Hudson -- The community is invited to attend a free Sept. 19 informational presentation and panel discussion sponsored by the Hudson Parent Mentor Program from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the high school media center.
The topic for the discussion is "Integrating Therapy Services in Natural Contexts: An Update on Best Practices in Ohio."
"The district had the opportunity to be a part of a grant from the Ohio Department of Education, through Cleveland State University which resulted in the district initiating pilot programs across the district," said Kelly Kempf, director of pupil services for Hudson schools. "The purpose of the presentation is to provide parents an opportunity to learn more about the pilot program, which introduces an integrated model of therapy for students with disabilities in a least restrictive environment."
The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion featuring the principal investigator for the three-year project "Every Moment Counts: Promoting Mental Health Throughout the Day."
The discussion will be led by Susan Bazyk, Phd, OTR/L, FAOTA, and principal investigator for the grant project and Cathy Csanyi, liaison for the Ohio Department of Education, Office of Exceptional Children, on this grant, Kempf said.
Carol Conway, an occupational therapist with Hudson City Schools and a co-facilitator of the grant,will also lead the discussion.
"The goal of school-based occupational therapy is to support academic achievement and social participation by promoting occupation within all school routines, including recess, classroom and cafeteria time," Kempf said. "Research tells us that students make the most gains when practicing a skill in the setting the skill is needed while side-by-side with their peers."
Students do not come to school for related services, according to Kempf.
"Rather they [students] receive related services so they can fully participate in all aspects of the school day," Kempf added. "Entire educational teams benefit from collaborative, integrated work which in the long run benefits the student."
Students are included in a more meaningful manner when integration is done well, Kempf said.
"Goals can be addressed throughout the day, not in isolation, and by multiple members of the team, giving students more opportunities to practice skills and make progress," Kempf added. "We want to educate both staff and parents, as individual educational program team members, to make the best decisions for students regarding related services and appropriate location of those services."
Promoting mental health throughout the day describes the premise behind a three-year project funded by a grant through the Ohio Department of Education, Office of Exceptional Children, according to the district. With the grant, a team of 12 Cleveland-area occupational therapists joined together to research and identify ways that students with disabilities might be integrated with their non-disabled peers during academic and non-academic activities, including classroom, lunch, recess and extracurricular after-school activities.
The fact Hudson's occupational therapists saw relevance in participating in this grant "speaks volumes of the quality of professionalism and services that they provide to the Hudson School Community," Csanyi said.
Diane Rudzitis is a parent mentor with Hudson schools. Her position is funded through a grant from the Ohio Department of Education, Office of Exceptional Children. Rudzitis' role is to provide resources and support for families of children with special needs to help them navigate the special education system.
In August 2012, after receiving a portion of the ODE, OEC grant money, Conway led a pilot program with a group of stakeholders in the Hudson Schools who share a passion for initiating an integrated classroom and activity therapy model for students, Rudzitis said.
"From the perspective of a parent of a child with special needs who receives related services, my child experiences greater gains when skills are taught and practiced in the natural setting," Rudzitis said. "The natural environment holds greater meaning for her, and consequently she can then apply these skills in different environments throughout her world."
According to Rudzitis, "integrating services allows for greater continuity in the child's education by less pulling out of class and more time with classroom peers."
"It also enhances the collaborative effort among all of the team members," Rudzitis added.