We Belong IFC

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“We Belong” – Inclusion in Fairfield County (IFC)

A network of individuals from Fairfield County who are interested in Inclusive Education for students with disabilities! Six meetings a year are held at the Westport Library, in Westport, CT. For more info, or contact Eva Greenwald at (203) 554-4462, or evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net.


20010 – 2011 Meetings

November 17, 2010: Wednesday, 6:30 pm. WE BELONG dinner at Bertucci’s in Westport, discussion: What’s working/not working in inclusive education. Dinner supported by the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress (CDSC). To learn more about the CDSC, check out http://www.ctdownsyndrome.org. Please RSVP to Eva Greenwald at evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net. Also email Eva to complete a survey about going on a Wrightslaw Cruise.

Message from Eva Greenwald:

This year, in addition to our  Second Annual Sped Summit and Gala Awards, we will focus on how best to  promote of Inclusion.
 If you cannot come to the dinner meeting, please email me by November 15 about what is working for your child/children with regard to inclusion (ie., in school, afterschool activities, outside clubs, sports,  volunteer groups that promote inclusion,  in recreation, in the community, in employment, etc.) and what areas need work. I will compile all of our experiences and we’ll share what’s working and see areas  we can improve on.  At the dinner we’ll also brainstorm Inclusion Events and Opportunitites that we can create, so if you can’t make the meeting, please share your ideas with me in an email.
To that end I have two pieces of exciting news:
1. Joanna Templeton, creative director at the prestigious ad agency, Young & Rubicam,  announced at the Gala last June that she would create pro-inclusion radio and television public service announcements using our children!  Joanna is planning to have the radio scripts ready for the November 17th meeting so come and we’ll unveil them.
2. I am working with Pete Wright of Wrightslaw, the premiere source for Special Education Law and Advocacy education, to create a Wrightslaw Conference Trip. Tomorrow I will send out a brief 15 question survey that will help us design the Conference Trip to meet your needs.  Please fill it out and send it back to me by November 15. Also, please refer the survey to friends, family, your teachers, students, colleagues, attorneys and advocates. We want as much input as possible! I may have some preliminary results in time for the dinner meeting as well.


2009 – 2010 Meetings

WE BELONG: Inclusion in Fairfield County is brings you a full schedule of wonderful speakers and magical gala awards ceremonies and a few surprises. And we have an amazing and very generous co-sponsor, Chris McAuliffe and the CDSC.  He and his organization will be sponsoring four speakers and catering dinner (so RSVPs are an absolute must!!!).
October 14, 2009: 6:30 to 8:45pm, Dinner served. Getting the Right Program Using the IEP Process. Presented by special education attorneys Anne Eason, Esq.,  Nora Belanger, Esq. and special education advocate Gerri Fleming. The presenters are in the trenches every day representing students with disabilities who need meaningful access to the general education curriculum. Held at the Westport Public Library, Weeks Seminar Room third floor. Sponsored by WE BELONG – Inclusion in Fairfield County, with generous support from the CT Down Syndrome Congress. CEUs granted. Dinner is 6:30 to 7, then presentation begins at 7. Extensive handouts.  For more info, contact Eva Greenwald at (203) 554-4462, or evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net or check http://www.spednet.org/we_belong/. The Westport library is located at 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.  Directions can be found by calling the library at (203) 291-4840 or check their website at www.westportlibrary.org.

October 29, 2009: Thursday 7-9pm, Coleytown Middle School, Westport. Maverick Minds: A Cognitive Perspective on ADD/ADHD Kids. Presenter: Ruthann N. Short, MSW, LCSW.
Co-sponsored with Westport SEPTA. RSVP by October 27. 
It’s like getting a parenting Ph.D. in educational psychology on ADD/ADHD. This presentation will provide information from identification to intervention. It takes knowledge of the process to obtain an appropriate education/treatment program for ADD/ADHD kids. An appropriate program provides an opportunity to develop compensatory strategies and adaptive skills for children to reach their potential and succeed. Ruthann Short, LCSW is the director of Maverick Minds, LLC.  She has a private practice in Ridgefield and Westport, CT. Her clinical practice provides a cognitive-behavioral approach with a strength-based perspective. Additionally she offers Strategic Parent Coaching for school related concerns. For more info, check out http://www.maverickmindsllc.com.

November 9, 2009: 6:30 to 8:45pm, Dinner served. Transition Planning 101. Presented by Margaret (Muncie) Kardos, MS, OTR/L, ATP. It’s never too early to begin thinking about preparing a student for the transition from public school to adult life.  This presentation will focus on the basic steps that should be considered for every student entering this next phase of his or her education.  Muncie Kardos is an educational consultant who has worked in the area of transition planning for over 10 years.  She has presented on this topic at both the state and national level.  Currently she is working on completing her doctorate in this area. Held at the Westport Public Library, Weeks Seminar Room third floor. Sponsored by WE BELONG – Inclusion in Fairfield County, with generous support by the CT Down Syndrome Congress. CEUs granted. Dinner is 6:30 to 7, then presentation begins at 7. Extensive handouts.  For more info, contact Eva Greenwald at (203) 554-4462, or evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net or check http://www.spednet.org/we_belong/. The Westport library is located at 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.  Directions can be found by calling the library at (203) 291-4840 or check their website at www.westportlibrary.org.

December 10, 2009: 6:30 to 8:45pm, Dinner served. The Music Effect: Preparing the Mind/Body for Learning. Presented by Dorita S. Berger, MA, MT-BC, LCAT.  How does music impact the body?  What happens in the brain when in the presence of music?  These questions and more will be discussed by published authors, music therapist, educator and concert artist Dorita  (Dori) S. Berger of the Music Therapy Clinic in Norwalk, CT.  Interactive dialog will include some hand on activities and Q&A addressing various ways in which music can treat deficits often better than many other clinical interventions.  Come prepared to sing and clap and explore your own physiological and mental responses to music. Dori is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and NYU, with additional piano training at Julliard. She is an international lecturer and consultant on music in human adaptation and it’s application in music therapy. Her book include Music Therapy, Sensory Integration and the Autistic Child and THE MUSIC EFFECT:Music Physiology and Clinical Applications, and Toward the Zen of Performance:  Music Improvisation Therapy for Development of Self-Confidence in the Performer. . Held at the Westport Public Library, Weeks Seminar Room third floor. Sponsored by WE BELONG – Inclusion in Fairfield County, with generous support by the CT Down Syndrome Congress. CEUs granted. Dinner is 6:30 to 7, then presentation begins at 7. Extensive handouts.  For more info, contact Eva Greenwald at (203) 554-4462, or evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net or check http://www.spednet.org/we_belong/. The Westport library is located at 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.  Directions can be found by calling the library at (203) 291-4840 or check their website at www.westportlibrary.org.

January  23, 2010: Saturday, 2 – 4pm.  Autism Speaks Autism Forum, Moderated by Congressman Jim Himes (D-4).  Darien Public Library, Community Room. We have a special opportunity to tell our Congressman what we think about education, services and inclusion for our children. Please RSVP to connecticutcac@autismspeaks.org. Panelists: Peter Bell, Autism Speaks Executive Vice President Programs and Services, Father to a child with autism; Senator Bob Duff  Connecticut State Senator representing Darien and Norwalk; Dr. James McPartland Assistant Professor, Yale Autism Program; Julie Swanson Special Education Advocate, Mother to a child with autism; Kim Stagliano Managing Editor Age of Autism, Mother to three children with autism.

February 3, 2010: Wednesday, 6:15pm. Held at Bertucci’s in Westport (Post Road, off of I-95, Exit 18). You are cordially invited to our second Sped Summit, a dinner generously sponsored by the CT Down Syndrome Congress, where we will discuss, confidentially and anonymously,  what’s working/not working in special education in our school districts. The series of Sped Summits will culminate in a press release/conference this spring. RSVP: to evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net no later than February 1.  You must send me your name, school district and contact info (home and cell phone numbers) in case  we have a snow cancellation. Sponsored by WE BELONG, Inclusion in Fairfield County.

May 17,2010: Self-Advocacy and Bullying, with Catherine Hogan,  Monday, 6:30-9pm, Westport Library. Dinner served.  RSVP by May 14. Sponsored by WE BELONG. For more info, contact Eva Greenwald at (203) 554-4462 or evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net or check www.spednet.org/we_belong/. The Westport library is located at 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.  Directions can be found by calling the library at (203) 291-4840 or check their website at www.westportlibrary.org. Also, WE BELONG needs help with programming beginning the fall of 2010.  If interested please contact Eva at evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net.We Belong – Inclusion in Fairfield County (IFC) is a network of individuals from Fairfield County who are interested in Inclusive Education for students with disabilities! Six meetings a year are held at the Westport Library, in Westport, CT. Dinners are a courtesy of the CT Down Synrome Congress – www.ctdownsyndrome.org.
    Preparation for post school life is not an overnight process.  According to government reports, too many students with disabilities have difficulty achieving their goals or feeling connected once they leave high school.  Post high school difficulty is attributed to the absence of self-advocacy skills. These skills include: self-knowlege, articulation of needs and accommodations, comprehension of rights, descriptions of how they communicate, explanations of what helps their understanding, strategies that help others work with them, and examples of what they do well.  In school settings, staff are mandated by IDEA to provide specially designed instruction and accommodation in both general and special education classes.  As a result, students graduate and transition to the community with limited experience in self-advocacy.  Parents also engage this “doing for” process.  In this workshop, parents will learn how to encourage self-advocacy skills regardless of whether their child is just beginning school or has been out of school for a number of years.  Parents will help their child discover practice opportunities for risk-taking and decision-making. The present is a good enough time for your child to strengthen her skills for navigating the world of school, work, or community.
     Catherine Hogan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Professional Educator.  She graduated from Smith Phi Beta Kappa, with an AB degree in Clinical Psychology and completed her masters degree in clinical social work at the Smith School for Social Work.  Catherine is a clinical instructor/supervisor at the Child Study Center, practiced school social work for many years, and worked as a parent advocate. Catherine served on the Governor’s Task Force on Bullying and is Past President of the CT Association of School Social Workers.  Her colleagues awarded her School Social Worker of the Year in 2006.  Given her knowledge and experience in the ethics of school practice, Catherine was recently appointed to the Ethics Committee of NASW.  Catherine is currently the Executive Director of Inclusion Teaming, a non profit organization that provides a “school to future” opportunity for students with skill difference and students with skill advantage; www.inclusionteaming.org.  Catherine presents workshops locally and nationally and maintains a private practice in Westport and Milford.

June 2010: Sped Summit Results and Grassroots Advocacy with Maryann Lombardi, Nancy Byrne and Eva Greenwald. Eva Greenwald will present the findings of the WE BELONG first annual Sped Summit held this past winter with parents and teachers. representing ten school districts in Fairfield County.  The meetings focused on what things school districts were doing well for our children. Come learn from the collective experience of parents and teachers all over Fairfield County. These results will serve as the “baseline” for our school districts’ performance.  Next year and hopefully for many years to come we will continue holding Sped Summits and will give our Fairfield County schools a “report card” on how much improvement (hopefully) we’ve seen.
     How do you then use this information?
     Advocates Maryann Lombardi and Nancy Byrne will present “Grassroots Parent Advocacy”.  Maryann and Nancy will discuss what can happen when parents collaborate to help each other and their district improve.  They will discuss forming collaborative partnerships, working within the confines of the law to aid enforcement and implementation and promote appropriate service delivery for our children with special needs.  Nancy and Maryann have used the Freedom of Information Act, Family Rights and privacy Act, the Gebser Letter process as well as a citizen’s right to petition your Board of Ed for a Public Hearing, in order to make information available, give notice to the district and promote parents working together to benefit their children.
     Maryann Lombardi is a member of the CT Council on Developmental Disabilities, a parent and parent advocate.  She has served as Guardian Ad Litem for Children in Placement in the juvenile court system, has been a member of the Quality Improvement Council for the Department of Developmental Services, Community Committee for Benhaven Residential, and has been a grassroots activist against seclusion and restraint of children with special needs on a  state and national level.  Maryann has three children, two of whom are adolescents with special needs, autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.
     Nancy Byrne has a masters degree in education, taught in the public school system and has an in-depth understanding of specialized instruction.  She is a member of COPA, the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates, a Parent Advocate and the mother of  three children, one of whom has special needs.  Nancy organized the first public hearing with a Board of Education in CT using petitioning rights granted to citizen’s by state law.
     Eva Greenwald has gladly served as president of WE BELONG: Inclusion in Fairfield County for five years.  She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology/Social Research from City University of New York, an MA in TV/Radio from the University of Maryland and a BA from Brooklyn College in Broadcasting, English and Education.  She has been a Homebound Teacher for various school districts for the past 15 years and is currently co-owner with her husband of Cruise Planners Westport/Best Cruises and Travel Now.  Previously Eva worked in broadcasting, advertising and market research.  Eva has two daughters, Samantha who is a junior in college and Hilary, a freshman in high school who has autism spectrum disorder.  Eva has been dealing with the Westport School District for the past twelve years.

June 14, 2010: Monday, 6-9pm. Gala Awards Ceremony and Keynote Address by Jacob Pratt, a young adult with autism who is an advocate for people with disabilities. Held by WE BELONG: Inclusion in Fairfield County. Held at the Westport Library, McManus Room, 1st floor.  Opening Remarks by Jacob Pratt, a young adult with autism, who will address the importance of inclusion in his life. Special Ed Summit results presented by Eva Greenwald. Grassroots Advocacy presented by Maryann Lombardi and Nancy Byrne. Gala Awards Ceremony.
Dinner and desserts sponsored by CDSC – CT Down Syndrome Congress – www.ctdownsyndrome.org.

The Westport library is located at 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.  Directions can be found by calling the library at (203) 291-4840 or check their website at www.westportlibrary.org.

 RSVP by June 11 to Eva Greenwald at evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net or (203) 554-4462.
Renee and Geoff Malyszka, Wilton, presented by Gloria Jean Bass.
Karen Zuckert
Elizabeth Koennecke
Sally Zuckert
Grace Stryker
Sophie Zuckert, all New Canaan, presented by Joanna Templeton
Muncie Kardos, Milford, presented by Joanna Templeton
Cecilia Duffy, Staples HS,
Chef Cecily Gans, Staples HS, presented by Hilary, Eva and Mark Greenwald
Guy Taccone, Norwalk, presented by Robin and Ed Rockoff
Catherine Hogan, Westport, presented by Jean Schoenleber, Mary Gambardella, Cheryl Ann Hudd, John Ralbovsky, Merieta Bayati, Deborah Hawkins and Patricia Stacy


Social and Recreational Opportunities: WE BELONG is looking to collaborate with the Fairfield and Westport SEPTAs to have the wonderful Kennedy Center offer our kids social and recreation activities at the Fairfield YMCA one Friday evening per month, free or at a low nominal cost.  Before WE BELONG commits to this program we would like to get an idea how many WE BELONGers are interested in having their children participate.  Please email Eva Greenwald at evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net with your interest, children’s names and ages by October 15, 2009.


2008 – 2009 Meetings

Wednesday September 24, 2008: 7-9pm, Dr. Michael Weiss from Giant Steps and private practice on Social Skills and Making Friendships, co-sponsored with the Westport SEPTA, at Coleytown Middle School, on North Avenue, Westport. For more info, or contact Eva Greenwald at (203) 554-4462, or evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net.


November 6, 2008: Thursday, 6 – 9pm, Dr. Kathy Whitbread from St. Joseph’s College on Differentiated Instruction: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know. Held at the Westport Library. Sponsored by WE BELONG, Inclusion in Fairfield County; co-sponsored with CDSC – CT Down Syndrome Congress, CEU’s are being offered by New Canaan Public Schools. Early dinner served, RSVP required by November 1, to Eva Greenwald at evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net. The Westport Library is located at: Arnold Bernhard Plaza, 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880. More on CDSC at www.ctdownsyndrome.org.

Differentiated Instruction is based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and be adapted to meet the needs of individual and diverse learners in classrooms.  Come learn what differentiated is and what it means for your child or classroom. Hands on, collaborative activities will provide participants with an opportunity to plan a differentiated lesson based on state curriculum standards and individual learner profiles. This approach applies to students of all abilities and grade levels.

More on Kathleen Whitbread, Ph.D.:
Kathleen Whitbread, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Education and Program Director of Special Education at Saint Joseph College, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in special education. Dr. Whitbread has more than 25 years of experience providing training and technical assistance to school districts and families in inclusive education, positive behavior supports, and family-school partnerships. Prior to coming to Saint Joseph College, Dr. Whitbread was Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Director of the University of Connecticut Center for Developmental Disabilities, where she directed a number of statewide projects focused on increasing access to general education for students with significant disabilities. Dr. Whitbread’s research interests include early literacy instruction for children with intellectual disabilities, and she is currently pursuing Associates Level training in the Orton Gillingham Approach to reading instruction.  Dr. Whitbread has published articles about her research in Teaching Exceptional Children, The Journal of the Connecticut Association for Reading Research, The Journal of Inclusive Education, and Topics in Early Childhood Special Education. She is co-author, with Anne Eason, of the book IEP and Inclusion Tips for Parents and Teachers  published by Attainment/IEP Resources in 2006. Dr. Whitbread can be contacted at kwhitbread@sjc.edu.


Monday November 17, 2008:  6-9pm, Gala Awards Ceremony for 2008 with keynote speaker, Attorney David Shaw, on an update of the PJ Case and Inclusion in the State of CT, at the Westport Library. For more info, or contact Eva Greenwald at (203) 554-4462, or evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net.

Sandwiches & Dessert reception
Co-Sponsored by The Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress
Attorney Shaw will address the status of the implementation of the PJ Settlement Agreement and the outstanding issues in connection with the litigation. He will discuss the difficult problems parents are facing due to both the current economy and how the local school districts believe that the PJ case is over.  Attorney Shaw will share his ideas on what groups like WE BELONG and other advocates of inclusion can do to combat the increasing difficulties families are experiencing in trying to achieve general education placements. 
Our award winners are:
Chris Miller, Rippowam School, Stamford, presented by Ida Lupinacci; Barbara Vogel, VogelMusik, New Fairfield, presented by Arlene Litt; Jim Schilling, Music Theatre of CT, Westport, Emma Garza Genster, Kennedy Center, Trumbull, Edward Mann, Jr., Staples HS, Westport, presented by Marla Cowden; Luis Velazquez, Abilis Youth Services, presented by Monica Schlessinger Smyth; Gloria Bass, Wilton YMCA, presented by Sheryl Knapp; Malya Shmotkin, Sora Margolis and Rabbi Chezy Deren, Friendship Circle, Stamford, presented by Eva Greenwald.

More info on the CDSC can be found at www.ctdownsyndrome.org/. More info on the Westport Library  www.westportlibrary.org/

December 9, 2008: Dr. Linda Rammler on Positive Behavior Supports. Sponsored by WE BELONG, Inclusion in Fairfield County, co-sponsored by the CT Down Syndrome Congress. Tuesday  6-9pm, Westport Library. RSVP necessary for dinner by December 3. RSVP to Eva Greenwald at evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net. The Westport Library is located at: Arnold Bernhard Plaza, 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880. For more info on the CDSC, check www.ctdownsyndrome.org
April 30, 2009:  Attorney Mark Partin and Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Larissa Gionfriddo on the Importance of Inclusive Recreation. Held at the Westport Library. Sponsored by WE BELONG, Inclusion in Fairfield County; co-sponsored with CDSC – CT Down Syndrome Congress, Early dinner served, RSVP required, to Eva Greenwald at evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net. The Westport Library is located at: Arnold Bernhard Plaza, 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880. More on CDSC at www.ctdownsyndrome.org.

May 11, 2009:  – WILL BE RESCHEDULED TO THE FALL! Muncie Kardos, MS, OTR/L, ATP on Futures Planning.


May 27,2009: Wednesday , 7-9pm, Coleytown Middle School, Westport: Speech Therapists Phoebe Tucker from the Montano Center and Judy Elkes from Trumbull Schools on “Innovative Interventions for Language and Literacy” (Call 341-1601 for directions).  Co-sponsored by Westport SEPTA and WE BELONG. Phoebe and Judy will discuss the role of the senses in how they affect communication outcomes and reading, preview software, voice-output devices and virtual reality to solidify concepts and enhance social interaction, explore the best practices for developing language and literacy, explore phonological awareness skills narrative structure, retelling and building new neuro-pathways for reading and language through innovative technology. Phoebe Tucker is the creator and director of the Montano Assistive Technology Center (a division of UCP). For the past 25 years Phoebe has worked with individuals with various disabilities, administers AAC evaluations throughout the state and for the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services. Judy Elkes has been a speech pathologist for 37 years. She is currently the President of the Speech and Language Coordinators for the State of CT. She is the author of the Language Chain, a specialized approach to mesh listening, expressive language, reading and written expression. She uses techniques from Haskins Lab, Narrative Development, Power of Retelling and Lindmood Bell.  She was Teacher of the Year for her school district in 2006. RSVP to Eva Greenwald at evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net.

June 1, 2009: Gala Awards Ceremony for 2009

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Eva Greenwald

(203) 454-9602






WE BELONG! Inclusion in Fairfield County, a group of parents, educators and service providers dedicated to the inclusion of children with disabilities throughout Fairfield County, is thrilled to host keynote speaker, Wayne Holland, Director of Special Education Services for Stamford Public Schools, followed by the presentation of awards to nine outstanding members of our community who promote excellence in inclusion on Monday, June 1, 6-8:30pm at the Westport Library. Preceding the keynote address, we will be entertained by a drama group from The Pilot House of Fairfield and hip-hop dancers from Gotta Dance Studios of Fairfield/Bridgeport.  The program is free to the public and sandwiches and a dessert buffet will be served. A sign language interpreter, Paola Santos, will be translating that evening for our guests who are deaf. Paola is a student at Norwalk Community College and is studying to be an interpreter. The evening is dedicated to the memory of student CJ Sweeny of Stamford and parent and advocate Richard Freeman of Trumbull.


The keynote speaker for evening is Wayne Holland, Ed.S., CCC-SLP.  Wayne’s keynote will be, Inclusion – What it means to me, What about you? Wayne is the Director of Special Education for the Stamford Public Schools. Previously he was the Coordinator of Special Education, Secondary Level for the New Canaan Public Schools. Wayne is an Editorial Advisor, for the American Medical Association (AMA) Current Procedural Panel (CPT) Panel representing the American Speech Language and Hearing Association (ASHA). He has consulted in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Copenhagen and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Mr. Holland is widely published and has presented before many professional organizations.


We are honored to celebrate the accomplishments of our nine award winners for excellence in the promotion of inclusion:


Tomo Yokose, a junior at Rye Country Day school, nominated by Yuko Miya and Luis Velazquez from Abilis. Luis states, “Tomo started volunteering last summer at our Artsfusion program and took well and enthusiastically to the challenge of doing theatre games and acting our skits with teens with disabilities…Tomo has a very quiet, unassuming manner, but he is one of the most well-rounded teens we know and a true friends to the kids with disabilities”.


Anna Schlessinger, a sophomore at Westhill High School in Stamford was nominated by Yuko Miya. Yuko states, “A beautiful young woman, Anna is a favorite among the teens with special needs. For our most recent winter musical, Anna remained on stage for the entire show.  She held the microphone for kids for their solos; she cues a non-verbal teen to make her animal sounds…The director claimed that without Anna, the show would have been very rough.  Anna knew everyone’s lines and roles and entrances and exits. And, the net time the show goes on, Anna will be back”.


Vivian Birdsall, a math teacher in the New Canaan Public Schools, was nominated by Anne Eason.  Anne Eason asserts,” Vivian was surprised to see a girl Eva with Down syndrome in her 7th grade math class. By November, Vivian wanted the paraprofessional to back off so Vivian could be in charge of Eva’s education. Vivian learned how to differentiate her instruction so all learners could benefit. At the end of the year, Vivian was so excited about teaching Eva that she followed her to grade 8…Vivian went on to get inclusion grants from the State Department of Education to teach the Coaches Academy and now speaks nationally about including students in math”.


Katie Campbell, a middle school teacher and Varsity Volleyball Coach for the New Canaan Public Schools, was nominated by Anne Eason. Eason offers, “Katie invited Eva to be the assistant manager of the team and put in all the supports in place so Eva could be successful. She taught her how to keep score and the rules of the game. There was always a different team members, on a rotating basis, to make sure Eva had someone nearby in case she had questions. The season was so successful that Eva was invited back as Assistant Manager the next year to do it all over again! Thanks, Katie. Eva made new friends and had her first and only experience in high school sports”.


Wayne Holland, Director of Special Education for the Stamford Public Schools, was nominated by Anne Eason. Anne offers, “When Wayne was the Special Education Coordinator in New Canaan, he made sure that Eva was successfully and fully included in middle school.  His vision was cutting edge, putting into motion a program that would NOT include a 1:1 paraprofessional hovering my daughter. Wayne went on to become the Director of Special Education in Stamford.  I approached him with grant money to teach parents what their special education rights were and he jumped on this, allowing three separate classes to run, including one in Spanish…As soon as Wayne learns about issues in Stamford, he jumps right in to get them fixed.  Thank you, Wayne Holland, for making Stamford a welcoming city to live in”.


Bridget LaSala, a ten-year old student from Marvin Elementary School in Norwalk, was nominated by her teacher, Alice Bianco. Alice offers, “Bridget learned about people who are deaf and wondered what would happen if a deaf student moved to Norwalk and attended her school. She realized that the student would have no one to speak to.  Bridget found out about an American Sign Language class being taught at Norwalk Community College and signed up with her mother, Mary.  She studied hard and became one of the star pupils.  For the talent show in her school she is reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and God Bless America in sign. It is wonderful that Bridget is making sure that all kids are welcomed at her school”.


Joan Sadowski, owner of the Gotta Dance Studio of Fairfield/Bridgeport was nominated by Eva Greenwald.  Eva asserts, “Joan is a wonderful, warm, loving and creative person who leads by personal and professional example. Her daughter Crystal is deaf and through Joan’s and the teachers’ tireless efforts, she became an exquisite and accomplished dancer.  Joan, herself, worked as a teacher at the Apple Learning Center and a  special education paraprofessional in the Fairfield School system, working with children with disabilities.   Joan accepts all children, including those with disabilities and holds all to the same high standards of excellence.” Joan adds, “Gotta Dance is on the cusp of celebrating their 25th anniversary. Gotta Dance Studio takes great pride in all its dancers and especially those whom have overcome their own challenges and been able to get on the dance stage and show the world their true capabilities.” Eva offers, “ My daughter Hilary has been attending Gotta Dance for several years, loves the time she spends each week, adores her teachers, enjoys the camaraderie of the other male and female dancers, shares in the creative expression and physical fitness of hip-hop dance, is excited about her dance recitals and performances – just like her typical peers!”


Laura Sanchez of New Rochelle, NY and hip-hop dance teacher at Gotta Dance Studios of Fairfield/Bridgeport, was nominated by Eva Greenwald. Eva offers, “Laura is a beautiful young woman, inside and out. Her dance moves are fun and creative, her teaching style in very nurturing. My daughter and her other students absolutely adore her.  To Laura, Hilary is another dancer, not someone with special needs. Hilary adores Laura, her friendship, her creativity, her instruction and the fact that she listens to the kids and meets each individual’s needs. Laura gets the kids very excited about their accomplishments and moves them in very creative, sophisticated and funky ways. It is wonderful to watch Laura work with all of the children – accomplished dancers each one of them!”


Anne Eason, a special education attorney in Norwalk, was nominated by Ruthann Short.  Ruthann offers, “Anne lives her life, both professionally and personally, filled with purpose, passion, compassion, dedication and commitment to all children, regardless of the nature of their disabilities. Anne is a published author of IEP and Inclusion Tips for Parents and Teachers, is a renowned national and international speaker, advocating for Special Education, Disability and Legal Rights. Anne has made remarkable contributions in Fairfield County, profoundly touching the lives of children with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities….That is what Anne does for children and families she represents: protects their legal rights with a compassionate heart and brilliant legal mind…On a personal note, Anne has raised an exceptional daughter, Eva, who share the same purpose and passion. It appears to be an Eason family commitment, advocating for disability rights. I believe Anne’s license plate spells it out, ‘LRE-ESQ’. Anne is our champion for inclusion!”


Please join us in hearing Wayne Holland and celebrating our local heroes! The Westport library is located at 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.  Directions can be found by calling the library at (203) 291-4840 or check their website at www.westportlibrary.org.


To RSVP for the gala or get more information, contact Eva Greenwald at evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net. This event is made possible by the generous support of the CT Down Syndrome Congress (CDSC). The CDSC has sponsored talks with us throughout the year. To learn more about the CDSC, please visit www.ctdownsyndrome.org. To learn more about WE BELONG, please visit www.spednet.org/we_belong.


Click here to see what we did last year in 2005/2006!

2006 / 2007 meetings:

October 3: Tuesday, 6:30-8:30. Speaker Lolli Ross, Youth Director of Greenwich ARC, will discuss Educating Students with Behavioral/Mental Health Needs in the least restrictive environment. Sponsored by We Belong – Inclusion in Fairfield County (IFC). We Belong is a network of individuals from Fairfield County who are interested in Inclusive Education for students with disabilities! Held at The Westport Library.

November 3: Friday, 9:15 am to 10:30 am. The Expert Advisory Panel on the PJ Case needs to hear from us again, on how well/not well our school districts are including our children and adhering to the PJ Case Settlement. As a result of our lobbying efforts, the EAP is again asking for our videotaped testimony. We will videotape your testimony (3 minutes max). Place: Sherwood Diner, Post Road, Westport (right off Exit 18 on I-95). Come have some breakfast/brunch and offer testimony. RSVP: evagreenwald@sbcglobal.net by Thursday November 2 please. If you would like to appear before the panel, they are meeting on Wednesday November 15, 4:30-6:30pm at the Rensselaer Hartford Campus (see attachment). Or you can write them your testimony (see attachment). Please indicate that you are with WE BELONG.

November 20: Monday, 6:30-8:30. Alternatives to the Extended School Year (ESY): Reading, Writing and Other Skills with Joan Jalbert, Speech Pathologist of Saxe Middle School in New Canaan. Held at The Westport Library.

December 11: Monday, 6:30-8:30. Logical Inclusion: Effectively Combining the School’s Curriculum and Your Child’s IEP with Janie Dymant, MA/MS and Dr. John Burke, The Hope Center. Held at The Westport Library.



We will be holding our second annual Gala Celebration on June 7, honoring those in our community who demonstrate excellence in the promotion of inclusion. We need your nominations. These could include educators, related service providers, administrators, youth group leaders, recreation providers, social service people, etc.

Kindly email me with your nomination as soon as possible and no later than March 11. Please indicate the person’s name, title, address, phone numbers, email address and detailed reasons why they should receive the WE BELONG: Inclusion in Fairfield County award. They will receive their awards in a wonderful ceremony preceded by a keynote address by David Shaw, Esq., lead attorney for the PJ Case. They will also received publicity for their wonderful work in press releases and newspapers articles.

It is my hope to announce the award winners at our Inclusion Success Stories meeting on April 11.

March 27: Tuesday, 6:30-8:30. Understanding the new IDEA regulations, including LRE. Speaker Terry DeFrancis from the CT State Department of Education.

April 11: Wednesday, 6:30 to 8:30. Inclusion Success Stories featuring a wonderful panel of educators, students, and administrators. Come hear how students with intellectual disabilities are included at New Canaan High School and at Scotland Elementary School in Ridgefield. Click here for photos!

At New Canaan High School, Eva Eason is a fully included HS sophomore. New Canaan panelists include Case manager Caryn Vita, Eva Eason — a student with Down syndrome, and her friend Caitlin Anders. At Scotland Elementary School in Ridgefield, first grader Louisa Knapp, who also has Down syndrome, is successfully included. Meet Louisa and her teacher Danielle Donovan, and her instructional paraprofessional Jillian Famiglietti.


Caitlin Anders: Caitlin is a sophomore at New Canaan High School. She is good friends with students with and without disabilities, and is vice-president of the New Canaan HS Sign Language Club.

Danielle Donovan: Danielle is currently in only her 8th year of teaching — including less than three years in Connecticut — yet in this short time she has received We Belong’s Excellence in Inclusion award, and was nominated as Ridgefield’s 2007 Teacher of the Year. For that past two years, she has fully included a student with DS in her 1st grade classroom at Scotland Elementary School in Ridgefield. Danielle majored in Elementary Education with Child Development at SUNY Oneonta, and received her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from CUNY Lehman. She is also an active member of Teachers College, a reading and writing program at Columbia University, and serves on various committees in Ridgefield — including Math Coordinator at Scotland Elementary School.

Eva Eason: At New Canaan High School, Eva Eason is a fully included HS sophomore who happens to have Down syndrome. She is attending HS for the second year without paraprofessional support and attends all general education classes. Eva started a sign language club this year. She has attended all of her IEP meetings since grade 2. Eva hopes to attend college and become a weather reporter.

Jillian Famiglietti: Jillian is an instructional paraprofessional for a 1st grader with DS at Scotland Elementary School in Ridgefield. A certified teacher, Jillian earned her BA from Manhattanville College in childhood education, sociology and anthropology and is currently pursuing an MS in education and literacy from Western Connecticut State University. As a student teacher, she worked with students with learning disabilities in inclusive classrooms.

Louisa Knapp: Louisa is a first grade student at Scotland Elementary School in Ridgefield. She loves playing with Bratz dolls and Barbies, swimming, and riding horses. She also has Down syndrome. Louisa is successfully included in the general education classroom. She loves school, and bounds off her bus every day eager to talk about her day — who she played with, who she did math or reading with, what Special she had, and even who she wants to have her next playdate with! Her mother Sheryl was concerned that she would have trouble learning to read, so Mom decided to become Orton-Gillingham certified and work as a literacy consultant!

Caryn Vita: Caryn Vita has been teaching for 14 years. She has taught all grades from pre-school to high school. Caryn is Eva’s casemanager, responsible for insuring that Eva is fully and successfully included. She is also the faculty advisor for the New Canaan High School Sign Language Club, for which Eva is president. Prior to teaching at New Canaan, she taught in Stamford, Maine, New York and on a Native American reservation in Arizona. Sign language has always been an interest of Caryns; she took American Sign Language as her language in college and was hooked! She has used sign language in almost all of her teaching experiences with her students and even a few families who had parents that were deaf. To contact Ms. Vita, email Caryn.Vita@newcanaan.k12.ct.us.

June 7: Thursday, 6:30 to 8:30. Gala Celebration featuring an Update on the PJ Case Settlement with Attorney David Shaw and presenting awards to local heroes who promote excellence in the promotion of inclusion. Click here for press release.

The Westport Library is located at:

Westport Public Library

Arnold Bernhard Plaza

20 Jesup Road

Westport, CT 06880

Directions to the The Westport Library:

  • Take I-95 to Exit 17. Travel straight to the center of town. Turn right onto the Post Road. Go over the small Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge and take first right into the Library parking lot.
  • Take Merritt Parkway to Exit 42. Follow signs for Westport, bear right when you see Daybreak Nursery and continue down Easton Road, which becomes Main Street. Just before reaching the downtown shopping area, turn right, then left and travel straight along the Saugatuck River. So straight through the light and into Library parking lot.
  • Take the Post Road into Westport and turn at corner past Ben & Jerry’s and Klaff’s lighting. This will take you into the Library parking lot.


Govenor Rell’s Proclamation!

September 2005: WE BELONG! New Organization Promoting Inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities in Fairfield County.

New County-wide Organization of Parents, Teachers and Specialists to Feature Expert Speakers, Networking and Education on Inclusion of Students with Disabilities!

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, CT September, 2005: Parents around the county are both euphoric and anxious as school bells ring again and children’s schedules begin to fill up. Parents of children receiving special education services are especially anxious at this time of year with questions about their child’s education, social and recreational programs and progress. “I knew my daughter learned best when she spent the most time with her typical (non-disabled) peers and that’s why we fought for full inclusion for her,” states Eva Greenwald, a parent of a special needs daughter in Westport. Realizing that she has a lot to learn about inclusion and few organizations to provide that information, Ms. Greenwald and other parents around Fairfield County formed WE BELONG! Inclusion in Fairfield County. The organization will have six meetings this year, free to the public, at the Westport Library, that will feature expert speakers in the area of inclusion. WE BELONG is affiliated with the Connecticut Coalition for Inclusion Education (CCIE) in Hartford and supported by the State Department of Education.


September 19, 2005: Understanding Inclusion. Panel of speakers includes Attorney Anne Eason, who will speak on the legal requirements of LRE; Lolli Ross, Youth Director of Greenwich ARC, who will discuss the benefits of inclusion and what the research says; and Ginger Spiers, former president of the CT Coalition for Inclusive Education, who will share the latest updates on the PJ lawsuit settlement agreement. Held at the Westport Library. 6:30 to 8:30 pm, Refreshments served.

October 17, 2005: Curriculum Development and Universal Design, with speaker Dr. Joan Nicoll-Senft, Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education at Central CT State University. Held at the Westport Library. 6:30 to 8:30 pm, Refreshments served.

November 14, 2005: Person-Centered Planning with speaker Dr. Linda H. Rammler, lead educational consultant of Rammler and Wood, educational consultants. Held at the Westport Library. 6:30 to 8:30 pm, Refreshments served.

December 5, 2005: Key Elements for Successful Change and Positive Outcomes for Inclusion: The Fairfield Public Schools Case, with speakers Barbara Gianquinto, Secondary Coordinator of Special Education and Ann Leffert, Inclusive Education Facilitator. Held at the Westport Library. 6:30 to 8:30 pm, Refreshments served.

February 16, 2006: Thursday. If You Don’t See What You Want (On the IEP), Just Ask! Better Educational, Recreational and Social Opportunities for Children with Disabilities, with speaker Walter Glomb, President of the CT Down Syndrome and member, Parent Work Group for the Bureau of Special Education. Snow date Monday February 27. Held at the Westport Library. 6:30 to 8:30 pm, Refreshments served.

March 21, 2006:Tuesday. Inclusion Success Stories: What Works, How and Why. Panel of parents, educators, administrators, and students with disabilities. Attorney Anne Eason will moderate. Panel Members include Dr. Candy Lombardo, Vivian Birdsall, Linda Spenard, Beth Lurie, Cathy Petrone, Eva Eason, Amy Farina, and others. Held in conjunction with the general public WestportREADS discussion of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. Held at the Westport Library. 6:30 to 8:30 pm, Refreshments served. Click here for Press Release.

April 10, 2006: Monday. Practical Tips on How to Integrate Student Support Services into the General Education Setting, with speaker Deborah Richards, educational consultant from the Bureau of Special Education at the CT State Department of Education. Held at the Westport Library. 6:30 to 8:30 pm, Refreshments served.

May 4, 2006: Thursday, 9:30-11am: Brunch at the Parkway Diner where we will socialize and videotape testimony, 3 minutes max., for the Expert Advisory Panel examining how well our children are included in general education, social and recreation programs. Even if you don’t want to video testimony, come for the socializing and brainstorming. A la carte menu. The Parkway Diner is located at 1066 High Ridge Road, Stamford , off of Exit 35 on the Merritt Parkway. Call (203) 321-8606 for directions. If you wish to send written testimony to the advisory panel, 2 pages max, please mail to: Anne Louise Thompson, Bureau of Special Education, 165 Capitol Avenue, PO Box 2219, Rm 369, Hartford, CT 06145 prior to May 9. If you wish to give in-person testimony on May 11, or have any questions about this advisory panel, please contact Ginger Spiers at VGingerS@aol.com or call (203) 846-1064.

June 7, 2006: Wednesday. 6:30-9:00pm. Awards Ceremony and Dessert Reception, featuring keynote speaker, David Shaw, lead attorney for the PJ Case, honoring outstanding members of our community who promote inclusion.