PITTSBURGH, April 17, 2023 – State Senator Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery/Berks), Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee joined Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny) to co-host a joint public hearing on supportive education for neurodivergent students.
The hearing, held Friday at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers Local 400 Building, featured three panels of testimony from educators, advocates, students, parents, and experts.
“Friday’s discussion was a great opportunity to hear from educators, students, and experts about the importance of public schools that are affirming, inclusive, and safe for neurodivergent students,” Muth said. “We need to make sure that all education policy coming out of Harrisburg includes resources for neurodivergent students and educators.”
Neurodivergent students include children with ADHD, Autism, Intellectual Disabilities, PTSD, Learning Disabilities, Epilepsy, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and others. Neurodivergent students participating in the hearing testified about the struggles they have encountered during their educational careers at Pennsylvania schools and what they would like to see going forward.
“I want to thank the students and parents who took the time to speak to legislators about their lived experiences. We often only hear from experts at these hearings, but it’s important to also hear the perspectives of neurodivergent students and parents directly impacted by our decisions as legislators. Testifying at a public hearing can be incredibly overwhelming, so I appreciate how much work went into preparing and sharing their stories with all of us—and I want them all to know how impactful their words were,” Williams said. “I’m committed to working on legislation and policy that will provide our students with the resources that they need to thrive in affirming, inclusive, and safe educational environments.”
The hearing highlighted the current landscape of how Pennsylvania schools are accommodating neurodivergent students and emerging practices that have shown promise. The hearing also highlighted positive steps districts can take to improve experiences for all students through planning, scheduling, and mindfulness of all students’ needs.
“All students deserve to learn in an environment that supports their needs and learning styles. School districts, teachers, and support staff work hard to meet learning needs, but are often under-resourced,” Benham added. “As a Commonwealth, we have an obligation to ensure that we are investing in all of our students and particularly in those who have greater learning support needs.”
Participants in the hearing included Lu Randall, Autism Connection of PA; Kristie Lee Lindblom, Permanency Social Worker, The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh and Lemieux Family Center; Seamus Lindblom, student, North Hills School District; Adam King, student, Pittsburgh Public Schools; Sharon Janosik, Bethel Park School Board Director and Parent Education & Advocacy Leadership Center; and Brice Hostutler, Educator, Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“There’s nothing more important than making sure every student in Pennsylvania is able to get the most out of their education, and we can do that by equipping school districts with the right tools and practices that are inclusive and safe for all,” House Majority Policy Chairman Ryan Bizzarro said. “This hearing is a great first step in that direction and I thank the advocates for shining light on this important issue.”
All submitted testimony from the policy hearing and the full video is available at SenatorMuth.com/Policy