The state advocacy efforts of the CSN at WIHD are rooted in personal and professional experience (from the thousands of families and professionals we assist) – and passion. In a state where few people understand complex regulatory requirements pertaining to student exit, Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), and English Language Learners (ELLS) who are students with disabilities (SWDs), the voices and viewpoints of these committed professionals are critical, and oftentimes unique. A collaborative approach and respected expertise has enabled the CSN team at WIHD to have a significant impact on policy impacting SWDs in New York State.

CSN staff serve on a multitude of state level committees, providing their insights and expertise to critical policy decisions. Naomi Brickel is currently serving on a NYSED workgroup analyzing root causes and proposing solutions to address the NYS’s non-compliance with IDEA Indicator 5 targets pertaining to least restrictive environment (LRE). Stephanie Bellantoni, a parent, attorney, and former LEND trainee, and staunch advocate for inclusion is the only parent member of NYSED’s Alternate Assessment Advisory Panel. Lulu Bencosme, respected in the state for her work with school districts to engage families of English Language Learners (ELLS), was invited by NYSED to present at the “Next Generation Learning Standards” conferences across the state (the first in November had 1300 attendees) on strategies to reach underrepresented families, and was recently appointed to NYS’s State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) Implementation Design Team. Suzanne Peretz, Director of the the CSN’s Early Childhood Direction Center (also funded by NYSED) is appointed to the NYS SSIP State Leadership Team, and also serves on a NYS Early Intervention Coordinating Council Early Social-Emotional Guidance workgroup.

New York State is lucky to have such an experienced and passionate group helping to inform Special Education policy.