The Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award is a memorial award giving to a parent, an advocate, a teacher or a service provider who has exemplified using information to assist their own child or someone else’s child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education. This person has demonstrated teamwork and collaboration and the zeal to share the information they have learned with others.
This award was presented to Debbie Vitale of Memphis at The ARC Awards Banquet on May 31, 2013. Debbie is the founding and current President of the Shelby County Regional Special Education PTA (also known as SEPTA), the first special education PTA of its kind in Tennessee which chartered in April, 2012. Prior to the creation of SEPTA, Debbie served as a LEND trainee at the UT Boling Center for Neurodevelopment Disabilities a program which focuses on honing the skills of students/providers-to-be from various disciplines with respect to their advocacy work in the community serving children with different neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Before moving to Memphis, Debbie served as a Social Worker in Ohio. She worked for 15 years with children and families in different community-based programs including being the founding program director of an inner city counseling program and serving as the Director of a Runaway and Homeless youth shelter. She worked as an in-home family therapist assisting families with reunification as well as serving as the program manager for an Intensive Outpatient program with dually diagnosed adolescents. She has also taught at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
Debbie’s drive for working with Special needs families come from both her social work background and the desire to make sure that everyone feels included and like a valued member of the community as well as her own experience as a parent of a child with special needs.