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Special School District of St. Louis County

Program Teaches Parents to be Leaders
Applications for SSD Parent Leadership Institute Due May 4

Gaining knowledge, developing leadership skills and building relationships are just a few of the benefits for parents who have participated in SSD’s Parent Leadership Institute (PLI).

“I hoped to gain some insight on helping my child transition into adulthood with as much information as I could get,” said parent Karen Fischer, who attended PLI last fall.  

Since 2007, the PLI has provided training to parents of children with disabilities on topics designed to help them with their child’s educational journey. Training ranges 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.

“Meeting other parents has been a great bonding experience. It is easier to relate to other parents who have a child with a disability similar to your own,” said Fischer. “There are a lot of resources for parents who have students with individualized education programs.”

Rebecca O’Laughlin, a PLI participant and parent of a student who receives services from SSD, said the program has helped her articulate the importance of inclusion and to envision what she wants for her child’s future and how to get him there. She also has benefitted from developing relationships through the PLI.

“I connected with another parent in my partner school district whom I didn’t know before this program. We are both becoming increasingly involved with our school district’s parent advisory council, which is such a great way to meet parents in our district, particularly parents with older students,” said O’Laughlin. “It’s a great way for us to know what we might expect as our kids enter middle school and high school and what challenges – and good things – we can anticipate.”

Parent Wengheng Li wanted to learn more about the special education system and find the best opportunities for her daughter when she applied for PLI.

“I have learned to explore opportunities for my daughter. I also learned that I could educate others. I gave an online presentation to about 15,000 parents. I used some of the information from the first day’s workshop,” said Li. “It’s great to chat with other parents and exchange information.”

The PLI is accepting applications for its 2018 program. There is no cost to participate. Applications are due May 4.

“I would recommend the PLI to other parents. It’s a great way to think about your child’s diagnosis in a new way, approach disability with a new perspective, connect with other parents, learn about available resources, and become more proactive about helping your child live his or her best life,” said O’Laughlin.

Published January 2018


SSD Parent Leadership Institute

The Parent Leadership Institute (PLI) is accepting applications for its 2018 program to be held in three sessions on Sept. 8, Oct. 6 and Nov. 3.

There is no cost to participate. Applications are due May 4.

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.

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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.
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