Module 8 - Presenter Bios

Module 8 Partnering with Parents, Families and Guardians

Presenter Bios:

Curtis Harris: As a 44-year old black man with autism, Curtis (he/him) serves as a self-advocate and champion for advancing issues related to the Disability Community. At the age of 4, Curtis was diagnosed with autism and was the first student with autism to enroll in the Chicago Public Schools system in January of 1984 when they created the autistic program for me and other students. After graduating from Chicago Public Schools system in 1996, Curtis attended college for a span of 10 years. He currently serves on the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, is a member of Access Living's Racial Justice Advanced Your Leadership Power (AYLP) and other advocacy organizations at Access Living that focus on Housing and Home Services Attendant. He is a Board Member of the Chicagoland Autism Connection (CAC) and Vice President of a self-advocacy organization called CAC Trailblazers. Curtis is a 2020 graduate of the Illinois Partners in Policymaking Training. He is also a 2019 Graduate of the Illinois Self Advocacy Alliance Ambassador program.

Teresa Parks, MSW, NCG:

Teresa (she/her) is the Deputy Director of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission as well as Director of the Commission's Human Rights Authority. Parks holds a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana and is National Certified Guardian through the Center for Guardianship Certification. Parks is also a graduate of Illinois' Partners in Policy Making Program and the Institute of Special Education Advocacy through William and Mary Law School. Prior to working for the Commission, Parks was a nursing home ombudsman and program director for a community mental health agency. Currently, Parks serves on the board and education committee of the Illinois Guardianship Association, is an appointed member of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities and is a trustee for the Center for Guardianship Certification. She has also served on various local and regional disability-related boards and committees. Parks is the parent of two adult children, including a son with disabilities.

Rocio Perez:

Rocio (she/her/ella) is married and has two adult children. Her oldest is an adult with Autism. Her background in Social Work complements her lifelong goal for her son Tony to have as many choices as possible. Prior to joining, The Arc of Illinois, Rocio worked at well-known not for profits such as Metropolitan Family Services, Community Support Services, and Community Alternatives Unlimited. She has worked for the Arc of IL since December 2018. She started out working for both The Illinois Life Span Program and The Family to Family Information Center where she was mentored by Deb Fornoff and Faye Manaster. She moved over full time to The Illinois Life Span Program in 2019 and was promoted to Assistant Director in 2020. Today, she is the Director of the Life Span Program and looks forward to continuing the legacy of Ms. Fornoff and her co-workers.

La Sra. Perez es casada y tiene dos hijos adultos. Su mayor es un adulto con autismo. Su experiencia en el campo de Servicio Social complementa su objetivo de toda la vida de que su hijo Tony tenga tantas opciones como sea posible. Antes de unirse al Arc of Illinois, Rocío trabajó en conocidas empresas sin fines de lucro como Metropolitan Family Services, Community Support Services y Community Alternatives Unlimited. Ella ha trabajado para el Arc of Illinois desde diciembre de 2018. Comenzó a trabajando para the Illinois Life Span Program y El Centro de Información de Salud. Sus mentores han sido Las Sras. Deb Fornoff y Faye Manaster. En 2019, se dedicó tiempo completo al Programa Life Span de Illinois y fue promovida a directora asistente en 2020. Hoy en día, es la Directora del Programa Life Span y espera continuar el legado de la Sra. Fornoff y sus compañeros de trabajo.

Linda Sandman:

Linda (she/her) is a social worker and works with Blue Tower Solutions. In addition, she is bilingual (in English and Spanish) and bicultural. Working with and learning from parents and families has been a highlight of her work over many years. Together with a colleague, Linda helped created a workshop curriculum called Home B.A.S.E to help parents feel more confident and comfortable talking about sexuality with their adolescent and adult children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Two research articles reporting on the results of this work with parents have been published in academic journals in 2018 and 2021.