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Pioneers in Advocacy for Special Education

Many students with PWS and parents have faced many challenges over the years in educating and advocating for their right to a free and appropriate education.  PWSA l USA staff have spent many hours developing handouts, participating in Individual Education Planning meetings and assisting families in addressing other educational concerns.  In 2015, The Special Education Advisory Board (SEAB) was created.  Initially, Evan Farrar chaired the board.  Following Evan, Amy McTighe and Jennifer Bolander became the co-chairs. Amy then assumed this leadership role on her own.  From 2016 to 2017, Jennifer served in the role as National Special Education consultant for PWSA l USA.  Today, Stacy Ward is the primary education advocate and educator at PWSA l USA.  She, along with other Family Support counselors, do an amazing job in their advocacy efforts.  The other members of the SEAB contribute countless hours as educators, advocates and consultants to educators across the country.

Current SEAB Members Past (retired) SEAB Members
Amy McTighe – chairperson Tanya Johnson
Mary K. Ziccardi Kate Beaver (PWSA l USA Family Support Counselor)
B.J Goff Evan Farrar (PWSA l USA Family Support Counselor)
Brittni Kliment Tom Conway (PWSA l USA Board of Directors).
Stacy Ward (Director of Family Support PWSA l USA) Jennifer Bolander (PWSA l USA National Special Education Consultant
Staci Zimmerman Tammie Penta (PWSA l USA Board of Directors).

Evan Farrar wore many hats during his time with PWSA l USA.  As a Crisis Counselor, he helped many families who were facing challenges in getting an appropriate education for their child with PWS.

In the fall of 2007, Evan Farrar was hired full time to expand the crisis program.  He had a Master’s of Divinity degree and completed his Master of Mental Health Counseling degree during his employment with PWSA | USA.

Providing resources to schools and special education advocacy were Evan’s main focus.  He holds a certificate from the William & Mary Law School of Special Education Advocacy and the Lehigh University Special Education Law Symposium.  Evan was responsible for the establishment of the Wyatt Special Education Advocacy Training (WSEAT), which launched the association’s advocacy efforts.  Because of this passion, he was instrumental in getting the SEAB created. He left in November of 2017 to open a private counseling practice.

Dr. Amy McTighe, PhD has over 20 years of experience supporting persons with diverse learning needs in various settings.  This experience has included supporting children and their families in public and private school settings, hospital rehabilitation programs, and inpatient and outpatient behavioral health programs. Additionally, she has provided support to adults in community day programs, group homes, and supported living environments. Dr. McTighe is a graduate of William and Mary Law School’s Institute for Special Education Advocacy and is a certified Mental Health First-Aid trainer. She has presented at the state, national and international level about Prader-Willi syndrome. She has published many articles on Prader-Willi syndrome and recently authored a children’s book titled Penny: A Tale of Lost Currency.

Jennifer Bolander is a graduate of John Carroll University and lives in Ohio.  She has a daughter, Sophia with PWS. Jennifer completed PWSA l USA’s Wyatt Special Education Advocacy Training in 2013 and then went on to complete a rigorous 9-month Special Education Training course with the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys in May of 2015.  She has served as an advocate and resource to many students with PWS and their parents.

Stacy Ward, MS is the Director of Family Support for PWSA l USA.  She has over 17 years of experience working with and advocating alongside individuals with PWS.  Stacy has presented at conferences throughout the country on a variety of topics related to PWS, including behavior management, educational needs and residential services and staff training.

Over the years, some of the accomplishments and services initiated by the SEAB include:

  • Wyatt Special Education Advocacy Training. This was started in 2013 as an in-person training opportunity.  It has transitioned to an online format that entails 7 modules.
  • “School Times” was a school related publication that included many articles and features on various topics related to education.
  • Revision and updates on education handouts and publications.
  • Conducted the “School Experience Survey” in 2016 to help PWSA l USA gather data on various student experiences, successes and challenges to help target future education ventures.

Over the years, there have been many dedicated professionals who have devoted much time and effort into helping students, parents and educational professionals gain a better understanding of the individual needs of students with PWS and some of their unique educational adventures.

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