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By Brittni Henderson
After six years of minimal support, the Smithfield Special Education Local Advisory Committee (SSELAC) has been revived by a group of dedicated special needs advocates in town. Holly DelRossi and her family moved to Smithfield last year specifically for the special education system, and with her help, the revitalization of SSELAC was possible.
DelRossi’s son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2 and the family’s goal was to find an integrated educational program in order for him to function and learn with other children of all abilities. As soon as she learned about the preschool program at Anna M. McCabe elementary school, she and her family were eager to move to Smithfield specifically for the school system. As excited as she was for her son to begin learning in this atmosphere, she realized that there was a great need for a more comprehensive support system for the special education department.
DelRossi reached out to the town’s Special Education Director Eileen Crudele and joined forces with her to create this group of parents, administrators, educators and providers, thus bringing a rebirth of SSELAC to the town of Smithfield.
SSELAC had been previously run by others with children with special needs in the school system, but was “discontinued” after these students aged-out of the school programs. With younger children filtering back into local schools, DelRossi and others knew that it was time to reinstate this crucial program.
This group is run on a completely volunteer basis. Per Rhode Island law, each local educational program establishes an Advisory Committee on Special Education. For the Smithfield chapter, this organization is run by parents with support of the Special Education Director and school staff. DelRossi currently holds the role of Co-Chair position of this committee.
As word spread that SSELAC was starting to make a comeback, support increased throughout town. To date, the organization has held three meetings, had their first annual open house, hosted a sensory-friendly story time at Barnes and Noble, and established a Facebook group for others interested to obtain the most up-to-date information. They are also actively in the process of setting up an annual Awareness Week for some time in April, as well as safety seminars like CPR training and a Touch-a-Truck event for May.
As SSELAC moves forward, they are looking forward to improving communication, advocating partnership with parents, and encouraging a greater understanding and inclusion of children with special education needs. They are very dedicated to raising awareness not only within the schools, but the community, as well.
For more information or to get involved in SSELAC, contact the organization by email at SmithfieldSSLEAC@gmail.com or visit the “Smithfield Special Education Local Advisory Committee” group on Facebook.