Council on Leadership in Advocacy (COLA)



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The purpose of the Council on Leadership and Advocacy (COLA) is to enhance the Association of University Centers on Disabilities by fostering current and new leaders with lived experience of disability, including their family members, to promote leadership in their programs and communities. Council membership will expand to include directors, faculty, staff, and advisers at center programs, and CAC members.


How COLA Relates to AUCD and Its Work

COLA works to enhance AUCD by fostering and supporting current and new leaders with lived experience of disability, including their family members in order to promote this same leadership in their programs, communities, and regions, and to serve in liaison roles with local disability leadership. The Council helps the association to:

  • Build effective partnerships with other AUCD Councils and Committees, federal agencies, and other national disability groups.
  • Build the capacity of UCEDD Consumer Advisory Committees.
  • Develop leaders and mentors that build the capacity of the network to affect change at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Assist in the development of standards for participation of people with disabilities and family members in AUCD network centers and programs
  • People with disabilities and family members participate in program planning, research, and evaluation.



The Council on Leadership in Advocacy, also known as COLA, is made up of individuals with disabilities and family members from each AUCD network center and program. COLA members are involved in Community Advisory Councils at UCEDDs, AUCD Councils and Committees, AUCD Special Interest Groups, and other advocacy opportunities. Membership is open to anyone in the AUCD network. However, each center will designate an individual representative who will cast one vote when a matter before the Council requires such action.


2018 Focus Areas

The 2018 COLA annual plan has been drafted to align with the AUCD 2018 Strategic Map.


  • Diversity & Equity: Utilize network resources to support COLA membership.
  • Leadership: COLA membership champions and model diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Research: 1) Increase visibility of COLA within AUCD network; 2) COLA is an integral partner to strengthen network engagement and collaboration; 3) People with I/DD &/or family members lead or direct research within AUCD network.
  • Policy: COLA contributes to AUCD network policy, practices, and research.

COLA Leadership



Pictured left to right: Delia Samuel, PhD; Rufo Jiru; Mariam Egal; Maren Christenson Hofer; Fatima Molas


LEND Fellows Past and Present Lead Multicultural Autism Action Network

Maren Christenson Hofer joined the MNLEND Fellowship cohort this 2018-2019 year. As the parent of an autistic child, she is keenly aware of challenges faced by families trying to navigate educational, medical, therapeutic, and other support and service systems to ensure that their autistic children's needs are met. Maren currently serves as a leader in the Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN), a non-profit organization built on the idea that navigating autism support and service systems can be incredibly complex for families, and even more overwhelming when differences in culture, language, and power dynamics are at play. Two additional MNLEND Fellow-Alumni are engaged in supporting MAAN's work: Mariam Egal (Minnesota Dept. of Health Coordinator) and Fatima Molas (respiratory therapist; parent-advocate). Another MAAN member, Dr. Delia Samuel, has served as guest faculty for MNLEND.



Save the Dates: 2019 AUCD Autism SIG Webinars

AUCD Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are made up of individuals within and outside the AUCD network that have common topical interest. SIGs serve as a mechanism for sharing information, engaging in dialogue, and generating new ideas. Because SIGs are driven by the interests of the AUCD membership, new SIGs may emerge while ones that have run their course may disband. Within AUCD�s Autism SIG, the listserv ( functions as a great tool for sharing relevant topics, content, activities, and general networking. We welcome you to utilize the listserv in the ways you see fit for the advancement of the collective mission of this SIG!



The Parent Autism Support Service (PASS) at the University of WA LEND: A unique model of care coordination for families of children diagnosed with autism

The Parent Autism Support Service (PASS) at the University of Washington Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (UW LEND) is a program to support parents in the early months after a diagnosis of autism. The PASS Program is run by the Family Leadership Discipline of the UW LEND program. This program serves children seen in the Child Development Clinic at the University of Washington Center on Human Development and Disability.



Updates from the State Public Health Autism Resource Center

As mentioned in the previous Developments issue, SPHARC, in partnership with HRSA, is continuing to support the new Autism Community of Learners state grantee cohort as they continue work in the final year of the grant cycle.



Improving Health through Trauma-informed Approaches for Individuals with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, their Families and Caregivers

The Annual Meeting of the Washington Autism Advisory Council was held last month at the Tukwila Community Center in Tukwila Washington. The Washington Autism Advisory Council (WAAC) is a statewide partnership of autism organizations, family members, medical providers, educators, and state agencies working together to influence policy and services for individuals with autism and their families. The council meets once a year to share news and updates about autism-specific events, programs, and activities as well as to address current challenges faced in access to services and supports for those impacted by autism. Approximately 65 people attended from a cross-section of Family Support Organizations, University of Washington, the Autistic Adult community, researchers, behavioral specialists, and State Agencies.



Tuesdays with Liz: Dan Crimmins Wants YOU to Apply to the AUCD Leadership Academy

Daniel Crimmins, Director of the Georgia UCEDD and LEND Program, chats with Liz about the AUCD Leadership Academy. They discuss what makes a leader, what to expect at the AUCD Leadership Academy, and who should apply (hint: you!)



New Vision Study Award Named for ICI Staffer (MA UCEDD/LEND)

The Northeast Chapter of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (NE/AER) has established a new award in honor of SGISD's Robert McCulley and his 38 years in the field! The Robert McCulley Rising Star Award will be given to an individual who demonstrates the potential for exceptional leadership and a lasting contribution to the field of visual impairment. The recipient will be a recent graduate with up to five years of professional service in the field of visual impairment education or rehabilitation.


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