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December 2021 Norfolk SEPAC Parent Newsletter

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

What's in the December issue:

Upcoming Events - Scroll for more details about our upcoming events

Getting to Know SEPAC - Learn about SEPAC and what it means to be a member


Thanks for a successful 7th Annual Norfolk SEPAC Trunk or Treat!

Thank you to all who joined us for our fun annual Halloween event in October! We were excited to welcome everyone back to a walk-through event this year. We had some fabulous trunks with themes that included pirates, sports, unicorns, camping (& a bear!), just to name a few. Thanks to our Norfolk community for making this another successful event!

We also had an amazing time supporting the Norfolk Lions/Norfolk Community League Haunted Car Crawl at Freeman Kennedy.

More recently we created a scene for the Norfolk Lions Making Spirits Bright event also at Freeman Kennedy. Thanks to the Norfolk Community League and Norfolk Lions for putting on so many great community events and inviting us to participate!


Holiday Strategies for Children with Special Needs

Holidays are a wonderful time to spend with families and friends. When you have a child with additional needs, holidays can be more challenging. See below for some strategies for making holidays fun and enjoyable for everyone in your family.

1. Safe Space

Whenever you visit a person’s house or stay at your own, establish a “safe zone” for your child so that she can retreat and be alone, if desired. This may be a room in the house or even a desk she can crawl under for a time.

2. Maintain Routines — as Much as Possible

Quite likely, there will be routines forsaken, forgotten or simply adjusted for festivities. Many children with special needs struggle with such change. As a result of their brains and bodies adapting well, they may become overly disorganized and overstimulated; more, they likely will exhibit more sensory seeking/avoidance behaviors and have meltdowns more frequently. If an occupational therapist has made recommendations for a special sensory diet, try to maintain those activities as much as possible to foster physical and emotional regulation.

3. Introduce Sensory Input Slowly

For many of the Fall and Winter holidays, sensory input is at a maximum. Between Christmas’ twinkling lights and Hanukkah’s fragrant oils cooking, many children with special needs are easily overwhelmed. To help with this adjustment, introduce new sites, smells, and sounds one at a time, when possible. Combine it with familiar, cozy sensory input as well.

4. Utilize Tools

Ask a pediatric therapist for recommendations of equipment or tools that may help your child and family. For children with physical challenges, TheraTogs and Kinesio Tape may be useful. Children may benefit from weighted blankets, earmuffs, and specialty sand. Some others may find comfort in fidget toys and calming jars.

5. Prep Family

If you’ll be spending time with family and friends who haven’t been around your child much, consider giving them a little tutorial in advance. This will help avoid hurt feelings when Madison doesn’t want Grandma’s hugs or Adam refuses to touch Uncle Luis’ casserole. If you aren’t yet comfortable giving all the details of your child’s condition, just offer ideas on how your child best responds. For instance, Madison loves high fives more than hugs or Adam is still learning how to try new foods.

6. Simplify Opening Presents

For children who struggle with fine motor skills, reduce frustration by adjusting presents and cards. Loosen ribbons, unseal envelopes, and minimize tape so your child can feel successful with little frustration. He’ll feel a sense of satisfaction over the ability to complete tasks.

7. Enlist a Support Team

Identify at least one other person who will be on your side during the gathering. This person can help ensure the special space is prepared ahead of time or that your child is taken care of while you visit and eat.

Suggestions adapted from Pediatric Therapies, Franklin, TN (

Here are some additional resources for making the holidays a happy and enjoyable time for everyone:

Merry Everything and Happy Holidays!


Upcoming Meetings and Events


SEPAC Virtual General Meeting

January 13, 2022

Special Guest: TBD

Event Description: Join the SEPAC Board for an informal meeting to discuss upcoming programming, volunteer for event committees, or get information about how to get involved! We meet virtually (via Zoom) on the second Thursday of every month and all meetings are open to the public. (All meetings are being held virtually until further notice.)

Location: Click Here for Zoom Link

Time: 7:30pm

Virtual Workshop: Section 504 Plans

January 19, 2022

Event Description: The Norfolk Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC) invites all parents to join us at this FREE online workshop on Section 504 Plans. Presented by the Federation of Children with Special Needs via Zoom. All parents welcome! For more info visit Registration is required at the link below.

Workshop topics:

  • What is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act?

  • Why is Section 504 Important?

  • What is in a Section 504 Plan?

  • Who Qualifies for a Section 504 Plan?

  • ADA and 504

  • Accommodations under 504

  • Strategies for Success and more!

Location: Link will be provided upon registration. Please click here to register.

Time: 7:00pm


SEPAC Virtual General Meeting

February 10, 2022

Special Guest: TBD

Event Description: Join the SEPAC Board for an informal meeting to discuss upcoming programming, volunteer for event committees, or get information about how to get involved! We meet virtually (via Zoom) on the second Thursday of every month and all meetings are open to the public. (All meetings are being held virtually until further notice.)

Location: Click Here for Zoom Link

Time: 7:30pm


Support Norfolk SEPAC on Amazon Smile!

Donate as you shop! Norfolk Special Education Parent Advisory Council is now an available charity on Amazon Smile. Help us provide educational and supportive programming to the Norfolk Community by selecting us as your Amazon Smile charity at . This option is also now available inside the app in your settings!


Getting to know the Norfolk Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC)

The Norfolk SEPAC is run by Norfolk parents and provides a great support system for families with all types of needs. We offer educational presentations, resources, information on the IEP process, and opportunities for parents and students to connect in a supportive and inclusive environment.

A SEPAC is a public body which serves as an advisor to the School Committee on matters that pertain to the education and safety of students with disabilities. In addition, the SEPAC has a duty to meet regularly with school officials to participate in the planning, development and evaluation of the district’s special education programs.

The SEPAC is a self-governing body (creates its own by-laws and operational procedures) and is open to all parents of children with 504s and IEPs and any other interested parties. A SEPAC is different from a PTA, PTO or School Council – it does not represent families from one school, but serves all families of children with special needs from the entire school district. You are automatically a member if your family accesses supports in school and lives in the Norfolk school district.

Who can I reach out to?

If you have questions, need support or would like to get involved, please reach out through any of the below ways. If you would like to hear more or get involved in the Norfolk SEPAC, please consider attending our monthly meetings or one of our upcoming events.

Connect with any of our board members below:

Co-Chairs: Jo-Anne Gilbody and Karen Murphy

Chair of Technology: Taiese Hickman

Chair of Operations: Mike McCarthy

Chair of Finance: Karen Mazzola

Secretary: Kayla Costa

Chair of Marketing: Melissa Cyr

Fundraising Coordinator: Sarah Logie

Board Members: Stefanie Durniok and Jianmei Bai

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