Monroe County Offers Resources for Families with Learning Disability, Special Needs

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Educating children with learning disabilities and other special needs often includes assistance from professionals who are experts in increasing accessibility to education. While this may sound expensive, qualifying families can turn to free resources provided through Monroe County.

Local resources for parents include:

1. Early Intervention Services

“Working with providers in the community, we offer early intervention services for children under 3,” said Julie J. Philipp, director of community engagement for Monroe County Department of Public Health. “We also help fund and make referrals to preschool special education, but local school districts manage PSE.”

The program helps children with physical skills: crawling, walking, reaching and drawing; thinking skills: learning and problem solving; communication skills: talking, listening and understanding; self-reliance: eating and dressing; and social and emotional skills: making friends and playing with others. Whether through a self-referral or childcare or healthcare professional, the program can help children younger than age 3 get up to speed with skills they will need to succeed in school. While it may seem very young to worry about school, their pre-K experience builds upon these foundational skills.

2. Preschool Special Education

The county’s preschool special education program can also help prepare children for performing well at school. This program helps children aged 3-5 with delays or disorders in development related to talking, understanding, walking, movement, hearing, vision, and any other concerns that make learning more challenging. 

Each school district’s committee on preschool special education determines each child’s eligibility. 

3. Starbridge

The program aids families with children who have learning disabilities. As a parent training and information center (PTIC), Starbridge’s locations throughout New York state are funded by the U.S. Department of Education. These provide workshops and resources both for families and for professionals about topics such as special education rights and responsibilities “and promotes meaningful involvement of families in their children’s education programs,” said Seneca Hollenbeck, director of Performance Measurement at Starbridge. 

The supports may include events such as a three-day workshop on dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia slated for this fall. 

“We routinely offer workshops and webinars that discuss special education processes and supports for students with learning disabilities,” Hollenbeck said. “On our website, we have recordings of past webinars and tip sheets available for free at any time.”

By helping parents and caregivers learn more about learning disabilities and special education, they can better support students’ goals. Starbridge collaborates with partners throughout the region, including Special Education Parent Teacher Associations (SEPTAs); the Greater Rochester Special Education Task Force; issue-specific groups like Dyslexia Allies; and educators and school administrators. 

“We listen to what others are seeing or experiencing, share best practices, and work to solve problems together,” Hollenbeck said.

Philipp directs parents to the special education definitions at to help them better understand the jargon used by many in the special education field. A few examples include adapted physical education (APE): Specially designed physical education program, using accommodations designed to fit the needs of students who require developmental or corrective instruction in PE, and behavior intervention plan: special education term used to describe the written plan used to address problem behavior that includes positive behavioral interventions, strategies and support. May include program modifications and supplementary aids and services.