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PCSN Network plans workshops for parents

Tradwinds Hotel [photo from website]
Autism, communication and school transitioning highlighted
Special to Samoa News

There’s good news for the parents on island who struggle to help their children with special needs. The PCSN - Parents with Special Needs Network - in conjunction with the Leadership in Disabilities & Achievement of Hawaii (LDAH) have scheduled three workshops on island at the end of the month.

Sandy Scanlan, a founding parent of PCSN, is hoping to spread the word to families, teachers, health care workers, and community members who may find these workshops valuable.

They are free and open to the public, however space is limited to 50 persons each day.

 Workshop dates are Tuesday Feb 27, Wednesday Feb 28, and Thursday March 1. They will all be conducted at the Tradewinds Hotel from 9am to 2pm daily, and lunch will be provided for participants.

The workshops will be conducted as follows:

Tuesday, Feb 27: TRANSITIONING: This will include transitioning students from early intervention to elementary, elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college, college to work, and beyond.

The Transitioning unit will be led by Rosie Rowe from Hawaii, who heads up the Leadership in Disabilities & Achievement of Hawaii (LDAH) and the Parent Training Information (PTI) program under OSEP (Office of Special Education Program). Rowe also oversees the local PTI, which is currently under the PCSN Network.

Wednesday, Feb 28:  COMMUNICATION: This workshop will cover many aspects of communication including Alternate Augmentative Communication, Sign Language (ALS), behavioral techniques, and a presentation from visiting speech pathologist, Jennifer Tarnay.

Thursday, March 1: AUTISM: The many aspects of autism will be covered, and it will also feature a few parents sharing stories of their experiences with their autistic children.  The workshop will include a discussion of many of the disorders which are similar to autism, and how they affect behavior and a child’s ability to interact with others.

The trainings and workshops this coming week will be conducted almost entirely by the local community in American Samoa— which means, says Scanlan, “ if we have questions, we can refer to our local experts after the conference is over.  Common complaints we hear from our community include (first) that there are few programs for their special needs children, and (second) there is very little professional teacher training.”

She said that PCSN is working with parents, teachers, and local organizations to help alleviate both concerns. She added, “We are so grateful for the support of Rosie Rowe and the LDAH.”

Workshops are open to all parents, teachers, caregivers and community members.

Scanlan added a special note about bringing children, saying, “The workshops this week are during school hours so parents can focus more, but I want to be clear that if your child is older—or not in school— your child is welcome.”

“Parents of children with special needs have given up many social gatherings, left movies early, spent church in the Sunday School with their child, or denied their children socialization, all in an effort to not disturb others. But for any and all PCSN events, the children are welcome.  If there is a disruption, we understand and we will help you.  We have all been there, you will not be made to feel ashamed or unwelcome.”

Because space is limited, registration is a must.

Please call Sandy at 731-3959.



The Parents of Children with Special Needs Network was a labor of love organized several years ago by Sandy Scanlan, who is a physical therapist on island, as well as a busy mother of eight children. One of her daughters, Jasmine was originally thought to be autistic, but was later diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder rendering her non-verbal. Jasmine also suffers from dyspraxia, wherein her body does not do what her mind wants, making it difficult for her to control her emotions.

Because of the limited information which can be found on island for children with special needs, the PCSN Network,  an association of parents and interested community members, seeks to gather parents to support other parents, and keep them aware of activities and workshops which would inform, educate and assist them in their daily lives.

PCSN Network now has an email list as well as a FB page to help keep parents apprised of activities and events. Parents are encouraged to use these two forms of social media to connect with one another, ask questions and share ideas.

Other activities currently available include adapted swim class, ASL classes and art classes.  We also hope to repeat our summer camp in July.

Scanlan says there are also many committed teachers and agencies wanting to know more about helping these special children.  

She has a special “Thank You” to SPED, for sending so many teachers to the workshops.  “It’s easy to blame schools for not teaching our kids or meeting their specific needs, but at the same time, without on-island training, our teachers have little opportunity to improve,” she said. “We are hoping to provide continual training for our families and teachers so we can work together in meeting these needs.”

PCSN is also looking for local specialists to present workshops that may be helpful.  Scanlan noted that many parents become experts in their child's field of disability.

“For example, Sheba Sagiao is our local dyslexia expert as she became certified in this area after discovering her oldest daughter struggled with this. We have other parents of children with autism who have vast amounts of knowledge on this disability. Personally, I’m getting more knowledgeable on behavioral strategies and AAC. We all have something to offer.”

A few years ago, Joyce Ursolino, PT, DPT, of Helping Hands met an OSEP rep who wanted to find a group in American Samoa that would benefit from the support of the Parent Training and Information center.   That is how PCSN connected with LDAH/ PTI in Hawaii, who offered their support with workshops and training such as the ones being offered next week.

Scanlan said that acknowledgements and gratitude should be given to Tradewinds Hotel, as well as PTI / LDAH and Rosie Rowe, along with the numerous agencies, volunteers and teachers who have helped over the years.  The parents are grateful for each person and every agency, business or organization who comes forward to help.