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Grassroots group offers support, education for families of children with diverse needs

The parent-led ConnectSPED is open to all Superior School District families. The first meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 15.

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The logo for the parent-led support group, ConnectSPED.
Contributed / ConnectSPED
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SUPERIOR — A parent-led support group for families who have children with diverse needs, ConnectSPED, will kick off with a meeting from 5:15-6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 at the Superior Public Library. The grassroots group is open to all families in the School District of Superior.

The mission of ConnectSPED is to unite, support and educate families of children with unique abilities and educational needs to help every student reach their highest potential. It’s a place to ask questions, share experiences and learn together. Lisa Peterson, regional outreach manager for the Epilepsy Foundation in northeast and central Minnesota, said the idea for the group came to her about a year ago.

“As a former educator, one of the things that always drew me to education was knowing that kids learn differently,” said Peterson, who lives in South Range. “My passion has always been to help all kids feel successful, heard, understood, which drew me into education.”

She reached out and found neighbors willing to help. The founders each have a personal connection to the subject. As parents, siblings and teachers of students with diverse needs, they know the hurdles families can face.

“If parents don’t have a background in education, or they don’t have the support system, they often don’t know what to ask for. They don’t know how to ask for support, and it can feel pretty overwhelming,” Peterson said. “And what I really want to see happen is for parents to know that they’re not alone. They’re not alone in their journey, that there’s no shame in it.”

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Other members of the team include Sarah James, a speech language pathologist, as well as Logan Alseth and his mother, Paulette. The Alseths own Alseth Family Support , which offers supportive home care and respite services to children with disabilities in northern Wisconsin. The Douglas County business opened in 2019 and currently has 50 employees.

“We’re not specialists in IEPs or anything like that,” Logan Alseth said, but his mother has studied to meet the educational needs of his siblings.

They’ve also seen what the parents they serve have gone through.

“They walk into a room with 13 people from the school district and it’s kind of stressful to kind of talk and just understand what the IEP’s all about,” Alseth said.

He envisions a space for all parents in the area to find help navigating the path to ensure their children are getting the right services. The ConnectSPED website , designed by Alseth, includes links to state resources as well.

“We want to help them find the tools to be their child’s best advocate,” Peterson said.

The group is intended to foster a sense of belonging by bringing together parents who can relate to similar struggles in both social settings and the academic world. It’s focused on inclusion.

“I don’t want people to think that there’s anything wrong with your kid not being just like anyone else. We need to embrace all kids and celebrate those kids,” Peterson said.

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The group is independent of the school district, but members said the district has been supportive. Visit the ConnectSPED website or Facebook page to learn more about the group, tap into resources and get upcoming meeting dates.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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