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“When the kids saw that Landis responded to them, they were so proud of themselves and her. Adults wouldn’t want her to have that opportunity, but the kids, they didn’t see that. They just saw they were helping her. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for her,” Rene said.

Rene’s daughter, Landis, was 18 months old when she started at the Elaine Clark Center in an inclusive classroom with both typically developing students and students with special needs. Thanks to ECC, Rene knew what it was like to have the support of fellow families, and to have therapies and accommodations for Landis’s development all in one place. She carried that knowledge when Landis moved onto public school, and an ECC employee even introduced Rene to the Partners in Policymaking courses where she learned about Landis’s education rights and how to advocate for them.

So, in public school, even when many teachers didn’t understand why Rene would want Landis in a general education classroom, since she still needed one-on-one time with a ParaPro, Rene pushed for her rights to learn alongside her typically developing peers. In turn, the students always served as a community for Landis. There were times when Landis wouldn’t listen to her parents or teachers, but the support of other students always encouraged her.

Today Landis is 26 years old, lively and giving. Her neighbor calls her the “roll-up comic” for her use of a wheelchair and her incredible sense of humor, and Rene describes her as someone who always has a plan, whether that’s going to Ingles or to Las Vegas. Rene is grateful for ECC’s role in Landis’s life, and her own.

Rene has since been involved with Parent to Parent Georgia and Babies Can’t Wait, serving families of children with special needs. She has also mentored Georgia State doctoral students on working with families like hers. She cites her experience with the people and programs of ECC as her motivation to continue her work with families of children with special needs.

Rene understands firsthand the impact our services can have on a family, and that is why she recently joined ECC’s Board of Directors. In this new chapter, Rene hopes she can help families build a foundation like the one her family did so many years ago, the one that led her right back to the Elaine Clark Center.