Inspiration for a Nordic Chapter of SENIA
The following is a compilation of responses from SENIA board members as organized by April Remfrey.
On the establishment, history & mission of SENIA
SENIA: SENIA was started by a group of international school teachers in China in 2002. The goal was to create a support network for teachers and other professionals working with children with special educational needs in Asia. Over the years we have grown to include other regions of the world.
More and more families that have children who are differently abled move overseas–and we are excited to see many students getting the support that was previously not available. Our network has expanded to include international school teachers, educational psychologists, and other specialists, administrators, support assistants, community organizations, and other professionals in the field.
Since the early beginnings, our heart has always been advocating for children with special needs.
The SENIA network is expansive, including teachers, families, educational psychologists, administrators, support assistants, specialists, community organizations and more. What is the synergy of these individuals and bodies in the SENIA network?
SENIA: The key to the synergy is the SENIA local chapters. These chapters provide opportunities for networking and training specific to the regional/country needs. Many local chapters host parent support groups, resource fairs, and mini-conferences annually. Two counties have SENIA Youth Groups, and more are working on establishing similar groups in their country. The annual SENIA International conference looks to invite both nationally recognized experts in the field as well as the practitioners “in the trenches.” We (SENIA) believe that the future experts are the teachers, therapists, and community organization leaders. Remaining in touch with all stakeholders and the global need for best practices strategies/interventions is the heart of who we are as an organization.
The SENIA website states that “Since the early beginnings, our heart has always been advocating for children with special needs.” This is absolutely a shared mission with THRIVE Nordics as it is at the heart of our establishment. What is the spectrum of advocacy work that SENIA engages in?
- Celebrate student and adult advocates by awarding one of each at our past conferences.- Provide student winners with a scholarship.
- Now awarding monthly World changer awards (https://seniainternational.org/awards/)
- Support organizations in our host countries that promote inclusion – SENIA Youth in BKK and Manila and Invisibilities club at ISB.
- Award scholarships to local teachers to attend our conferences for free (# depends on the year)
- Promote Inclusive Schools week and provide our SENIA Teacher Reps with support in their planning
There is interest in establishing a SENIA Nordics chapter. For readers who might be interested in taking part in this, can you share what the benefit of establishing a Nordic regional chapter could be?
SENIA: Having a local chapter allows the board in that country to listen to the needs in the region and design networking/conferences aligned with those needs. The SENIA local chapters that have a board consisting of local and expat board members have tended to take root and the mix of local and global perspectives has benefited the members of that local chapter. Some countries (Malaysia and Thailand) have even formed sub-chapters under their local chapter to allow for more specific work with the schools, organizations, and parents in their particular region.
What the appropriate terminology to use in this realm is an ever evolving discussion. (i.e. “special needs”, “differently abled” etc). What terminology does SENIA use and how did you all as a team come to a consensus about language and terms used?
SENIA: Through time we have listened to what members of the disabled community are saying. We want to honor the wishes of the people we are advocating for. Many say they don’t have special needs – they have human needs. We at SENIA respect where individuals/counties are and support the terminology that our members are using to advocate/support the individuals under their care. At the forefront is listening to our members who are differently-abled and following their lead.
April J Remfrey, MS, lives with her husband and daughter in the Zurich, Switzerland area. She is an educational consultant focusing her time working with globally mobile families that have children with special needs when they are searching for a new school. April is also creating ILP/RTI goal documentation cloud-based program for international schools and serves on the board of directors for SENIA. She has been a teacher for 20 years in three different countries and has experience in the public, private, and international school environments.