Ashley who? That might be a question many of you are asking. But for those who know her, I’m sure they can contest that Ashley Sabo is a force to be reckoned with. The first encounter I had with Ashley was during the Vision Coalition annual conference at the end of October. For the past two years I have made it a point to “crash” their Twitter hashtag party. I usually instinctively know where someone stands on Delaware education, but Ashley stood out. She responded on many of the tweets, and it went from there.
Ashley is, first and foremost, a mother and wife. One of her children is special needs. Ashley became very involved in the Red Clay Consolidated School District to make sure her child was getting the best education possible. Red Clay recently adopted a massive inclusion push for students with disabilities and their regular peers. When the initiative started, Ashley knew she had to become involved right away. As a result, Ashley was the co-chair of the Red Clay Secondary School Inclusion Committee. She is now the co-chair for the District Inclusion Oversight Committee.
Her other volunteer activities are as follows: President of the Meadowood PTA, Secretary and member of the advocacy committee for the Delaware PTA, and she is working on becoming a trained Educational Surrogate Parent. The last position is where someone acts as a parent in the special education process for children with disabilities in the Delaware foster-care system. As well, she is also working on becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate, which is a court-appointed position which helps abused or neglected children find a safe and healthy environment in a permanent home.
Back in March of 2014, Ashley and her husband were very involved in the feud between Nemours and United Healthcare. For parents of special needs children, there is usually some catalyst that forces them to act. For Ashley, this was that moment. Once a special needs parent becomes involved in advocating not only for their child but others, it is very hard to put that fire out. Shortly after I started this blog, another Delaware blogger left a comment on an article that always stuck with me in his accurate description of parents of special needs children:
I’ve always felt that God picks his greatest works and gives them special needs children, knowing full well that through their advocacy, care, and love, the envelope will be stretched enabling others who are weak, tired, and poor to be able to slip in and have their causes addressed too……. Meaning that if someone forces you to address an issue due to their advocacy, it is an easy next step to widen the breadth of the process to include the others as well. But the latter effort would be deemed totally impossible to attempt, were there never those advocates who initially force one to start the process. Across many states, there is a high preponderance of those who are considered the doers of good for society, who themselves are parents of special needs children. It is those parents, whose work keeps all of society human… That of course is my humble opinion. But it has become my explanation as to why all parents of special needs children seem to be, again in my opinion, bordering superhuman…
I wouldn’t say we are “superhuman”, but very dedicated to doing everything we can to make sure our children have the best life possible. If that means going against authority or even state agencies in the attempt, so be it. For Ashley Sabo, a life-long resident of Delaware with two masters degrees, she is well-armed for this. There are many Ashley’s in Delaware and across America. But Ashley has that extra fuel to keep the conversations going AND to make a difference. I would strongly urge any district officials in Red Clay, state legislators, and those in power who have the capability of making true and lasting change for our special needs kids to truly listen to Ashley. She is wise beyond her young years and this is clear when you meet her. I have no doubt Ashley will be a force for change in the coming years.
As recently last night, I published an article about Red Clay’s inclusion push. While it is certainly a very noble gesture, it won’t work if the resources and staff are not able to meet the needs of the students. This is Ashley’s biggest fight at the moment, getting those in the district to listen to what is glaringly obvious. Should the redistricting proposal from the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission pass, Red Clay will have even more students. If they can’t get this now, how are they going to do this with a large influx of new students? Whatever happens, I have faith Ashley will be at the front of the debate. While she lists Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn and State Rep. Kim Williams as an inspiration, I can say she is a light in the darkness for all the special needs children in Delaware.