How PASEN Began:
PASEN began as an idea in the head of our founder, Michelle Reed-Harris, when she was faced with surviving quadruplets who had difficulty reaching early milestones. When she asked doctors, they routinely told her that the kids would eventually catch up and to wait. She doubted their “expert” advice and began to put her science skills to work by researching. It took less than a year for her to realize that the needs of her children were not being met medically and began to advocate for their care. If there was a specialist in the area, she saw them, and questioned their diagnoses when needed. She was not interested in making friends. She was trying to get the best care for her children, and if that meant strongly pushing for the child’s care, so be it.
As the children grew and became closer to school-age, Michelle shifted gears and began to focus on advocating for them educationally. She joined a well-known special education advocacy Facebook group and began to question the advice that was given. Often the advice was not useful or was different from the law. When she was removed from the group, she began her own group with some friends, including Jackie Martin-Sebell and a few other moms, who were interested in helping others with special education advocacy. She also began to write blog posts to share the information she was learning. Many of the blog posts, and information gleaned from her research, are available in the PASEN blog.
As the IEP/504 Support & Assistance group on Facebook grew, Michelle began to talk more and more with her husband about the parents she was helping and how rewarding the work was to help others. After many conversations with her family, she began a nonprofit called Arizona Exceptional Students Association (AESA). Within a few months, she began to see that the need was bigger than just the parents of Arizona and changed the name to American Exceptional Students Association.
AESA hosted its first convention called the Empowering Exceptional Students of America convention in the summer of 2019. It was a tremendous success and we looked forward to having our second annual convention, but then COVID put a stop to everything. We canceled our convention for 2020 and looked forward to putting on a tremendous online convention in the summer of 2021, but there was still so much up in the air that we couldn’t financially afford to host a convention that would be to the quality that we hoped and held off another year.
As the group grew, and as more people came to us for advocacy and for advice, the organization went through another rebranding and after approval from our board of directors, the name was changed to Parent Alliance for Students with Exceptional Needs (PASEN).
In the summer of 2021, when we realized we were not going to be able to host a convention, we began focusing on our PASEN Academy. We wanted to create an online course for parents that was topic-based along with being based on federal law and guidance. The project has been a labor of love and has grown to be the only topic-based course written solely for parents on the market to date. Once completed, it will have over 50 learning units and hundreds of self-paced lessons. We anticipate the course being completed by the end of 2022.
PASEN has seen tremendous growth over the past 5 years, and we are just getting started. We are excited that we have been able to help tens of thousands of parents from all 50 states, US territories, and with military families serving overseas. We look forward to helping many more! We want to welcome you to our site and hope that the time you spend here will be educational and rewarding. Thank you!
How We’re Helping
PASEN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit [83-2054691] dedicated to the students who are “outside the (bell) curve”. Whether delayed or gifted, exceptional students need support beyond that of neurotypical children. We are focused on providing resources and training to parents of exceptional children.
We run a FB group [Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids] for those that have a serious interest, or are ready, to start homeschooling.
Are you passionate about education? Let us know! We are always looking for volunteers to help us make our vision a reality. We’ll help you find a way to volunteer that best suits you. We’re excited to have you join the team!
Whether you help through monetary donations, volunteering your time, or spreading our mission through word-of-mouth, thank you. We couldn’t accomplish our goals without the help of supporters like you.