Quick Five! 5 Questions with PEAL’s Parent Advisor Diane Perry

Quick Five! is a new series from PEAL where we ask a member of staff five questions abut their work at PEAL. Today we head to Philadelphia to talk to Parent Advisor Diane Perry.

Read our last Quick Five! interview with Kelley Hollis hereDiane Perry, Parent Advisor, Philadelphia

What is your main role as a Parent Advisor at the PEAL Center?

My main role as a Parent Advisor is to assist families one-on-one in understanding their special education rights, the process, and the forms. I also offer information and resources to guide them through each step.

You have a rich history in advocacy. What is your most memorable advocacy moment?

There have been many memorable advocacy moments. I would say my most memorable are the ones that I personally accomplished for my son. He was born with a lifelong disability; we worked with our local school district to ensure that he was always included with his typical peers in the general education setting as well as many extra curricular activities. Now that he is 25, he’s working two part-time jobs and taking continuing education classes in college. He is saving money to move out and live independently, and is dating. I truly feel that without the foundation that he received in school he may not have been so successful today!

In your role as a PEAL Parent Advisor, you provide training for families and professionals on a variety of topics related to special education. What are a few things you hope the audience takes away from a PEAL Center training?

A few things that I hope the audience takes away from PEAL presentation are:

  1. Parent/Guardian Voice is very important and parents/guardians are to be informed decision makers. They know their children the best; the school has their child for a short period of their entire life, working together with the school team and other support professionals is so important for the success of the child. A great resource is Achieving Inclusion: What Every Parent Should Know When Advocating for Their Child.
  2. Pennsylvania is rich with information and resources. If you don’t know something keep asking to find the answer. Most likely someone else has been through what you’re going through and can help guide you. You are not alone in this process. There are many agencies across the state that are there to assist not only the professionals but parents/guardians too.
  3. Keep coming back! I always encourage families to continue coming to PEAL trainings as well as local, state, and national conferences. Knowledge is powerful!

What is your ultimate goal when working with families who have children with disabilities and/or special health care needs?

My ultimate goal when working with families is to empower them to best advocate for their child. As a parent/guardian some days are hard and tiring, asking for help is important because we need each other to guide and support us through this ever-changing education system. In addition, I want all parents to have a vision for their child and share that vision with everyone around them. This ensures that the professionals in our children’s lives have the same high expectations as we do for our own children.

Through your work at PEAL over the past few years, what is something that you’ve learned from the families and professionals who you’ve worked with?

I have learned so much from families and professionals. They continue to inspire and educate the work that I do. I have learned that when we listen to each other and have an open mind about the possibility for children we are amazed by the growth and gifts that our children show us everyday. A successful student is a product of teams working together!

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