The 3rd Annual DisAbility Summit will be hosted by the Attallah College of Education and the Thompson Policy Institute (TPI) on Disability and Autism at Chapman University on May 7. This year’s summit will discuss the inclusion of students with disabilities in the K-12 educational system in the state of California and transitional services for young adults on competitive integrated employment and postsecondary education and training. Besides research presentations on these topics, there will also be policy recommendations along with the presentation of the Excellence in Disability Award. Additionally, keynote speaker Dr. Mary A. Falvey will discuss breaking the cycle for segregated programs and services for children and adults with disabilities. A special video presentation by Kristin Wright, Director of Special Education Division of California’s Department of Education, will be shown as well. Future educators will be able to network with various stakeholders, administrators, policymakers, and advocates in Orange County, Southern California, Northern California.

Dr. Amy-Jane Griffiths, Assistant Professor in the Attallah College of Educational Studies, will present her research on developing meaningful employment opportunities for youth with diverse needs and encourages future educators to participate in this dialogue.

“It has a lot to do with [future educators]. Educators are there to prepare youth for a meaningful adult life and part of that is employment,” Griffiths said.

Dr. Audri Gomez, Associate Director of TPI, emphasizes the importance of the research: “For students who are interested in education, knowing that disability is diversity and that they are going to encounter disability, it is important to stay knowledgeable and understand the research that is going on to better their practices as educators and know how to support disability.”

Another research study investigates students with disabilities and their access to education using GIS (geographic information system) mapping. This research intends to show inclusion rates in California and Orange County and the variability of different districts and what account for the differences. Information from the research will be useful as Gomez mentions about Attallah College and TPI’s partnership with Tomorrow Leadership Collaborative (TLC), an inclusive TK-4th grade charter school down the street from Chapman University.

“It’s important to put what we are learning into action, and TLC can provide is a fully inclusive educational setting. With our expertise in TPI and Attallah College, we will be able to provide support to the school so that they will be the first fully inclusive school in Orange County,” Gomez said.

Gomez also talked about the gains the summit has made over the past few years and stressed the importance of the research, action, and policy: “Every year our summit is growing in popularity, and we are starting to partner with agencies around us. Their focus may be on something else, but our main focus is on research, action, and policy. The action is what we do in the community, regional centers, TLC, and school sites. Everything we do focuses on making policy recommendations.”

Excerpt from the Attallah College Undergraduate Student Newsletter.