Throughout Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month we celebrate the achievements of people impacted by a developmental disability.
Early on in life Katie Boland, honored with the 2020 Darcus Nims Self-Advocate of the Year Award, learned that self-advocacy would help her live her best life.
Katie was born with Williams Syndrome; a rare genetic condition characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning challenges.
Growing up, Katie advocated for the Williams Syndrome Association. She joined groups to network with others who had the same rare diagnoses, and became an Ambassador for the American Heart Association, giving moving speeches at local heart walks to rally the cause.
When Katie’s audio sensory issues led her to battle daily anxiety at school, she advocated to use behavioral services through her Medicaid waiver to assist in overcoming those anxieties. With services, supports and determination, Katie learned to “use her voice” at school to address issues that led to anxiety.
When confronted with bullying not only towards her but to other students, Katie facilitated an IEP meeting to bring awareness to her teachers and principal about the impact bullying was having on her and others. This led to the school initiating changes – the end result made Katie and her parents so very proud!
During high school, Katie was an active participant in the “Helping Hands Club” to provide support to other students facing medical concerns. They mirrored Katie and became self-advocates for themselves as well.
As Katie entered her senior year, she began to explore post high school options. Like so many of her peers, she wanted to attend college. With the help of her parents, she explored many options for a unique learner like herself. She tried “college for a week” at Shepherds College in Union Grove, Wisconsin and immediately knew this was her path.
Katie is determined to continue to pursue her dreams of living independently and gaining job skills that will lead to employment. She continues to use her powerful voice to spread awareness about the abilities of people with disabilities by sharing her own journey, the importance of advocacy to ensure people with differences never feel isolated, and the importance every individual can achieve in making a difference in their life and the lives of others.