Personal Stories

Thanks! {and why am I here?}

No, I’m not having an existential crisis. I am new here and this is my obligatory first post. And first posts can be awkward. I recently was invited to join the Skeptability team, so here I am. And I figured with the first post, I’d just tell you a little bit about me and why I am here and why I applied to be a contributor.
keep awake
My journey into ‘special needs land’ as I often refer to it ,began on July 3, 2007. That is the day that we learned that our beautiful, bouncing, baby boy has a condition called Dup15Q. For the record, he’s still beautiful and bouncing (and a boy) he just needs a bit of extra stuff when it comes to parenting and education. A lot of extra stuff.

Having him was life changing in more ways than one. Since he was diagnosed as a baby, we were thrust into the world of Early Intervention and Special Education very early on. From the get-go, I realized that the IEP and special ed process is confusing and cumbersome at best. One day when K was a toddler, I received a pamphlet on how to become a Special Education Advocate. It is a series of 12 day-long workshops that teach you so much about IEPs, special ed, the whole process. So, I took the course. When the course was done, we had to do some volunteer hours to complete our certification. Somewhere along the line, in 2010 I lost my job. I now had a shiny, new certification, some volunteer hours under my belt and plenty of free time! That volunteer position turned into a paid position that I did for about 2-3 years, just having recently resigned. But basically I attend IEP meetings for a living. I assist families through the process, help them to understand it, help them to communicate with their schools more effectively and better express their child’s needs.

Now I do a little bit of special ed advocacy privately as well as plenty of systems advocacy. I have traveled to DC on several occasions to lobby for pieces of legislation affecting our kids. I still do that, as that stuff is on my own and was not part of my job. I am on the board of Directors for the PA Education for All Coalition. I do lots of other stuff. I have my own personal blog, mostly about special education stuff. I’m also a Shot at Life Champion for the UN Foundation, which is a group that advocates for global vaccines. The [email protected] thing rolled into me also volunteering for RESULTS as a citizen lobbyist. Many [email protected] champions do both. That was a natural fit because RESULTS aims to end poverty and one-third of adults with disabilities live in poverty.  I have a newspaper column about families and outdoors activities. I have two beautiful boys who are now 5 and 7. Here I am helping the older one do his egg roll while my younger son is behind us rolling his egg.

white house easter egg roll

Here we are at the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll.

Prior to having kids, my first love was dogs. And I still do pet therapy and teach some pet therapy classes. I used to participate in dog rescue, that kind of stuff. But having K has certainly changed my focus. I think that disabilities rights is one of the last civil rights issues to be resolved. People who have mental and intellectual disabilities are still marginalized in this country and all over the globe. I long for the day when my son and kids like him will be accepted, not just tolerated. I can’t wait until kids with disabilities are viewed as just different, not less. I hope that in my lifetime, we see education and special education get the funding and attention that it deserves. I want our kids to be seen for the value and the gifts they have to offer, not just as a burden that takes and uses services and cost more money.

As far as what I will be contributing here….well, lots, I hope. I will share with you current legislative issues (federal) that affect families with disabilities. I’ll tell you about my different lobbying trips and what’s going on. I do a small amount of memoir posting, not much. I am a results-oriented person. When I see a problem or issue–I look for solutions, what we can do. Focus on what we can control. If you are looking for another “mom blogger” who is all sad stories and “woe is me, my child was stared at again today…” that is not me. I seek opportunities to make things better, not whine about injustice or what has happened. Sure, we can discuss problems and issues and injustices….but together, what are we going to do to make the world a better place?

Ok, I’m at 800 words, so I think I have rambled long enough……I will be contributing at least twice per month and I look forward to getting to know many other skeptics.

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Lisa Lightner

Lisa Lightner lives in southeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, two boys and two dogs. When not screaming at her kids in public, she can be found on her special needs parenting blog, where she offers advice, support and fun tips for special needs parents.

1 Comment

  1. June 8, 2014 at 1:25 am —

    I love your poster. I love your post. And I can’t to read – and hopefully share – more on the fight.

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