Informing Families Coordinators breathe life into everything we do by connecting with families and professionals in local communities, sharing information face to face, and bringing issues to the advisory committee to help shape our work and make sure we get it right. In this month’s Coordinator Q&A, Michelle Williams shares what drives her passion for helping families get the information they need to make good decisions.
Can you describe a little bit about yourself and your life as a parent advocate?
My family and I live in Ellensburg, WA. I came here to attend Central Washington University. After graduating with a BS in Business Administration, I married my husband, Rolf. We have two grown children. Jordan is married and living with her husband in North Dakota. My son, Gerik, is almost 20 and will be starting his last year of school in the fall. He has the diagnoses of classic autism and epilepsy and is the reason I am so very passionate about Developmental Disability services in the state.
Parent to Parent is where I started my advocacy, offering monthly support meetings to parents. Several years later, I took on the position of Parent Coalition Coordinator and am now happy to say I’m the Informing Families Coordinator for Kittitas, Yakima, and Grant counties.
What motivated you to become involved in Informing Families?
When I saw the Informing Families bulletins…I loved them. They have current information on developmental disability services and are easily understood and printable! This is just what the families in our area had been asking for. When the opportunity to be the local Informing Families coordinator came my way, I took it. 🙂 Families need to know all the resources and services available for their family member so they can make informed decisions for the future of their child, and I want to help get them that information.
How do you connect with families in your area? Are there specific types of events that you attend?
I attend Parent to Parent support meetings, board meetings for local disability related boards, transition and job fairs, hosting information tables at conferences, workshops, and special Olympics events.
What are some of the biggest gaps you see for individuals and families in your area?
The biggest gaps that I see for our families are a shortage of care providers, housing options, behavior specialists and adult day programs. That being said, I find that parents can be very creative finding natural supports and services.
Is there anything about being part of Informing Families that you’re most proud of?
There are two things I truly love about being in this position. First it’s being able to meet families, listen to their stories and sharing local and state information/resources through the IFBT Bulletins so they can access the services that will help their family members. Services are available right now in our state that families don’t know about, specifically the Individual & Family Services (IFS) waiver. Helping families make that first step toward services is amazing.
After talking to families and listening to where they are finding stumbling blocks to creating the life that their family member wants, I can bring their ideas and challenges back to the Informing Families/Communities of Practice advisory committee and share where we need to put more efforts statewide toward improving services for DDA clients.
How can someone contact you for information or to attend an event with Informing Families materials?
The best way to contact me is through Linda West who provides support to Informing Families through the DD Council.