2017-2018 xMinds Program Year Highlights

Priority 1: Deepening Parent Empowerment by Providing Families with Information and Resources
  • Held two IEP Clinics (October and May), where parents received advice from educational consultants on their most pressing IEP questions
  • Co-hosted the 10th annual “Extraordinary Minds in MCPS Forum” (April), where parents heard from MCPS educators about the special education services they provide
  • Hosted a “Parent Panel” (May) where parents heard from 8 elementary and middle school parents who answered questions about their children’s experiences in several MCPS special education programs
  • Advised and assisted numerous parents who requested individual help navigating the IEP process
  • Produced 3 concise guides for parents, which explain the IEP process, MCPS acronyms, and resources for parents concerned about their child's behavior (April - May)

Priority 2: Increasing and diversifying xMinds’ reach to Montgomery County families
  • Established the Spanish Language Outreach Committee, chaired by new Board member Carolina Harp (September)
  • Translated and provided materials in Spanish to attendees at the Extraordinary Minds in MCPS Forum (April)
  • Provided simultaneous interpretation for Spanish-speaking attendees at the Forum (April)
  • Re-located speaker events to Silver Spring for the second half of the program year to make these events more accessible to down-county families
  • Provided a Spanish-speaking expert on special education issues to participate in the Arc of Montgomery County’s speaker series (November)

Priority 3: Promoting improved educational experiences for ASD students in MCPS through teacher and staff training and through advocacy concerning systemic problems
  • Successfully opposed the proposed elimination of 6 Supervisors in the Department of Special Education, with the result that 3 were retained (January)
  • Provided funding for 6 MCPS educators to attend professional (PEERS) training on how to teach social skills to autistic teens (June)
  • Conducted a parent survey to gather data on the current state of communication between MCPS educators and parents, with the aim of providing best practice recommendations to MCPS (April)
  • Met with Kevin Lowndes, Associate Superintendent for Special Education, to communicate our concerns about lack of professional training, resulting in -- for the first time -- special education training for paraeducators (February)

Priority 4: Preparing ASD Students in Montgomery County for Life
  • Hosted a workshop where autistic teens met with Montgomery County police officers and learned how to safely interact with law enforcement (March)
  • Developed and delivered to MCPS the curriculum for an after-school pilot program at Gaithersburg Middle School, which will facilitate autistic students completing their SSL requirements by training neurotypical students to support their autistic peers in student service learning settings (September)
  • Hosted an adult autistic self-advocate to speak to students (and their parents) about her life experiences and insights (February)
  • Earned certification as an approved SSL-granting organization and awarded SSL hours to students who served as volunteers at the Forum (March)

Priority 5: Growing our Organization
  • Expanded the xMinds Board from 5 to 7 and welcomed 3 new committee chairs (September - December)
  • Opened our first office (November)
  • Hired our first staff member, Russ Jowell (January), who is improving our website and helping publish our monthly newsletter
  • Raised approximately $23,000 in our record-breaking year-end appeal (December)
  • Expanded our marketing efforts with customized pens and sponsored tote bags celebrating our 10th annual MCPS Forum (April)
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