Every county (in California, at least) has at least one Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA). This group is collectively my one-stop-shopping experience for all things special ed. In fact, my SELPA regional contact is the person who first told me about the Council for Exceptional Children, so you know they’re awesome! During the last two school years, I attended trainings in specific curriculums and effective instructional strategies, IEP writing, and assessment administration — and they were all FREE.
Recently, my SELPA held its annual special education orientation to kick off the school year. While the target group is special educators, any educators within the SELPA were invited to attend. It included a presentation on how the different divisions within SELPA work together to make sure we are providing appropriate services to our students with exceptionalities, as well as a reminder about our new IEP forms and the Student Study Team process.
This year, they added something new to the orientation: a panel of regional support groups who offer services to families of exceptional students. It was great to have some names and faces to go with these service providers I had heard about but not yet had the opportunity to utilize.
I highly recommend getting to know what your SELPA offers because in addition to providing workshops and trainings, they are a wealth of information and support. I’ve called my SELPA regional contact for guidance in providing appropriate instruction to meet individualized student needs, and she has been able to make curriculum recommendations that I was then able to preview through my SELPA library. They have also driven to my school site to offer their expertise at IEP meetings.
Even more importantly, your SELPA looks out for you: One time, I faxed over a data sheet for a student who was supposed to have transition goals, but I did not include them. Our SELPA data specialist called me back and told me to add them in. When I told her I had no idea how to do that (surely not the most promising response she could have heard), she took the time to send me information on how to write appropriate transition goals. All in all, I have found that a good SELPA relationship has played a key role in my job performance.
To end on a lighthearted note, check out this “Acronym Soup” video (you'll need to scroll down a bit) that SELPA showed at our orientation to illustrate why high-hatting special ed lingo might not be getting you anywhere. All I can think to say is, ROTFLOL. . . .