Category Archives: General

Understanding Reading Disabilities/Dyslexia:

Using data-driven instruction to make progress
By Dr. Margie Gillis, Nationally recognized literacy expert

Thursday, February 28th
Noon-1:30 pm,
Darien Library Community Room
Please RSVP:

Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)/Dyslexia affects 80% of those diagnosed with learning disabilities. The Connecticut Department of Education has approved universal screening reading assessments to be used by schools to identify students with below grade level reading skills. That data, as well as criterion reference testing, can provide school teams with valuable information that is useful for creating instructional approaches that address students’ unique learning needs.

From identification and instruction, to advocacy and empowerment, Dr. Margie Gillis will discuss the process of getting the best support for every child who needs it and will answer your questions. Topics will include:

  • Identification and what CT law says about dyslexia/reading disabilities
  • What is a universal screening reading assessment?
  • What is criterion reference testing?
  • Understand the differences between Scientifically-Based Reading Research and Whole Language approaches
  • Relationship between processing time and fluency
  • Comprehension and reading-to-learn skills
  • Progress monitoring tools

The presentation is co-sponsored by Darien SEPAC and Darien Library.

Margie B. Gillis, Ed.D is a nationally recognized literacy expert and a certified academic language therapist who has been teaching children of all ages to read for over 40 years. She received her Doctorate of Education from the University of Louisville in Special Education. In 2009, Margie founded Literacy How, Inc.

Dr. Gillis has worked at the policy level through the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and was instrumental in Connecticut’s adoption of a universal screening test for K-3 student.

She is the co-founder and former president of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, the former president of the CT Branch of the International Dyslexia Society, a board member of the Dyslexia Society of CT, New Alliance Foundation, and The Alliance for Accreditation and Certification of Dyslexia Specialists, and an executive board member of the Academic Language Therapist Association.


Past Presentations:

Preparing Middle School Students with Special Education Services &
504 Accommodations for Darien High School 

Wednesday, January 30th, 9:30 am-11:00 am DHS Chill Zone

Please join us for an informative panel discussion and explanation of the high school transition process for middle school students with IEPs and 504 accommodations.

Topics will include:

  • Understanding the transition process to Darien High School
  • What are the supports for students with IEPs and 504s at DHS?
  • When do articulation PPTs take place?
  • Who does a student typically go to for help?
  • Overview of DHS course options and class requirements

Speakers will include:

  • Scott McCarthy, Program Director, Special Education & Student Services
  • Kristin O’Reilly, DHS Special Education Department Chair
  • Paul Ribeiro, DH Assistant Principal
  • Meghan Emanuelson, Interim Director of Guidance
  • DHS School Counselors, Special Education Teachers, School Psychologist, Related Service Providers

Co-Sponsored by DHS Parents Assocation and Darien SEPAC





Fall 2018 Presentations

Finding the Right Colleges for Students with Learning Differences with Dr. Michelle Berg

New date! Thursday, November 15th

7:30 PM, Darien Library Community Room

Parents and students: Please join educational advising and placement expert Dr. Michelle Berg, who will discuss what makes a college the ‘right fit’ for a student. Discussion will include full consideration of the academic, social and emotional realms of a student’s life. Dr. Berg will also address some of the essential skills students need when transitioning to college including how to manage anxiety during the application process and beyond. Dr. Berg specializes in working with students who have learning differences. The presentation is co-sponsored by Darien SEPAC and Darien Library.


Your Special Education Rights: What You Need to Know to Advocate for Your Child

Wednesday, May 9th  ,  7: 15 pm

Darien Library Community Room

Please RSVP:

Attorney Jennifer Laviano and special education advocate Julie Swanson will demystify the federal laws that govern the rights of children with disabilities and give you the information you need to help your child succeed in school and beyond. Topics will include: How to craft language in documents…criteria for independent evaluations…and deciphering IEP language. Plus, how the recent Supreme Court decision on Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District affects your child’s educational program.

 Jennifer Laviano and Julie Swanson are co-authors of the new book, Your Special Education Rights. If you would like to purchase a copy and have it signed the night of the event, please click on the link below. Books will not be sold at the event.   Click Here

Important note from the presenters/authors: 

“Our sincere hope is that our candid account does not alienate educators and administrators, but rather raises awareness of how difficult it can be to navigate the special education system.  Our goal is empowerment of parents so that they can work shoulder to shoulder with their school districts on behalf of their child, rather than against them.”

Jennifer Laviano is a special education attorney in private practice in Connecticut. Her firm’s representation of children with special needs encompasses the full spectrum of advocacy under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504, from attendance at IEP team meetings and mediation to litigation in due process hearings and federal court. She is a regular presenter about the special legal rights of children with disabilities and their entitlement to receive a free and appropriate education and to be free from disability-based discrimination.

Julie Swanson is a Connecticut special education advocate whose practice grew out of her efforts to help her son. As an advocate, she helps parents navigate the special education process, including attending IEP and Section 504 meetings. She speaks frequently on special education matters and has a long-standing history of service on special education-related state boards, task forces, and legislative appointments to state councils.

This event is co-sponsored by Darien SEPAC and Darien Library.

Colleges with Support Services Panel

Monday, April 2nd
7:15 PM
Darien Library Community Room
Please RSVP to

Students with IEPs/504s and parents are invited to attend a panel discussion, which will include representatives from colleges offering support services. The panel will share details about available academic, social and living supports. Paul Ribeiro, Director of Guidance, Darien High School, will moderate. Darien SEPAC, DHSPA, Darien Public Schools and Darien Library are sponsoring this evening program. Panelists will include:

College Steps at Norwalk Community College
Tim Pearson
Program Coordinator

Hofstra University
Julie Yindra
Director, Student Access Service

Iona College
Amanda Marino
Assistant Director, College Assistance Program

Landmark College
Max McAuley
Assistant Director of Admissions

Marist College
Susan Jenkins
Learning Specialist/Interim Assistant Director
Krista Ackert
Learning Specialist/Assistant Director
Office of Accommodations and Accessibility

Understanding Support Services at Middlesex Middle School

November 16, 9:30am to 10:30am, MMS Library Media Center


A panel of educators and administrators will:
• provide an overview of SRBI, 504 and special education services
• outline roles and responsibilities of school team and administrators
• explain assessment tools, including AIMSWEB
• describe social/emotional student support
 MMS SRBI Specialists: Michelle Pagliaro and Dan Kensek
MMS School Psychologist: Laurel Crowther
MMS School Counselor: Marc Power
MMS Special Education Department Chair: Mary Scalise
MMS Teachers: Lindsay Wrinn and Deb Westerback
MMS Administrators: Shelley Somers (principal), Andrew Byrne and Garan Mullin (assistant principals)
Program Director for Special Education, Secondary Level: Scott McCarthy
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction: Susie Da Silva
Co-sponsored by MPA, DPS and SEPAC