Utah PTA leader spearheads resolution for students with disabilities, passed by national PTA

SALT LAKE CITY -- Karen Conder is a former fourth grade teacher, and now a special needs specialist with the Utah Parent Teachers Association (PTA).

She spearheaded a new resolution in favor of supporting the success of students with disabilities to the National PTA, and it passed .

“My resolution is high expectations for students with disabilities; that is basically saying we should expect and give these students with disabilities a chance to accomplish as much as they can,” explained Conder, one week after her resolution passed at the National PTA meeting in New Orleans.

“We should give them the tools, the accommodations and things they need to go as far as they can," she said.  "The Utah State Board of Education’s Special Education Department identified some of the reasons there is a big gap between students with disabilities and students without disabilities when it comes to their test scores.

One of the areas they identified was "high expectations.”

Conder has experienced this first hand. She has raised three children, and two of them have disabilities.

The younger son, 22-year-old Peter has autism and her oldest son, Trevin, has Asperger’s Syndrome. Her daughter, Alice does not have special needs.

Peter pointed out to his mother once, that his siblings and his name make the acronym for P-T-A, Peter, Trevin, and Alice.  Conder proudly said, Peter is clever that way.

“Sometimes people don’t give them the opportunities because they maybe don’t think they can accomplish as much,” explained Conder.   “If everyone has higher expectations, including parents, teachers and the students themselves, then they will be able to go further."

"Sometimes it’s the parents that don’t have high expectations too," Conder continued. "I have had situations where I didn’t think my son (Peter) could accomplish something, and a teacher said, ‘no he can do this we are going to go ahead and do it.’”

Conder had to admit the teacher was right.  The challenge to succeed was good for her son Peter.

Conder has seen lower expectations set at Utah schools for students like her children, Peter and Trevin.

She knew she wanted to make a change, but what she did not expect was nearly all the National PTA members to agree.

However, after two years of research and collaboration with special needs student committees, advisors, state education data, and Utah PTA teamwork, her resolution passed the National PTA board 470 to 19.

“We want people to have higher expectations for these students, and we want them to have the opportunity to accomplish as much as they can,” Conder said.  “It feels like progress.  It makes me hopeful for others students, my son has graduated, but it makes me hopeful for those students who are currently in school that they will have a positive experience and it will open doors for them to do more things.”

To learn more about Conder’s and her team’s resolution please click through the links below.

Utah PTA Resolution.

National PTA Resolution. (proposed version, updated final version coming soon)

What does a National PTA resolution mean?