Tools for Parents of Children with Disabilities, including Video-Modeling and Community Support, Now Available Online from YourSpecialEducationRights.Com.

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Connecticut Special Education Advocate Julie Swanson and Attorney Jennifer Laviano, together with Mazzarella Media, announce the official launch of YourSpecialEducationRights.com, a free online resource that provides the first and only video-based special education resource for parents of children who have disabilities.

We’re here to empower parents with the tools and information they need to feel prepared for that next IEP meeting.

Attorney Jennifer Laviano and Special Education Advocate Julie Swanson, having spent their professional careers securing appropriate special education services and protecting the Civil Rights of students, announce the launch of http://www.YourSpecialEducationRights.com (YSER), a free online resource for parents. Developed with Mazzarella Media, an Emmy-award winning educational content provider in Southington, CT, YSER is the first and only online social community to provide video-based training and an online social support network comprised exclusively of parents of children who have disabilities.

With a constantly-updated series of engaging videos, designed to help parents recognize and model appropriate responses to roadblocks put forth by public school administrators when special education services are requested, YSER gives parents powerful tools and guidance to effectively advocate for their child’s education. Parents who take advantage of YSER’s online membership are able to learn about their legal rights in a practical, user-friendly format.

What’s more, YSER features a robust online community, plus up-to-the-minute blogs by Jen and Julie and live WebShows featuring a variety of disability experts where members can engage with Jen, Julie and fellow YSER fans to learn even more about how to support their child’s educational needs. In just the last six weeks, almost 350 parents have joined, with new members added every day.

Given that May is Mental Health Awareness month, the timing for YSER's official online launch couldn't be better, and was kicked off with a WebShow on May 15th entitled "The Intersection of Special Education and Mental Health." The need for the site is clear and growing: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that as many as 20% of American children have a mental disorder including autism. And in 2009, the U.S. Department of Education reported that about 5.8 million of the nation’s schoolchildren, ages 6 to 21, receive special education services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). But for many of these children appropriate services are being routinely denied.

“So many parents tell me that nobody at the school is listening,” says Julie Swanson, Special Education Advocate and YSER co-founder. “It can be intimidating to attend an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting when you aren’t an expert in the laws. How can you advocate effectively for your child? We’re here with YSER to empower parents with the tools and information they need to feel prepared for that next IEP meeting.”

YSER co-founder and special education attorney Jennifer Laviano agrees: “One of the hardest things for me to hear from parents is that their lack of knowledge resulted in a lack of service for their child,” she explains. “Julie and I are absolutely convinced that the outcomes for kids whose parents know their rights—and whose parents can speak from a position of authority about their child’s rights and needs—are far better than for kids whose parents are uninformed.”

That explains Jen and Julie’s primary motivation to launch YSER. “Securing an appropriate education for your child—and getting your child the services he or she needs—shouldn’t be something reserved only for the wealthy," says Jen, "and parents shouldn’t have to risk financial ruin to fight for their children’s rights. We launched YSER so that parents of any income could access appropriate resources to help them do right by their child.”

To learn more about YSER, visit YourSpecialEducationRights.com, or call Barbara Distinti, the YSER media contact, at (203) 545-3465.

ABOUT JENNIFER LAVIANO
Attorney Jennifer Laviano is in private practice in Connecticut. Ms. Laviano is the Chair of the Board of Directors of COPAA, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the leading national voice for the Civil Rights of students who require special education. Her representation of children with special needs encompasses the full spectrum of advocacy under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), from attendance at IEP Team meetings and Mediation, to zealous and experienced litigation in Due Process Hearings and Federal Court. Ms. Laviano is a regular presenter, both locally and nationally, on the subject of the special legal rights of children with disabilities and their entitlement to receive a Free and Appropriate Education, and writes the popular blog http://www.SpecialEdJustice.com.

ABOUT JULIE SWANSON
Julie Swanson is in private practice as a special education advocate in Connecticut. After her son was diagnosed with autism, Ms. Swanson decided to change careers and returned to school to obtain an additional degree as a Disability Specialist. Her practice is exclusively dedicated to helping parents of children with disabilities obtain appropriate special education services. Ms. Swanson's website http://www.yourspecialchild.com is dedicated to the everyday needs of children who have autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities.

ABOUT MAZZARELLA MEDIA
For nearly 30 years, Mazzarella Media has been at the cutting edge of high quality video production. This Emmy-award winning firm provides its clients complete production solutions, from story concept, production logistics and high end post-production to multiple format delivery options. Communicating complex ideas into clear, concise visual media is the hallmark of a Mazzarella Media video production. To find out more about Mazzarella Media, visit http://mazz.com/.

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