Partners for Student Success Careers  /  Staff Directory  /  Staff Login  /  Aesop
Special School District of St. Louis County

Program Teaches Parents to be Leaders
Applications for SSD Parent Leadership Institute Due May 1

SSD's Parent Leadership Institute (PLI) provides training to parents of children with disabilities on topics designed to help them with their child’s educational journey. Topics range from how to be a part of a productive meeting to how to positively interact and collaborate with other parents and school officials.

Participants, who are chosen through an application process, attend three full days of training on Saturdays once a month for three months during the fall. Applications for the 2017 PLI program are due May 1.

Jim Votino, a 2016 PLI graduate, shares his experience below.

The Parent Leadership Institute (PLI) is yet another great resource that Special School District (SSD) offers parents. I am grateful I was chosen to be a part of the program that teaches leadership and allowed me to build new connections.

This year at the PLI, we were lucky enough to have several great speakers. After hearing Kathie Snow discuss the ideas from her book, “Disability is Natural,” I learned that as parents and educators, we need to focus on independence, assume competence, don’t underestimate our children and don't make them participate in therapies when they aren’t progressing or make them do things they simply despise doing.

It’s also extremely important to our children to follow their own personal interests and strengths. We should have the same expectations for them that we have for all students, and make the necessary accommodations for them to succeed. 

Kathie shared historical knowledge of how people with disabilities have been treated over the years and how that has evolved.

She shared that we are just beginning the process of learning how to help people become part of our communities rather than isolate and segregate them. It is good to see how much we have progressed as a society. But we know we have a lot further to go. It’s exciting that we are moving in the right direction and have made so much progress in a short period of time.

We were also fortunate to have speaker Derrick Dufresne share a lifetime of experiences and lessons about the early days of behavioral support treatments, therapy and inclusion.

He was able to illustrate in a deeply moving way just how important it is for our children to engage with others in social situations and the consequences if they don’t. They need to be part of their community, develop friendships and have the best skills possible to interact with others.

Derrick emphasized that the only way to develop these skills is to practice them over and over.

Having these skills is essential to developing friendships, too, and having relationships with people reduces chances of being lonely, which is linked to poor mental and physical health. It was a very inspiring and gripping talk.

Additionally, we participated in a focus group regarding SSD’s Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP), which is currently gathering data through surveys with SSD parents about their satisfaction and concerns in the District.

The data collected will assist in updating SSD’s five-year plan. It was great to share our experiences and input and be a part of a continuous effort by SSD to adapt and evolve the plan for the future.

Lastly, SSD Parent Education and Diversity Awareness (PEDA) program administrators Michelle Levi Perez and Debra Fiasco did a fabulous job teaching us some common sense approaches to getting the most out of our relationships with our kids, teachers and staff.

They were able to provide additional perspectives from the perspective of those that work with students day in and day out. As parents themselves, they have years of experience in advocating for their own children. It’s really true that everyone just wants to help children with what they need to succeed and it is important for all of us to work together to make that happen. 

PLI was not only a great opportunity for me to learn as much as possible to help my own family, but to have the knowledge and experience to help others, too. It was a great experience. My thanks to SSD for all they do!

The SSD Parent Education and Diversity Awareness program sponsors the PLI. The program was funded entirely by the Special Education Foundation from its inception in 2007 through last year. To date, 190 parents and guardians have graduated from the institute.

Published January 2017


SSD Parent Leadership Institute

The Parent Leadership Institute (PLI) is accepting applications for its 2017 program to be held in three sessions on Sept. 9, Oct. 7 and Nov. 4.

There is no cost to participate. Applications are due May 1.

Parents from St. Louis County whose children receive special education or 504 services, First Steps and early childhood services are encouraged to apply.

arrow icon Download the application below or contact Debra Fiasco by e-mail at or by phone at 314.989.8108.

Download application (PDF)
Note: Right click on link above and choose "Save Link As" to save PDF file to your computer. Open the saved file to complete the fillable form.

Contact SSD  /  Accessibility  /  RFPs  /  Public Notices  /  Site Map   /  E-news

12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
SSD logo
Translate this site:
Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook