By Barry Meyer, Executive Director of The Arc Baton Rouge
Earlier this month, we were thrilled to welcome five visiting educators from Brazil to The Arc Baton Rouge Children’s Services. The visitors came to Louisiana through a program of the U.S. Department of State. The guests joined us from five states across Brazil and included four Secretaries of their state’s Department of Education and one Deputy Secretary.
We were selected because our programs help create inclusive preschool, child care and educational opportunities for children with disabilities. One of the State Department’s specific objectives was to “Expose participants to the ways in which private sector entities are engaging with public sector partners in support of educational programs.”
Between Heidi Shapiro, Children’s Services Social Worker, two interpreters, and me, we presented four programs of The Arc Baton Rouge Children’s Services:
- Early Childhood Inclusive Program
- The Preschool and Child Care Training and Technical Assistance Project
- Parent Supports and
- School Age Supports
Using a multi-platform approach including PowerPoint presentations, multilingual handouts, informal discussion, and a Q and A session, the guests learned how The Arc Children’s Services staff works with public school administrators, principals, and teachers to help them restructure programs. Additionally, they learned how our staff serves as mentors and coaches to support teachers to include children with disabilities in regular classes. They also saw how a similar training and on-going mentor/coaching approach worked in preschool and child care settings.
In the end, the participants understood that training parents and care givers to be their child’s strongest advocate was critical to ensuring success in transitioning to public school systems. They also left with the knowledge that an organization that is not a direct stakeholder, such as The Arc, can provide that training to individual parents, combine it with mentor/coaching of teachers and create opportunities for individual children as well as real systems change.
I feel that The Arc Baton Rouge was very fortunate to have this opportunity to demonstrate to our Brazilian guests how we at the grass roots advocacy and service level incorporate our core values in a very real world way!
The five education officials concluded their visit with a brief tour and overview of The Arc Early Head Start program. The visiting Brazilian educators were:
Ms. Hortencia Maria Pereira ARAUJO, Deputy State Secretary of Education, State of Sergipe
Ms. Maria Izolda Cela De Arruda COELHO, Secretary of Education, State of Ceará
Ms. Maria Nilene Badeca Da COSTA, Secretary of Education, State of Mato Grosso do Sul
Mr. Claudio Cavalcanti RIBEIRO, Secretary of Education, State of Pará
Dr. Herman Jacobus Cornelis VOORWALD, Secretary of Education, São Paulo State