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Faces of PEATC

Submit your story to Faces of PEATC

The Faces of PEATC features families, children, professionals, and people with disabilities who we have touched in some way. People who are featured help others who might want to know how PEATC might help them better understand our services, the importance of the right information at the right time, the importance of working toward our dreams, and the power of collaboration.

At PEATC we love to hear from the families we assist. As we speak with you and learn about your children, we come to care. Resolutions to your concerns and the successes of your sons and daughters – be they large or small – keep PEATC staff members inspired and better prepared to help the next family. So don’t be strangers. We would love to hear from you.

Please send an e-mail with a photograph and your story to with 80-300 words of how PEATC has touched your life or your child’s life. Be as descriptive as possible. Within a week after we receive your submission, we will get back in touch with you so that you can review your story before it is posted on our website.

Faces of PEATC Stories

Picture of Kerry
Picture of Kerry
When Kerry was born almost 17 years ago with down syndrome, I didn’t know what our expectations should be. We lived in Quantico and the Bethesda National Medical Center made a referral to PEATC. I called you when Kerry was only a few days old. You put me in touch with other parents who helped me put down syndrome in perspective. That helped me tremendously. We were able to also start early intervention services when Kerry was six weeks old. I received the PEATC Press which was a great help. I would hang on every word and found out about even more possibilities.
Kerry has always been at her home school and rides the regular bus. Some of her high school classes are self-contained and others are in the regular classroom. Right now she is taking gourmet cooking. Last year I asked if Kerry could help out as a manager on the field hockey team because everyone in our family loves field hockey. The coach said that she didn’t want Kerry to be a manager. She wanted her to bring her stick and try out for the team. Kerry played in every freshman game!
I feel like Kerry’s opportunities are exponentially greater than if I had not gotten a perspective early on from parents who had older kids. They reminded me that Kerry was a little girl first; she happened to have down syndrome. It has been tremendous to see the whole continuum of abilities. Some kids with down syndrome need more support, but others are very independent. Most importantly, PEATC helped raise my expectations. You also taught me how important parent-to-parent connections are. Now I’ll meet other parents, we immediately make contact. I hope that I can be a resource for them, the same way that PEATC and other parents have been a resource for me.

My son receiving an award upon graduation from school as the student who showed the greatest growth
My son receiving an award upon graduation from school as the student who showed the greatest growth
When I first contacted you twenty years ago, my 13-year-old son was suffering with a severe case of school phobia. He couldn’t attend regular schools, we had exhausted schools for emotionally disturbed children, and he was then being home tutored. You told me that if my son’s IEP could justify the need for a private school, the public school would cover the cost and transportation.
That was just what my son needed, and he spent two years there growing in selfesteem and self-confidence, and building social skills and gaining sufficient educational training to remain at grade level. At fifteen, he transitioned to a regular school, and then went on to college.
But that wasn’t all…
He is now 33, and has completed all necessary training to serve as a psychiatrist to children, adolescents, and adults. Part of his practice is serving as a psychiatrist at a school very much like the one he attended when he was in high school.
I learned to be a strong advocate for my son, thanks to you, and now he will be in a position to help other children and their families address their disabilities.”

This accompanying photo is of my son receiving an award upon graduation
from school as the student who showed the greatest growth.

Wesley Robinson
Wesley Robinson
My name is Wesley Robinson. I’m a college student and am trying really hard to reach my goal of becoming an early childhood educator.

As a young child, I played pretend school with my cousins and sister. It was funny because I was the teacher, and my bedroom was our pretend classroom.

My former elementary school principal said that based on statistics, I’d end up and jail and would never get a college education. Two of my relatives would always say “stop dreaming.” I couldn't stop because I knew that my dreams would come true. My mother always told me “God can dream a bigger dream for you.”

My mother was a single parent with no help, yet she appealed to the school system to help me receive better support for my special education needs. I became a peer tutor, and I learned how to read, write and process mathematics at an intermediate level.

My senior year of high school was a huge struggle, but I was voted best personality by my classmates although I couldn't walk across the stage at graduation for physical reasons.

Thanks to PEATC & the LEAP Award Committee. The LEAP Award helped me to pay for additional required work to meet the “No Child Left Behind” Act. Cherie Takemoto and PEATC helped me during the last part of my college senior year with all the required courses to obtain teacher education certification.

Today, I’m an early childhood education professional. I love my job and the students. I’m honored to work with them everyday. Speaking out about special education rights for students and parents gives me a greater sense of whom I fight for everyday in that classroom. Although things have changed on federal, state and local levels, there's still more work ahead to make the system more open for all students with disabilities.

In 1988 I contacted PEATC because our 14 year son was having multiple difficulties in school. PEATC advised me to check out two particular schools that might address his needs. We selected one of them and have been grateful to PEATC ever since. With PEATC guidance we developed an IEP that identified our boy’s complex educational and therapeutic needs. As a result, the local school system agreed that a private placement was appropriate for him.

With ongoing help from PEATC and the educators at his school, our son was able to transition to a high school and then on to college and then on to medical school. He is now an empathic and highly regarded physician who is listed in his city’s “Best Doctors” accolades. He and his wife have two lovely daughters. Thank you again for helping us in 1988 when we did not know which way to turn. Our entire family is grateful.”

Two years ago, through the LEAP program, PEATC was able to award a laptop to Alejandra, a young woman with disabilities. She wrote an enthusiastic October email to PEATC to let us know “your donation has truly inspired my success.” Alejandra continues –

“The laptop was a huge thing in my life. It motivated me to go to school after my son died. Now a junior in college, I have put a lot of use on my laptop, dragging it from class to class and home. I have just made the Dean’s List. I also work and was recently promoted to Manager at a very popular women’s clothing store. I will graduate in 2014 with a degree in Merchandising which I have discovered is my passion. Thank you PEATC for launching me on a positive life path.”

David Mattoon
David Mattoon
Growing up with Learning and emotional disabilities is never an easy thing to do. I often felt overwhelmed in school because I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit- Disorder, auditory processing deficiency, and sensory motor integration since I was three years old. Ever since I began receiving accommodations for my learning disabilities in Kindergarten in the LD center of my elementary school, it seemed as if I would never succeed in school. My parents were fortunate to have the financial means to provide me a suitable education during my high school years. Although I did well at my private school, and was accepted into several colleges, higher education was something I felt completely unprepared for. Eventually through practice, self-motivation, and mental maturation I was able to finally catch up with the rest of my peers during my third year of college. I say catch up because I no longer needed to use my accommodations and was able to learn things at a pace I could not do before. I think that my new-found self-reliance derived from two factors; I feel that as I matured, eventually my disabilities became more manageable to the point where they were unnoticeable. Most importantly, I found several academic subjects such as political science and education that I genuinely had fun learning and participating in. I now define intelligence as having at least one particular subject you are interested in, knowledgeable in, and something you can make a career out of. Furthermore, when I became involved with the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center I became a determined self-advocate. For the rest of my time with PEATC I hope to devote some of it to impacting another adolescent’s future, so they too will realize that just because you have learning disabilities, it does not mean you are not an intellectual.

Picture of Numi
Picture of Numi
I am Numi Aslam and my dream is to graduate from George Mason University and become an architect. I am in my senior year at Falls Church High School, and to be honest I am viewed as a leader amongst my peers, regardless of their ability. I do have classes with students who have significant disabilities…but I also participate in classes with peers who are “typically developing.” I would say I am popular and I enjoy school. I have not had the opportunity to follow the “regular” path to graduating and going to college—I have not taken the SAT’s or even had the opportunity to learn what it would take to get to college the traditional way…I can learn, but it takes me longer and I need accommodations. I really want to be an architect; in fact I design buildings, accessible ones of course, with computer programs. BUT I have heard that you have to be good at geometry to become an architect—that is not a strength area for me. It took me three times to pass the class! I don’t give up and I understand that part of that requires me to work with others who can help me reach my dreams—this is a very important part of attending school and having a disability—we need others to help us find and support the best way to learn and grow.

How am I preparing for life after school? I am an active participant on my IEP team, I always have been…from very little. My mother has always been by my side, but she has had to learn English, learn how to work with American schools and learn how to best educate others about my strengths rather than my “visible disability.” As a result, I have always felt supported by my mother and my family…and I have learned how to be a good advocate for myself—that is probably why I am popular.

Rosario and her son Richard, also known as Richie
Rosario and her son Richard, also known as Richie
I have known about PEATC since 1999, when my son Richard was a little boy. I didn’t know how to talk to schools or advocate for my son. PEATC helped me with information, and meetings with other parents. They also showed me how to write letters in order to ask for a meeting and sit at the table to talk about the IEP. With PEATC, I found lots of support. The staff at PEATC treated my son and me with respect and consideration. I love the meetings because they are a chance to share my experiences with other parents, and to see that we are not alone with striving for better education for our children. I thank PEATC for their precious time.

Picture of Pete
Picture of Pete
I am Pete Scampavia and my dream is to work as a Kindergarten Assistant in a Montessori School and get married. I am currently in the career center in Arlington County, Virginia. The Career Center is like a community college in some ways, but is also a step after high school to better help students prepare for post secondary education. I have enjoyed a wonderful educational journey—I have learned side by side my peers with and without disabilities. I too, would say I am popular. I have been active in many clubs, advocacy efforts, boy scouts, and I even work at Safeway—In fact I am finishing up my Eagle Scout badge!! Nancy asked me “when did I know I was different from other students”…and I told her in Kindergarten. “I wondered why I was getting pulled out” of class. But I have to tell you, I know that I may learn more slowly and need some help with reaching my Standards of Learning…I still haven’t passed my math SOL…but I have learned that passing tests on paper isn’t the only thing one should learn in school to be considered a great student. I have learned to work hard and lead others. I have learned how to make the community a better place for everyone. I have learned how to get around town independently. I have learned that “learning is lifelong” so I am always asking questions and listening to the news. I have also learned that humor is important, and I have a great gift for making others smile.

How am I preparing for life after school? Well, with the support of my family, teachers and friends I am developing my skills and working to define my goals. I think it is so important for students, regardless of his/her ability, to play a role in the community… making their hometown a better place to live. Figuring out what you want your role to be is important, not only for you — but for those you will teach and learn from every day!

Erin Thompson (l)
Erin Thompson (l)
I am Erin Thompson and my dream is to graduate from college, walking with all the other students, and eventually running my own magazine company. I attend George Mason’s Life program on the campus of George Mason University. College is very important to me, the college experience -- as well as learning. I want the same experiences my younger brother has at his college in West Virginia. At first, my college experience did not feel like or look like the experience my brother was having…The Life program had separate classes, we did everything together and we did not get to have the “dorm life experience.” I advocated having the opportunity to experience college life, like the students who do not have disabilities—and in my sophomore year I took my first “regular” education course in speech. This year the college is supporting my dream, by giving me the opportunity to intern at the George Mason University Newspaper.

I am also living on campus with my friends in the dorms! I really enjoy having a chance to live away from home, with people my age. I have more responsibility like making sure I get to class, get to bed on time and all
that…but it isn’t any different from any other college student!

How did I prepare for this experience throughout my educational career? I always worked, regardless of where I received my education, in segregated or
main stream classes-- thinking that I was going to go to college—and my parents supported that belief. I am the oldest of three children and I like the fact that my brothers can look up to me as a role model…even if we
don’t always get along!

Lindsey Engels
Lindsey Engels
I first came to know about PEATC through my college professor. She was teaching a class on parent involvement in schools, and referred to PEATC as being the state parent training center that helps parents learn about the education system, more specifically the special education system. I am currently a special education teacher for students with multiple disabilities, so PEATC is a resource that has a wealth of information for the parents of my students, as well as for me. Through PEATC, I have learned about new resources that I can give my parents. I have also been given the opportunity to meet and learn from some amazing individuals in the special education world. PEATC has helped me empower my parents and my students to be more informed, which is essential to navigating the special education world. It is a wonderful organization to which I will be forever indebted!

David Aronson
David Aronson
My name is David Aronson. I am 14 years old and live in Arlington, Virginia. I’m great at special effects when developing videos – I particularity enjoy green screen. I have pet lizards with dynamic personalities – take Jamie for instance – he’s an extrovert who likes to travel with me. Jamie and I are helping PEATC make six YouTube episodes about the special education process. I’ve been through the special education process – and I think teenagers need some entertaining videos to get them involved in the development of their own IEPs!! Otherwise, fifty year olds with fanny packs are going to be planning our lives for us!

My goal is to become a professional videographer. My parents are awesome in assisting me work toward that goal. They have helped me acquire sophisticated video equipment and my Dad and I just traveled to San Francisco to attend Maker Faire. My favorite YouTube sights are Smoth, SmpFilms, Onision and What the Buck. I like working with the people at PEATC – they’re fun and they are offering me the opportunity to develop a series of funny episodes with an important message.

In my spare time, I play with my lizards, build things, and hang out with my friends. My volunteer work includes helping at my local cable access station and working on the news at my elementary and middle schools. Of course, I film my family events!

An impressive announcement from a young author! Joshua also was a LEAP award recipient. He writes that when he received his laptop from PEATC, he never could have guessed the journey he would embark on with it –

“I’m at the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce and very grateful to be here. And I have a favor to ask of PEATC. I just completed the Kindle version of my book which is a picture book that teaches students how to invest. Please help me get the word out. My goal is to sell 1000 books this winter. The link is:

And so we are pleased to spread the word on Joshua’s behalf.

Fanny and her daughter Karen
Fanny and her daughter Karen
I have a daughter who is 13 years old and has a cerebral palsy and autism. I looked to PEATC for help back in 1998. They taught me how to advocate and work with schools and how to fill out forms. People who work at PEATC look out for families. PEATC also helps people connect with other agencies, and write letters. They connected me with an educational advocate who comes with me to meetings and that helps me a lot. I, as a mom, am thankful for PEATC and to everyone who works there, especially Patricia and Rosala.

Tevy and Caridad share a holiday moment.
Tevy and Caridad share a holiday moment.
Since last October 2009, my 19-year-old son Tevy, who has autism, has been going through a necessary but very long and difficult process to get him off his current medications. Adverse reactions included self injuries, aggression to others and OCD of breaking all forms of glass.

At the end of December 2009, PEATC came along linked me with Fairfax/Falls Church CSB, Comprehensive Services Act and multiple services in Fairfax, ending in a Child Specific Team meeting at Tevy's school. Through this process the team arranged for Medicaid funds for an impatient program that will accelerate the process of tapering him off meds, while avoiding the adversity of increase in the above mentioned behaviors.

PEATC's intervention in this matter was invaluable. I wasn't aware of what was available beforehand, because commercial health insurances rejected payment of special services for people with intellectual disabilities.

PEATC, my family will never thank you enough. As a professional, I found my experience a perfect vehicle to continue serving people with disabilities and their families.

Picture of Christina
Picture of Christina
I am Christina Kuders and my dream is to go to college, get a good job and have a nice place to live! As you look at my “journey” you can see that I have not really “fit” anywhere neatly. I have been in therapeutic hospital settings, to centers for emotional disturbed students to the regular education setting. It has not been easy trying to figure out where I fit, I found that when I had a difficult time—like a behavior problem or something…I would get a reputation that would follow me –it was hard to get on my own feet! I have had lots of experiences, good and bad. I have been over medicated and I have met two of my best friends on this journey. I am 18 and want to be viewed and treated as an adult…I believe I have earned this right. My parents go back and forth between letting me be independent and seeing me as a child…I understand that this is normal. I have had a couple of wonderful work experiences over the last couple of months and have learned how to take and teach others how to take public transportation. I even took a 6 trip to see my best friend in New Jersey this summer—I took the train from Virginia to New Jersey—all by myself. I know I have a lot of skills and abilities to share with the world, I just feel like I would like to have the chance to start sharing…now!

How am I preparing for life after school? Well, I have dreams and goals. That is the first step. I have had a lot of life experiences that I have learned from—that is important! I am busy developing skills so I can be independent and feel strong. I have a wonderfully supportive family, even if I feel like I am ready to be more independent. I am not afraid to speak up for myself and others!

Picture of Katherine
Picture of Katherine
I am Katherine Montgomery and my dream is to get my degree in psychology and graduate from George Mason University. I was fortunate to meet good people who saw my strengths rather than my disability along my educational journey. This was important, as my mother is Vietnamese and was not comfortable with the language, working with school professionals or even understanding where to start with my disability. To be honest I never felt like I had a disability…until someone would look at me in a strange way or I could not go to parties’ afterschool because the locations were not accessible! I enjoyed school because I had a great transition specialist who always made sure I was in the right place at the right time. I can’t imagine where I would have been if I had not had the support of my transition specialist. I really believe that all schools should be universally designed— in physical structure and in attitude. From the principal down..All teachers should feel comfortable working with all students regardless of his/her ability.

How did I prepare for graduation…life after school? I learned how to educate others about how best to “work with me.” I have found that I have had to teach many people I meet how to provide accommodations, how to help me learn…how to see past my wheelchair! This gets me back to my main point…if we could take the “special” out of special education and just focus on giving all kids an education…I don’t think it would be so complicated for students with disabilities to grow up and be successful adults. Bottom line—“We aren’t that special…we want A life like yours!

Leap Award Winner Jacinda Agard
Leap Award Winner Jacinda Agard
Jacinda Agard is one of our 2010 LEAP Award* recipients. This is a letter of thanks from Jacinda’s Mom, Reneé Agard:


I would like to thank your organization for providing a laptop for my daughter, Jacinda Agard. She is really enjoying it. Matter of fact, she is enjoying it so much I cannot get her off of it. I told her do not burn it out before school starts. She is very happy. I’m happy, [as are] her big sister, brother and father. I cannot tell you how much that this laptop is really helpful. Again thank you.

Reneé Agard

*The LEAP Award is made possible by a grant from the HSC Foundation.

Justin Wolfe
Justin Wolfe
Justin is a 20 year old young man who was born with Chronic Renal Failure and severe learning disabilities. He is an energetic, fun-loving brother and friend to Cameron, Austin, and Lynsey. He has been a very active member of Special Olympics since he was 8 years old and currently holds over 175 medals! His favorite sports are Basketball, Track & Field, and Softball.

PEATC has helped Justin with his transition from High School into the “working world”. They have provided invaluable resources to us as we search for a job that will accommodate Justin’s disabilities, while continuing to challenge him to grow into a valuable member of the community. PEATC and their transition program have encouraged Justin and provided him with the necessary resources to begin volunteering in the community until he can get paid employment. We cannot say enough how grateful we are to PEATC for all of their information, support, and encouragement over the years!

I first heard about PEATC from the Alexandria Parent Resource Center when Kyle was two and I was looking for a day care center that would care for children with disabilities. With information and encouragement from PEATC, I was able to walk into the center and say, “You can’t just dismiss me.” I felt empowered to be able help the center to understand that it was not going to be that difficult to take Kyle. They listened to me!

Later, I attended a workshop. It was a very good opportunity to be with other parents. You encouraged me not to be scared, to keep asking, and to find what is out there. A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through a paper from a PEATC workshop when Kyle was entering kindergarten. The exercise allowed me to let go of my fears and dream about anything I wanted. I brought it to Kyle’s 1st IEP meeting. It said Kyle is going to get straight A’s and be valedictorian. He’s well on his way!

Stephanie Stevenson (Kyle's mom) December 2007

I’m in 9th grade and just won second place for literature in the Reflections Contest. The contest asked how I can make a difference. I wrote about how I can speak out when people use the “N word.” I want to be an example as an advocate. I can empower others so that they understand that just because
they are different, doesn’t mean that they can’t have self respect and get respect from others.

At school I advocate for myself. I get extra time. I also ask the teacher to explain the assignments to me so I can ask questions and get clarification. This works better for me. I do all of my writing on a computer and save my work on a flash drive. I’m going to college. After I get my degree I’m going to teach African American literature and history at the high school or college level.

Kyle Stevenson

Beth (r) and Elaina Troutman
Beth (r) and Elaina Troutman
I am the mother of Elaina Troutman, a nine year old born with a brain malformation called Pachygyria, which has caused delays in all areas of functioning. In my quest to help Elaina, it occurred to me that many families are likely in desperate need of similar information. Once acclimated to our new life, I helped start an educational advocacy services partnership, and for three years provided disability resource information to families. It was in this capacity that I learned the complexities of the special education process and the laws behind it. Without information and a little help, parents are unaware, and therefore ineffective in advocating for appropriate services for their child with a disability. I also learned about PEATC and we often shared resources.

I am a huge fan of PEATC. Not only does this organization educate parents to advocate for their children, at NO COST, but PEATC is committed to reaching underserved populations. These include rural, low income populations, and/or those with English as a second language. PEATC’s outreach is offering the only hope some families have. I have witnessed parents of children with disabilities who did not have the information or awareness to advocate for their child because of where they live, cultural or language barriers, and/or economic resources. This is an injustice that PEATC works at correcting.

I continue to admire the individuals who work for PEATC, and have gotten to know some of them. Irene Moore is tireless in educating the underserved populations, often driving to parts of Virginia I never knew existed. Patricia Ojeda is committed to the Latino population, Cherie Takemoto continues to find innovative ways to educate parents through corroboration and technology such as PEATC’s I-Phone/I-Touch IEP application, and Cathy Healy presented valuable information to us at Partners in Policymaking (training advocates for change) program in Richmond this year.

Picture of Nelly and Zamir
Picture of Nelly and Zamir
Nelly came to PEATC about two years ago concerned about how to help her son, Zamir academically. Nelly told us that she was unsure of Zamir’s reading level because he does not have very much verbal communication. After finding out that Zamir is entitled to assistive technology if needed for educational or communication purposes, Nelly successfully advocated for a device. Nelly joined PEATC’s Latino leadership group and became an active member, inviting members of that group to her home for a planning breakfast. She found out about the Medicaid mental retardation waiver through that group and applied on behalf of Zamir. She found out about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and her right to a functional behavior analysis and positive behavioral intervention plan, and successfully advocated for those. She also found out about extended school year services and was successful in receiving special education services for Zamir over the summer. When PEATC was visited by a delegation from Panama through the Organization of American State’s initiative on disability rights, Nelly attended the meeting to brief them on special education services and the importance of parent advocacy.
Nelly has become a leader and effective advocate for PEATC and other families. Last summer she attended training for trainers to offer PEATC’s basic special education course in Spanish and has already offered a couple of workshops, with PEATC support. In January 2009, we invited her to attend the national conference for parent training and information centers like PEATC. She attended a workshop offered by Karen Erikson, a nationally-recognized literacy specialist for children with significant disabilities. During lunch, Nelly was animated as she shared her excitement about how she would be able to bring some of the low cost ideas home to try for Zamir.
Today, Nelly is a recognized parent leader. Other parents come to her for advice and support as she encourages others not to give up. “When a mother is afraid or unsure, I tell her that her child depends on her to be strong. I am an example so if I can do it, with all the problems Zamir has had, they can do it.” Nelly is an example of resilience and determination in a single mother, with limited English proficiency and a son with severe autism and behavioral issues.
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Content on this site was produced, in part, with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education, under CFDA # 84.328M, #84.310A, and #84.235F. The content herein does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Education, any other agency of the U.S. government, or any other source.

PEATC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to building positive futures for Virginia's children by working collaboratively with families, schools and communities in order to improve opportunities for excellence in education and success in school and community life. Our special focus is children with disabilities. You can reach PEATC by calling 703-923-0010 (Voice/TTY), or sending an e-mail to

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