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Terese Aceves: Advocating for Families of Children with Disabilities
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For the parents who just completed a year of training to learn how to become advocates for the educational rights of their children with disabilities, the annual event at LMU marking their graduation from the program was a proud moment.
“These are mostly parents from lower-income families who are struggling to make ends meet while raising one or more children with disabilities, which is itself a full-time job,” says Terese C. “Tisa” Aceves, professor in the LMU School of Education’s School Psychology Program and chair of SOE’s Department of Specialized Programs in Professional Psychology. “Often, they have felt beaten down by the educational system. Completing this program so they can become better advocates for their children is a huge achievement, and to be able to come to a college campus to celebrate is really special.”

For more than a decade, Aceves has lent her expertise as an active volunteer with the nonprofit Learning Rights Law Center, including as a trainer, consultant and evaluator for Training Individuals for Grassroots Education Reform, a program that teaches parents and caregivers who have children with special needs how to advocate for appropriate supports and services.
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By involving her own students in the work of TIGER, Aceves aims to graduate educational leaders who will advocate for their students with disabilities, in partnership with families. “Including this experience in my coursework has been absolutely invaluable,” Aceves says. “More than just reading and talking about navigating systems and parents who don’t have a voice, my candidates participate in intakes and hear directly from parents whom I’ve worked with, which is a far richer experience that helps to prepare them to become the change agents who will address this important social justice issue.”
It takes a vocal parent to know how to get the services and supports their child needs. And low-income, diverse populations often don’t have someone in their corner.
Terese Aceves
Chair of SOE’s Department of Specialized Programs in Professional Psychology
TIGER parents make a one-year commitment to a monthly, three-hour class designed to help them gain a better understanding of special education and special education law. The program gives enrollment priority to low-income families.

Aceves has made TIGER an integral part of her SOE research and teaching. “The biggest hurdle for families who have children with disabilities is their lack of knowledge about what it requires to support that child,” she says. “It takes a vocal parent to know how to get the services and supports their child needs. And low-income, diverse populations often don’t have someone in their corner.”
TIGER
Training Individuals for Grassroots Education Reform
is a program that teaches parents and caregivers who have children with special needs how to advocate for appropriate supports and services.
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