PTA Mom Gains Support for Special Needs Students at National PTA Convention

Karen Conder’s quest to make a difference began the day she realized she wasn’t alone.

As a veteran fourth-grade teacher and a mother of a son who has autism, Karen has always had a special interest in the experience students with disabilities have at school. But when she met other parents who shared her same concerns, she decided to do something about it. Five years later, Karen found herself standing in front of the National PTA with an overwhelming vote in support of a proposed resolution that aims to support students with disabilities at school.

“I would like to change the culture,” Karen said. “That is my goal. To not have people automatically go, they have a disability, they can’t do as much. I want people to see them as real people with abilities.”

Karen was appointed as Utah PTA’s Special Needs Specialist in 2013, and she gathered together members of the community and advocates for those with disabilities to brainstorm how they could best help students with special needs succeed. They were inspired by a report from the Utah State Office of Education that determined that one way to improve the academic performance of special education students was to have higher expectations of them.

Karen’s passion for kids inspired her in 2016 to begin crafting a resolution in support of students with disabilities, which the Utah PTA approved last year. Last week, Through Karen’s resolution, with the support of the Utah PTA, the National PTA also resolved to have high expectations for students with disabilities, collaborate with the entire school community to include children with disabilities in all activities and support funding for ongoing training and professional development for teachers who work with students with disabilities in the general education classroom. The resolution was overwhelmingly approved by the voting members of the National PTA with a vote of 470 to 19.

“Hopefully this will make a difference,” Karen said. “I feel like people are starting to listen and saying this is important.”

See Fox13’s story on Karen’s work here and contact your local PTA organization for ways you can help make a difference in your own community. Congratulations, Karen!