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Parent Leader Team

Our Parent Leader Team offers personal and up-close opportunities to understand the impact of policy and practice to key policy makers and the media. The team serves in an informal advisory capacity to The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), giving input and feedback on prevailing and emerging issues that stand in the way of children receiving the support they need to succeed.

The Parent Leaders also help plan, develop and review NCLD informational resources to ensure that they address parents’ ongoing needs. Team members are sharing their experience and expertise through blogs, articles and Parent Talks. This new and exciting program at NCLD is directed by Laura Kaloi, NCLD’s public policy advisor.

Parent Leader Team

Myriam Alizo

Glen Rock, NJ

Esther Falcetta

Grove City, PA

Marcie Lipsitt

Franklin, MI

Julie Buick

Rochester, NY

Mark Halpert

Boca Raton, FL

Altaf Rahamatulla, Sr.

Levittown, PA

Carmen Carley

Torrance, CA

Michael Kaczor

Glorieta, NM

Nancy U. Ventrudo

Steamboat Springs, CO

Hilary Cole

Oak Hill, VA

Andrew Kavulich

Shamong, NJ

Debbie Walhof, M.D.

Santa Rosa, CA

Bette Erickson

Minneapolis, MN

Marcie Lipsitt

Marcie Lipsitt lives in Michigan with her husband, son and three dogs. She was born feeling the ills, pain and prejudice that plagued children like her sister with severe learning disabilities and brother with ADHD; a father with Bipolar Disorder and OCD and frankly any child who appeared to have a challenge. She stood up for the kids in school being made fun of, or those with few to no friends. Little did she realize she was evolving advocacy and activism skills.

For the past 21 years she has been a mother to her greatest inspiration and hero, her son Andrew. Andrew has severe learning disabilities and including NLD, CAPD and EFD but in addition he suffers from the childhood onset of Bipolar Disorder, OCD, ADHD, multiple anxiety disorders and medical morbidities.

Currently, Marcie is the founder and co-chair of the Michigan Alliance for Special Education, a grassroots advocacy organization that has held a rally on the steps of the Michigan Capitol. They successfully lobbied for an ESY rule in the Michigan Special Education Administrative Rules; along with maintaining “severe discrepancy” and “2 short term objectives” during the last significant rule promulgation period in August 2008. Her efforts have been instrumental in forcing Michigan to raise the standards required for secondary special education teachers. Marcie also proudly sits on the Massachusetts General Hospital Pediatric Psychopharmacology Advisory Council and lobbies tirelessly for mental health parity.

Marcie is “passionate that our children’s greatest civil right is their opportunity for a meaningful public education. An education that sends them on to post-secondary education, the global workforce or any path that leads to a maximally productive adulthood and optimal quality of life.”

Mark Halpert

Mark Halpert has been immersed in the world of learning disabilities for 20 years: first as the father of two children with learning disabilities, then his wife developed the 3D Learner Program (R) to help children with learning disabilities to improve their reading comprehension, test scores and more. Mark then joined 3D Learner and has been presenting nationwide.

Mark is involved in the Learning Disabilities Association, the International Dyslexia Association, CHADD and IDEA MoneyWatch—leading to being quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Mark is now President of the Learning Disabilities Association of Florida, on the National LDA Board, and serves on the board of the International Dyslexia Association of Florida and his local CHADD Board.

Andrew Kavulich

Andrew Kavulich has four children, Grace, Ava, Sophia and Luke — three of whom are classically dyslexic, and one's learning style is "normal." What has driven him to this point of advocacy is a local administrator responsible for Grace stating, "dyslexia doesn't exist in this district!"

From that moment, Andy and his wife wanted to work through the system to make change so other children and families would not have to deal with the same ignorant policies.

Andrew was fortunate to attend the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson. One of his greatest quotes was, "I cannot live without books." No doubt he would be proud of this Parent Leaders Team forming to make this quote a reality for the millions of LD students who are currently dismissed by our education system.

In Andrew's own words: "I believe in our country and the greatest thing about it is we can change for the better — we just have to show up."

Myriam Alizo

myriam_alizoMyriam Alizo has been working at SPAN since the year 2003 as a Parent Group Specialist under the START Project, helping to develop and support Parent Groups in the area of special education in the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union. Myriam is also part of the New Jersey Statewide Parent to Parent, covering the northeast of the state.

Myriam sits on the Special Education Parent Advisory Council in her local school district, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bergen Chapter of ASPEN (Asperger's Syndrome Education Network), and has made presentations in English and Spanish on IDEA, Basic Rights and Parent Professional Collaboration, Parent Involvement in the Special Education Process, Key Changes to the Special Education Law, Engaging Immigrant/LEP Families in School, as well as Ensuring Effective Services to Immigrant and/or LEP/ELL Children and Families.

Prior to working at SPAN, Myriam worked for over three years as a Family Support Coordinator & Parent Trainer in Parent-to-Parent of Miami, Florida, an organization dedicated to assist and advocate for parents and their children with special needs. Myriam has two daughters, and early on became very involved in their education as they struggled with learning difficulties and the complexities of acquiring language skills in a bilingual family/school environment.

Myriam Alizo has a B.S. in Electronic Engineering from Universidad Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela, and has been residing in the United States since 1989.

Altaf Rahamatulla, Sr.

altaf rahamatullaAltaf Rahamatulla, Sr.’s life began in a small village in Guyana, South America. He came to the United States at the age of 12. He attended George Washington High School in Washington Heights, NYC; City College (Computer Science); NYU (Computer Application); AIHT (Metaphysics); and Penn Foster College (Personal Trainer). Altaf has been an athlete most of his life (e.g., karate, football, track, etc.).

Altaf’s professional work experience includes working his way up to vice president at Merrill Lynch after starting as a security guard while a student at City College. He has also studied the martial arts for over 25 years and leads a very active lifestyle. After a serious car accident in 2001 and subsequent cervical spine surgery and recovery, he returned to work as a personal trainer in 2009. He is currently a personal trainer for young athletes, professional boxers, and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters. Altaf is married to a loving wife and has six wonderful children.

Altaf previously struggled to get services for his youngest son, who is diagnosed with a learning disability, in his school district in Ontario, Canada, and from Canada’s Ministry of Education. This experience inspired him to become an advocate for children with disabilities. Altaf recently moved his son from Canada to the United States, and he is very involved with his local school district and community in Levittown, Pennsylvania.