La Sopa de la Abuela: Special Education Telenovela

Arlington Public Schools is excited to share La Sopa de la Abuela (Grandma’s Soup) – A Special Education Telenovela.

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This series was designed to support the engagement of families in the special education process, share information, encourage advocacy skills, and foster collaborative home-school partnerships which positively impact student success. Created by a design team that included family and staff members, we hope you’ll join us for the journey of one family as they navigate their emotions, learn about special education, and make decisions.

To learn more about special education in Arlington Public Schools, please contact the Parent Resource Center at prc@apsva.us or 703.228.7239.


Screen Shot 2021-11-22 at 5.06.45 PM Episode One: “What’s Going On with My Child?

In this episode, we meet Lucia, mother of an elementary school student who has been referred to a Student Support Team Meeting at school. Join Lucia’s journey as she seeks advice and support from a close friend, Karina, and their school’s Bilingual Family Liaison. In this episode, Lucia learns that Student Support Teams may refer a student for a special education evaluation. While dealing with her own concern and worry as she tries to learn more, Lucia must also respond to the reaction of her husband, Jose.

 Key Messages

  • The special education process is often overwhelming for parents.
  • Many families experience emotional distress.
  • Parents may seek support from trusted friends, and staff at schools.
  • There may be negative associations related to special education and many parents worry about their child being “labeled”.
  • There are a range of disabilities..
  • Parents may sometimes disagree about their child’s needs.

Screen Shot 2021-11-22 at 4.53.53 PMEpisode Two: “What Do We Need to Know?”

This episode opens with Jose noticing Pedro struggling with his homework and becoming frustrated. Jose agrees that he and Lucia should go to the Parent Resource Center (PRC).  At home, Lidia (the grandmother) is anxious about what is going on with Pedro. Jose and Lucia visit the PRC, where they meet Kathleen, who shares information about the special education process, discusses what an educational “disability” is, and emphasizes the important role parents have in making decisions throughout the process. She assures Lucia and Jose that no decisions can ever be made without their consent.

Key Messages

  • It is important for parents to understand the special education process.
  • The PRC is a resource for parents, and is designed to ensure that parents have the information and support they need to navigate the special education process.
  • Parents are active members of the special education team, and parental consent is required at each phase of the special education cycle.

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Episode Three: Why Are There So Many Tests? 

In Episode Three, Lucia and Jose attend the Student Study Committee (SSC) meeting (now called a Student Support Team meeting). They are introduced to members of the student study committee. After some discussion, the committee recommends referring Pedro for a special education evaluation. Jose and Lucia are surprised at how many tests will be conducted, and the Principal describes the various assessments and the role of the team members. When Jose asks how long all of the assessments will take, he is surprised to learn that the evaluation process may take several months.
Later that afternoon, Jose and Lucia explain to Juan and Lidia that Pedro will be undergoing a special education evaluation at school. Lucia becomes upset when telling her parents that Pedro might have a disability, and Juan comforts her. Lidia says that she is going to make some fish soup for Pedro to help his brain, as families used to do in her home country. She is sure it will help him if he is having trouble reading.
Key Messages

  • There are often many staff members at special education meetings
  • Parental consent is required to conduct a special education evaluation
  • Special education evaluations involve a variety of assessments
  • Family members may have suggestions for traditional practices to help children.

Screen Shot 2021-11-22 at 5.04.24 PM Episode Four: How Do We Cope With This News?
In this episode, Lucia reconnects with Karina, and explains that she is preparing for Pedro’s eligibility meeting. Karina recounts the challenges she faced during her own eligibility meeting years before in another school district. She encourages Lucia to be sure to obtain and review copies of the test reports prior to the meeting. Six weeks later, Lucia and Jose work together to review the reports in advance of the meeting at home. Lucia questions whether she’d done something wrong that resulted in Pedro’s struggles in school, but Lidia reassures her that she is a wonderful mother. Juan has been researching dyslexia and announces that even a successful and popular actress is dyslexic.

A few days later, we see Lucia and Jose attending the meeting. They are prepared and feel comfortable asking questions. When the consensus seems to be that Pedro is eligible to receive services as a student with a disability, Jose and Lucia must decide whether to consent to his identification.
Key Messages

  • It is important to prepare in advance of the meetings. (Episode emphasizes how difficult meetings can be when unprepared….)
    • Eligibility components must be available to parents two days prior to eligibility meetings.
  • Parents sometimes question whether they are at fault when children have disabilities.
  • Having a disability does not have to result in a lack of success.
  • Eligibility requires parental consent.

Episode Five: What If We Disagree?Screen Shot 2021-11-22 at 4.57.42 PM

In the final episode, Lucia and Jose are actively reviewing a draft of Pedro’s IEP. Lucia emphasizes that parents should provide input to the process. A few days later, Lucia and Jose attend Pedro’s IEP meeting at school, where the team reviews Pedro’s strengths and needs, as well as suggested goals, strategies and supports. When Jose asks about what happens if parents disagree, the principal explains that the team will continue talking and exploring options to reach consensus. Lucia and Jose are also assured that they are welcome to bring the IEP home to review prior to signing.

Later that night at home, Jose and Lucia explain the proposed plan to Juan and Lidia. All four rally together and commit to doing everything they can to support Pedro at home. In the closing scene, Lucia and Karina are visiting together six months later. Lucia relates that Pedro is making progress, and Karina emphasizes how important it is to keep track of progress and stay closely involved. Lucia expresses great appreciation for her friend’s support throughout the process.

Key Messages

  • Parents are encouraged to provide input to the IEP, and to be active team members during IEP meetings.
  • It is OK to disagree during meetings.
  • Parents are not required to agree to IEPs immediately during the meeting.
  • Family engagement is beneficial to student success in school.

Supporting Materials and Resource Links

Parent Learning Sessions

The Parent Resource Center and the Offices of Family Engagement and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be offering a five-part companion series for parents. Registration will be coming soon!

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