SMITHFIELD – The newly re-formed Smithfield Special Education Learning Advisory Committee has a spring and summer list of events planned to continue to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion of special education in Smithfield.
Kristen Ricciardelli of the SSELAC said she and two other mothers of children with special needs, including Dyana LeBlanc and School Committee member Amanda Fafard, got together last year to restart the state-mandated board. Previous members retired from the board due to aging children and work, so the trio decided to bring it back to life.
Ricciardelli said SSELAC provides a voice for children and their families, offering information and encouraging acceptance from others. Now that the group is back in action, Ricciardelli said several upcoming events are coming to Smithfield.
“We’re moms looking to make a difference,” said Fafard.
LeBlanc said all of the SSELAC volunteers have seen the different ways their children were treated due to having special needs in and out of school. Ricciardelli said they get to see both sides, and are doing their best to make a positive difference in response.
“We all have different experiences. The stigma, whether it be for special needs or an IEP, not just for my child but any child, is there. There is a stigma behind a child needing help or extra services at school,” Fafard said.
For Ricciardelli, LeBlanc and Fafard, SSELAC is about breaking down misunderstandings and creating inclusion and acceptance. Fafard said people stare and point and ask questions when they do have exposure, so hosting events and bringing people of every ability out for some fun is beneficial for the town.
The group hosted one “Positivity Showcase,” where any member of the community is recognized for positively impacting students. Pleasant View Elementary School’s Kaylie Filbert and Old County Road Elementary School’s Jen Tsonos were recognized for May.
“The biggest piece we stand for is the positive stuff. We are constantly pushing positivity out,” Ricciardelli said.
SSELAC leaders say they are proud to bring a color run to Deerfield Park this Saturday, May 13, featuring various organizations representing different abilities. There will be a color representing people of all abilities and a specific vendor with associated information.
“We say you can run, walk and roll. However you move to get through the trail,” said LeBlanc.
She said the kickoff event will be full of color and information and not a run in the traditional sense. She said colored powder will be thrown at different places during the race, and she encourages participants in the free event to wear white and eye protection. The color run will begin at 9 a.m. at Deerfield Park and go until noon.
“We want to have little events to show that awareness, acceptance and inclusion doesn’t end when the school day ends. It’s everywhere in town,” Ricciardelli said.
On Sept. 29, SSELAC is putting on an all-day townwide Unified Day where residents are asked to wear the color green to show “that unification of the whole town that everyone is in support of the special education community,” Ricciardelli said.
She said they would like to see more businesses get involved to share the message of inclusion.
“It will be great for these kids to go somewhere and see people in green and keep the conversation going,” she said.
Ricciardelli said the group is continuously looking for sponsors to help with events, and she said SSELAC is great at returning the favor through promotions on its social media pages. She said they are not looking for monetary donations, but for businesses to support their cause and raise awareness of equality for people of any ability.
Find more about the group on Facebook, SmithfieldSELAC.
Acceptance and inclusion. Watch out for these woke terms
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