Sarah Birnbaum was a producer and project manager by training. Producers must communicate constantly, keep track of many moving parts, and do whatever it takes to move a project forward to its deadline. Sarah had no idea that all these years she was secretly being trained for the role of special needs parent, but when it happened to her, those skills made it easier to deal with her new “job.”
She was lucky to find excellent support at every stage of the process, from Early Intervention to the preschool years to elementary school. New York has a very rich and knowledgeable special needs community, one of the saving graces of raising a child with challenges here. Yet Sarah was surprised and saddened to learn that many fellow parents did not get the same support she received. They were left alone to navigate the system on their own, to figure out how to present their case at crucial meetings, to determine which preschools and elementary schools to tour, to cope with bureaucracy.
Over the years, Sarah has found herself sharing this knowledge at every turn, and when enough people told her that she should put her experience to use helping others, she listened.
Since starting her consultancy practice, New York Special Needs Support, she has derived immense satisfaction from aiding other parents:
- Helps them settle into their roles as special needs parents, coping with a sudden staff of therapists they never expected to have to supervise. She listens and offer suggestions in managing their many new demands.
- Guides them to the schools that can best support their child’s needs, offer advice on the application process, and coaches them on working with their school districts.
- Directs them to relevant experts, attend IEP meetings to help them advocate for their children, and serve as a sounding board as they deal with their teams and set goals.
- Offers practical, research-based suggestions for meeting the unique challenges of parenting a child with special needs. Sarah educates parents on various therapeutic approaches, including how to connect with best-practice experts to learn more.
- Most importantly, Sarah helps them cope with the complicated emotions that accompany any special needs parenting decision.
Sarah’s Services Include:
- Parent support in person, on the phone, or via email
- Early Intervention (EI) guidance
- Help with paperwork and interpreting reports
- Explanations and advice on types and amounts of therapy
- Advice on what constitutes appropriate services and how to obtain them
- Support and advocacy at Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) and Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings
- Assistance setting up and managing schedules
- Coaching in working with therapists and school, agency, and government personnel
- Transition support from EI to Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE), and CPSE to the Committee on Special Education (CSE)
- Guidance for parents entering the system in CPSE or CSE
- Help in understanding elementary, middle, and high school options
- Touring and application guidance
- Assistance in finding specialists to provide independent evaluations and supporting documentation
- IEP review support, including Turning 5 meetings
To view Sarah Birnbaum’s website, click here.