Laurel Ryan Receives 2007 Advocate Award

April 23, 2008

Laurel Ryan
Laurel Ryan of the TN Boling Center UCEDD & LEND

Chiquita Morris served as the RISE Project Senior Site Consultant from October 1997 until February 2005, when she tragically lost her battle with cancer. She was a tireless advocate for children with disabilities, and served students and families whom often have no voice in decisions regarding their lives. She advocated strongly for collaboration with families and often worked closely with them in meeting students' needs. The West Tennessee RISE Project and the University of Memphis Alumni Foundation created the Advocate award in Chiquita's honor. The award consists of a plaque inscribed with the winner's name and a generous honorarium.

Nominees can be a parent, grandparent, guardian, or primary caregiver for a child or children with disabilities; be an advocate for inclusive school practices for all children; collaborate effectively with the local school system in providing for inclusive schooling practices for his or her child or children and seek to support local policy changes toward more inclusive practices for children of all ability levels.

This year, the winner was Laurel Ryan, Family Faculty Coordinator of the UT Boling Center. Ms. Ryan is a parent of a son with autism and has worked in Canada and the United States as an advocate for community supports. Her past employment history includes organizations such as the Traumatic Brain Injury Association and Tennessee Disability Law and Advocacy. For the last three years she has provided information and support to families and caregivers. Laurel is an essential member of the training department team bringing the family perspective to meeting the complex needs of families. She works with medical students through a program called Project D.O.C.C.; provides family interactions through Family Mentorship program for graduate level trainees, and assists in running SibShops and other community based curriculum. She is a contracted trainer with STEP, (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) and frequently to graduate classes at the University of Memphis and University of Tennessee.

Through all of this, Ms. Ryan continues to exhibit a humble spirit in the work that she provides. An advocate of the highest quality, Ms. Ryan embodies the effort to improve services for families, children and individuals with disabilities in Tennessee. The Boling Center is proud that she has received this recognition so richly deserved.