While earning my master’s degree in psychology at Pepperdine University, I worked in a reading research program utilizing the then new therapy called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). I worked with the young adult population diagnosed with autism who were housed at Camarillo State Hospital in California. I say “housed” because back then, that is all that was offered as support and services for the severely impacted individual diagnosed with autism. ABA was important research as it is the “go to” service for helping address behavior issues for children on the autism spectrum but the environment was frightening. It was everything horrible you could imagine about mental institutions in the 1970’s.
Moving forward 20 years later when my son was diagnosed with Autism at age 3, I was terrified. Immediately I traveled back in time to that horrible place and was determined that my child would never end up there. I did not know what to do or where to turn. I was lucky. Very quickly I plugged into a supportive network that strengthened my resolve to give my child the best opportunities available. My team developed a therapeutic approach that has resulted in my child being mainstreamed in the public school system. It was not easy. There were many obstacles placed before me, including the passage of time. I made full use of the expertise of my advocates.
Along the way advocating for my son meant suing our local elementary school for services. We won but we did not make a lot of friends in the process. Next, we had to go to court for important communication services from our Regional Center. We won that case too, in fact that was the first time that my son testified on his own behalf, he was learning to self-advocate. The last legal battle on his behalf was against our local and exceedingly popular boy scout troop that discriminated against my son by not allowing him to participate in all the regular activities strictly due to his diagnosis. I cannot discuss the outcome of that action based on a confidential settlement agreement, but that troop has since initiated policies that are more sensitive to the needs of boys with disabilities.
It became abundantly clear what I was destined to do with all my education and experiences so after practicing law for over 20 years, specializing in bankruptcy, I plunged into the area of representing other parents faced with similar obstacles when advocating for their own children. I understand the fear, confusion, and hopelessness of these parents. What professionals and educators are telling them can be depressing. My job is to educate and empower parents to not settle for the limitations imposed by others on their children. Helping parents become active participants and advocates for the future of their children has not only been my career since 2001 but it is my true passion and with that passion I am working to create a space through a Podcast, where parents and others can find the resources, how to use them, and learn how to advocate for the educational needs of their children by learning the basics from the beginning.