent and cure disorders of the brain; as well as, the Human Brain Project, which has multiple platforms, one of which includes a Medical Informatics Platform (MIP) which explores brain-related diseases. To learn more about these projects:

Six Ways Technology Can Improve Special Education Outcomes
While we say goodbye to someone who so greatly helped make technology and computers what they are today, we are reminded of the ways that we benefit from such a great resource tool. The technology footprint on Special Education is felt by teachers, parents and students alike. Some examples of the ways technology is felt include parents being able to get real-time insight into their student’s learning, growth and weaknesses and are able to support their children outside of the classroom; teachers are able to access necessary information and improve IEP compliance, which is necessary for state and federal guidelines; and, finally, students benefit from the streamlining of the Special Education process to give staff more time for activities and promoting student growth. Read the full Six Ways Technology Can Improve Special Education Outcomes.

PTSA SNG Meetings and Child Care Support

Our monthly PTSA SNG meeting (see schedule below) is a great time to network with other parents, learn more about resources in our community and learn more about strategies and supports for students with disabilities. We are now offering student care during these meetings to assist you in being able to access this wonderful opportunity to meet with parents. Please RSVP each month by emailing For our November meeting, please RSVP by/before November 13. In your email, please include the age of your child, so we can ensure we have enough staff to cover all the students. The Special Services Director and Associate Directors participate in a meet and greet before each meeting at 6:30 p.m. We look forward to seeing you all there.

Upcoming LWPTSA Council Special Needs Group Meetings

Date: 11/20/2018
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Location: LWSD Resource Center – Board Room (1st Floor)
                16250 NE 74th St
                Redmond, WA 98052
Topic: Attorney Andrea Kadlec with the office of Developmental Disabilities Ombuds will speak about DDA, eligibility and the role of DD Ombuds. For more information, please click on this link.

Save the Date: Mark your calendar for the 2018-19 PTSA Special Needs Group Meetings

  • No Meeting in December
  • 1/15/2019
  • 2/26/2019
  • 3/19/2019
  • 4/16/2019
  • 5/21/2019
  • No Meeting in June