I was the mom that thought IDEA was a thought that popped into your head, Article 7 was on page three of the newspaper, and all school systems always did what was best for every student. I trusted the system 100%. By the time my child reached the 2nd grade, I had regularly been communicating with teachers about my concerns and had always been reassured, I heard all the things. “It’s too early to determine”, “let’s wait and see”, “your child is making progress”, “your child isn’t that far behind’. And you know what? Every time I heard these things, I did feel reassured! After all, they are the professionals, what do I know about teaching an elementary aged child? So, I would let a few months go by waiting to see that promised progress. Guess What? It never came. At “Meet the teacher” night during the first week of my child’s 2nd grade year, I told the teacher I wanted some testing done. We had a great chat about my concerns and I walked away feeling proud and hopeful. I had been heard and I just knew this was the year that help was on the way. What I didn’t know (and what many parents don’t know) is that there is a process to requesting and receiving an Educational Evaluation. I didn’t even know it was called an Educational Evaluation. And I didn’t for three more months! After, I finally figured out that part of the process, the school took every single one of their 50 days to get it done and sent me a letter scheduling and meeting to discuss the results - which were that my child was a “global underachiever” and did not qualify for services. I was devastated! 3 years now I had been trying to get help and I finally got them to listen and they were flat out turning me down. And I only had 5 days to figure out how to change their minds. That began one of the most stressful and important weeks of my entire life. I slept a total of maybe 6 hours that week. Thanks to about 4 cases of Mt. Dew, noise canceling headphones, my husband taking the week off work to care for our 4 children, my mother and best friend fielding 3am distraught phone calls calming me down and offering encouragement, I was able to completely immerse myself in Special Education law, the evaluations the school used to determine eligibility, and how to “speak their language”. I went to the Initial Case Conference terrified that it wasn’t going to be enough, but pretty certain that I could at least “make a case” for eligibility. After 3.5 hours in that initial case conference going over every line of the Educational Evaluation Report the team finally decided that she DID qualify for services. Another week of research and a 2 hour meeting later we had put together a pretty amazing IEP for my child that both me and the rest of the team were excited to put into motion. I walked away from that experience grateful, proud, exhausted, and disheartened. It shouldn’t have been so hard. It shouldn’t have been so stressful. No parent should feel like they are failing their child because the school is refusing to help a struggling student. Over the next two years, I took Advocate training courses, attended webinars, and volunteered as an advocate for other parents soaking up all I could about everything Special Education. I was determined to be the help I couldn't find.
Lead Researcher & Advocate
My introduction into the world of special education came as a group home house parent and foster parent, caring for children with a wide array of special needs. Throughout those years, 32 of the children we cared for needed individual education plans, as you can imagine, our communication and interaction with the school was constant. After nearly a decade as a group home/foster care parent I knew I was meant to offer more and returned to college to obtain my education degree. I taught in an inclusion classroom for the next 15 years. After retireing from the classroom. My experience as both a parent and educator gives me a unique perspective on the IEP process, what makes a successful IEP, and most importantly, what makes a successful IEP team.
Special Education Advocate
317-343-9531 ext 9534
Ever since I was young, the words "Special Educaton" were words that were spoken in my house. This is because my mom was a Emotionally Disabled Special Education teacher at Western Schools. I married my husband, Brian in July of 1996. He was actually my first date when I was 16 so I knew he was the one. We have 5 children together. Their ages range from 31-14. In 2002, we had a baby girl. We named her Cayla. What we did not know till birth is that she had chromosomal deletion. What did this mean to us?? Well this meant of course that a "new" world would be opening up to us. It would consist of lots of therapies including feeding, OT, and PT. Myself and my children sat in on every therapy session. We learned every technique. I learned and studied everything I could find about children with special needs. Right before Cayla turned 3 we had her Transition Conference. Yep...I had no clue what I was doing. My mom calmed me down and walked me through step by step. She let me know what would be on the paperwork. She also let me know what my rights were as my daughter's parent. The meeting went great. I decided to start volunteering at Bona Vista in Kokomo. This is where my daughter would be attending preschool. They have a special education preschool on site. My voluteering turned into subbing. Then an aides position opened up and I was hired. I not only got to work with my daughter but I had the privilege of working with so many other kids like her. In 2006 my life changed forever. My little girl got sick and this time she would not come home. I wasn't sure what my next steps would be but I knew I had to keep going. So in 2016 I decided to take a job at Western Intermediate as a 4th grade special education aide. I knew this is what I was meant to do. At this time my oldest daughter was a senior. She had known since we had Cayla that her dream job was in Special Education. She decided to attend Marian University. After 4 years she recieved her Masters in Special Education. As you can see my life hs been built around Special Education. I was my daughter Cayla's biggest advocate and I hope to help others with their journey through Special Education.
Special Education Advocate
Serving Kentucky Families
317-343-9531 ext 9533
I graduated from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice but teaching had always been a calling in my life. After teaching 8th grade science for one year, I knew my passion was working with the special education students in my classroom. I enrolled in a Master’s program for Exceptional Education, took a job as a special education teacher and have never looked back. I subsequently earned Master’s Degrees in Exceptional Education (LBD), Instructional Leadership and School Guidance Counseling. I completed graduate work to earn my certificate as a Director of Special Education as well. I am also a certified Teacher Consultant for Special Education. During my tenure in public education, I served special education students in a variety of roles. As a special education teacher, a student support service coordinator where I was an ARC and 504 Committee Chairperson and coordinated all services for students with disabilities, a school counselor where I kept an active role in special education services and continued to serve as the leader of the special education department. I finally transitioned to the role of Director of Special Education and it solidified my desire to help families and students who are not receiving adequate, appropriate and/or correct services. Throughout my various educational positions, I always worked from the standpoint of “what is best for the student?” and truly feel that question should guide every educational decision. I have independently worked with families to advocate for students rights and have the strong desire to continue this work with a team that has the same strong, fundamental beliefs that I do. I have navigated simple disagreements regarding placement or services to Due Process situations. I believe that ALL students are entitled to the best education possible I strive to ensure that they are afforded every opportunity.