Parental advocacy helped gain opportunity for special-needs kids

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I was reminded of just how quickly time flies when I saw this video of Abby Loy, now a young woman of 21. The video, “A Vision for Abby,” is part of a series produced by the Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University.

LuAnn Loy

I first came to know of Abby, who was born with Down Syndrome, when she was a little girl. I was a new reporter at the Livingston County Press when Abby’s mom, LuAnn Loy, invited me to a meeting of parents of children with disabilities. The group was working on behalf of their kids for supportive educational services, like the right to learn in regular classrooms.

These parents were a determined bunch. They wanted for their children what every other parent desires: a fair shot, independence, equal opportunity.

LuAnn was a passionate advocate for her daughter. She ensured that Abby went to school in Brighton — her home district — rather than having to travel to a “special” class in a different district.

Abby Loy poses with Sen. Ted Kennedy during a 2005 trip to Washington, D.C.

It was a time of great change in special education. Research and experience were showing that all students benefitted from inclusive classrooms, not just those with disabilities. The movement for inclusivity in education grew and gained momentum, thanks to the advocacy of mothers and fathers across the country, parents like LuAnn and the others I met those many years ago here in Livingston County.

LuAnn and I kept in touch throughout the years. I was always delighted to hear about Abby’s latest accomplishments. Abby herself became an advocate for children with disabilities; she educated policy- and decision-makers, and other professionals about Down Syndrome. She was a normal high school student who happened to have Down Syndrome.

And now, Abby is 21.

It’s a joy to see how she’s flourished. She works and goes to school, just like most everyone her age.

It’s inspiring, too, to realize that a movement — fueled by the perseverance, passion and dedication of parents like LuAnn Loy — secured for their special needs children a fair shot, opportunities and independence.

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About Maria Stuart 212 Articles
Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse. You can check out her website by clicking here.