Valerie Aprahamian, who is the founder of Advocates for Angels, joins Small Biz Buzz in our Big Grit docuseries to talk about how her company supports and protects parents of children with special needs and developmental disorders through their Individual Education Programs (IEPs).
Valerie’s daughter, Chanel, was diagnosed with autism and a very life-threatening seizure disorder, at the age of three years old, by a team by pediatric neurologists at UCLA. That doctor told Valerie that Chanel would never read, write, talk or ever be successful in school. It was also most likely she would have to institutionalize her.
“At that time, I didn’t even really know what autism was other than I knew it was a very profound disability,” said Valerie. “So immediately I started educating myself on special education law, and I started finding out what her needs were, what autism was, and how to get her the help she needed.”
Valerie was immediately awoken to the reality of special education, the bureaucracy of the institution, and the segregation that they placed upon these kids. She immediately knew she wanted her daughter in a regular school with regular kids in a general education class.
“They thought I was crazy because they weren’t doing inclusion back then. So I was successful in having Chanel be placed in a general ed class at five years old,” said Valerie. “She was the first child with the diagnosis of autism to be placed in a general education classroom in my local school district. So that’s the beginning of the story.”
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