About Julie Swanson, The Making of the Life Skills Lady
My youngest son was three when he diagnosed with autism. This was in 1997, just before the incidence started to rise. Soon after he became eligible for special education services from my school district. It wasn’t long before I realized that the services weren’t appropriate for him to make progress and requested the district change the program. Unfortunately, they refused. I filed for due process to appeal their decision, which required me to retain a special education attorney. Thankfully, we prevailed and secured appropriate services for my son. This experience provided me a boot camp in navigating the special education system and the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Special Education Act).
Autism continued to rise and parents were struggling to get appropriate school services. The word was out among parents that I might be able to help them and the phone calls for assistance kept coming as the incidence of autism was on the rise. It was about this time that I was planning to return to my career, but I realized that I had found a new passion, so began my advocacy career.
Along the way, I become interested in the issues and trends that impact people with disabilities. So I went back to school to earn a degree as a disability specialist. This was quite a departure from my undergraduate degree in journalism and broadcasting, my graduate degree in educational media and a career in television production and public relations. The curriculum introduced me to assistive technology (AT), or tools that increase the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. I fell in love with AT. I booked myself on local television news stations to raise awareness of the products that could increase functioning for people with disabilities. So began my passion for products that break down barriers for students on the autism spectrum.
After years of advocating, I continued to see the impact of too little or no emphasis on adaptive life skills in student’s IEPs. The combination of advocating for adaptive skills and my passion for life skills products was my inspiration for becoming the Life Skills Lady.
I grew up in Connecticut where I live with my husband and two sons. I have a long-standing history of service on special education-related state boards, task forces and legislative appointments to state councils.
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