From its earliest days the NWDSA has been involved in educational advocacy. Rather than just identify problems, the NWDSA is known for coming up with solutions and implementing them. We work to bring our perspective to public discussions, and use community building to create a collective voice to respond to policy issues in education. While we are strategic in our choice of conversations to join and invest time in, there are times when our advocacy efforts are frustrated; parents are often outnumbered at the table, and parent groups are not given the same weight in decision-making as professional organizations, agencies and policy-makers. This is frustrating at times, because there is such prejudice and blindness to the needs of our community.
But despite those frustrations, we remain committed to advocating for our community, and to empowering parents and caregivers to be strong advocates for their children; we have become a meeting place for educational professionals who share our vision and values, and together we are working to make changes in education policy that will balance the needs of all learners. We are dedicated to empowering parents and educators to create partnerships that provide successful inclusive experience for all learners. Through trainings throughout the year, the ABI conference, the Kindergarten Cohort and presentations at area colleges and universities, we provide opportunities for learning based on current research and innovations. Our partnerships and advisory board help us stay current in our information.
We cannot sit and wait for the policy makers to catch up to the needs of our community. The Reciprocal Learning Community (RLC) was founded in response to severe cuts in Oregon’s Early Intervention program. The RLC brought parents and professionals together to bring parents of young children with Down syndrome current, best practices information on the development of their children. As we evolved as an organization, and as our children grew to school age and we as parents began to navigate the education system, we learned that there is a great need to educate and empower parents to be strong advocates for their children, and to give educators the opportunity to come together and strategize to learn with us about how to make inclusive classrooms successful. And so the All Born (In) movement was born in the spring of 2006, with the first All Born (In) Inclusion Conference. The Kindergarten Inclusion Cohort is an outgrowth of the conference, and the We All Belong Video (buy it here) is a powerful short documentary that highlights the importance of inclusive education.
Some examples of NWDSA’s Educational Advocacy
The All Born (In) Conference
An annual conference on tips, tools and inspiration to build more inclusive schools and communities, the largest conference of its kind on the West Coast.
The Kindergarten Inclusion Cohort
An innovative program that empowers parents to prepare for their child’s transition to kindergarten. An exciting partnership with Portland Public Schools is helping the schools prepare to receive the children of cohort graduates in their General Education classrooms.
The Coalition for Universal Design for Living and Learning
A group of professionals and advocates from across Portland Metro and Southwest Washington dedicated to the shared vision of inclusive, accessible communities.
Presentations to classes at local colleges and universities, including Portland State University, Western Oregon University, the University of Portland and others
We are particularly excited for the opportunity to work with new practitioners, trainee teachers, and future educational and medical professionals, and to serve as a resource for professors interested in empowering their students with a view into families’ lives before they enter their chosen field.
Testifying at School Board meetings, Town Halls and other public forums
We recognize that not every parent has the time to testify at these events, and we work to represent the 1400 families we serve when we have the opportunity to make our voices heard.
Participation in educational planning, steering and advisory committees
We are selective in the opportunities we accept, to ensure that we are speaking out where our voice can have the most impact. Some recent examples include NWDSA Board President Steven Holland sitting on the PPD Citizen Budget Review Committee and Executive Director Angela Jarvis-Holland sitting on the PPS Long Range Facilities Planning group. In both cases, the NWDSA representatives brought important perspective to the table that would likely have been absent from the conversation if they hadn’t been there to raise them. Following a presentation on Universal Design for the Long Range Facilities Planning group one local architect commented that he would “never look at the architecture and planning of schools the same way again.”
Presentations at conferences
Including the annual OTAP conference on Assistive Technology, The Oregon Disability Mega Conference, the TASH inclusion conference, and the Division for Early Childhood National conference on Early Childhood Education.
Collaborative work with other area agencies and parent groups
We enjoy the opportunity to collaborate around shared issues of importance. We are all stronger when we bring our voices together.