Joanne Terrasi – Special Education Advocate
My name is Joanne Terrasi and I, too, am a parent. Over the last 20 years, I have evolved into a special education advocate. Since 2003, I have been offering support on the special education process to parents who have children with learning disabilities.
Advocacy for me began when I enrolled my nonverbal son with autism into preschool and had to stare down 19 years of IEP meetings. I understand the difficulties and demands of parenting a child with a learning disability and I know how hard you have to work to get the programs your child needs to access their public education.
I managed a community, early elementary classroom out of my home in West Newbury, MA, under the direction of Raphael Castro, PH.D., Executive Director of the Integrated Center of Childhood Development in Newton, MA. For four years, I spent nearly 40 hours a week working with some of the most talented behaviorists as well as occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech and language pathologists.
I have been trained and certified through the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA). My COPAA practicum was spent with Attorney Richard O’Meara of Murray, Plumb and Murray in Portland, ME. I am an active member of COPAA and the Special Needs Advocacy Network (SPaN), continually partaking in workshops, seminars and lectures on education laws and student rights.
Prior to becoming a certified advocate, I was a family support navigator for Maine Parent Federation. I helped parents navigate the process of special education transition, vocational rehabilitation, Social Security and Medicaid. I also assisted parents in finding community resources and training opportunities to help support their families.
I am a certified direct service professional (DSP) through Woodfords Family Services in Kennebunk, ME. I have been trained to assist people with disabilities who need support to lead self-directed lives and to provide advocacy when the preferences, needs or gifts of an individual with a disability are neglected.
Through Inner Circle Advocacy for Children, I am able to help families like my own. I work with a network of trusted colleagues, maintaining strong professional ties with special education attorneys, advocates, educators and parent groups. I consult with these colleagues when I am unsure of the appropriate course of action in my advocacy efforts and find additional advocacy services when those that I provide are not sufficient.
We keep abreast of the latest practices and strategies that are significant to client cases. Our mission is to protect every child’s right to a high-quality, inclusive education and to improve the lives of parents who struggle to understand their child’s disability. We wade through the process of ensuring your public schools provide a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) and we make certain children’s educational rights are being met.
-Maine College of Direct Support for DSPs
-Woodfords Family Services
Sept. 2020 – Present
Certified DSP, with ongoing training requirements
-COPAA Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT)
Oct. 2018 – March 2020
56 Classroom hrs., 60 Self-study hrs., 70 Practicum hrs.
Certified advocate and active member
-The Arc@School’s Advocacy Curriculum
-Maine Parent Federation
Family Support Navigator
Jan. 2017 – Jan. 2018
-SPED Classroom Coordinator
2003 – 2007
Additional Education & Training
I studied English journalism at the University of New Hampshire Durham. Since 2008, I have been a freelance writer for the Seacoast Media Group. I work independently generating story leads, gathering facts, interviewing sources and writing pieces for The York Weekly and Portsmouth Herald. Being a reporter has taught me how to be an invaluable tool when a community is under stress. I understand the consequences of decisions made on the basis of faulty or misleading information and the importance of being trustworthy with information given in confidence.
I spent nearly 8 years working full-time for Lodging Econometrics, a global hospitality firm in Portsmouth, N.H. As a market researcher I collected, analyzed and reported real estate trends on the global hospitality market. In being assigned client requests with the highest priority, I developed strong research and communication skills.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have. I’m here to be a resource for you and your family!