I have been the executive director for the THRIVE Center for 10 impactful and exciting years. Our center has touched the lives of hundreds of families with children with special needs. We show parents how to support their children in preparing to live and thrive in the community, through their transition from infancy to high school and from high school to post-secondary life. All parents want their children to succeed, to have gainful employment, accessible housing, means of transportation, and recreational opportunities with their peers in their community. Most parents of children with disabilities know that this is possible when children start their lives with an appropriate inclusive education.
The THRIVE Center exists to help families support their children with disabilities live successfully in the community rather than segregated environments. The THRIVE Center trains parents about supports and services that are available in the schools, including workshops on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law that legally supports this endeavor. In addition we train families on how to tell their personal stories to legislators, how to write an effective Individualized Educational Plan, and how to communicate their child’s needs with the school. We inform and educate parents through advising face-to-face, over the phone and via the Internet.
Throughout the years we have heard stories that show that the THRIVE Center is making an impact. For example, a young mother had a 3 year old son with autism who would not sleep; he cried and hit his parents. They had to remove the carpet because he consistently threw feces on the carpet and walls. They were behind in rent, bills were unpaid and the father was at risk of losing his job because he had to leave work early several times to help his wife. She wanted a divorce. They got in touch with Developmental Pathways and urged them to put the family on top of their waiting list for services because they were a family in crisis. We also contacted an organization in Colorado Springs which provides over-night respite care for parents. By the end of the week, the family quickly received vital resources and much needed support.
In one of our workshops, a parent with tears in her eyes shared how her child had threatened to kill himself if she continued to make him go to school. He was a student with a disability and was tired of being bullied. The school failed him and the mother felt she failed him too. After attending our trainings, she was able to attend a meeting with the school, articulate her child’s needs and strengths, in a calm and informed manner, and began holding the school accountable. Her son was proud of how she advocated for him, and their relationship improved.
Our THRIVE Center serves the metropolitan area of Denver and the surrounding counties. The center makes a purposeful effort to reach out to underserved communities which tend to be culturally, linguistically and racially diverse, low socio-economically disadvantaged, and refugee families, to name a few. The staff and board members also go into the community by attending resource and community fairs as well as serve on many boards and commissions that deal with policies that affect children with disabilities and their families.
It is my pleasure to continue the important work we do for the community and I am looking forward to continuing this work for another 10 years.