White House Author
Many parents of children with special needs become, out of necessity, effective advocates for their kids. Not many of these parents end up having the wide-ranging impact that Delaware delegate Ellen Coulston has had, by empowering other mothers and fathers to become involved in their kids’ education. For more than 10 years, since her son was diagnosed with developmental delays and language impairment, Coulston has spent her time and money attending hundreds of seminars and workshops. Not only has she used everything she learned to parent her own child, but has taken that knowledge and experience and shared it with her son’s school district and other parents of children with special needs. Coulston developed the first social skills program in Delaware’s 10,000-student Brandywine School District. The program is currently being rolled out to every school in the district as well as to all Positive Behavioral Support (PBS) schools statewide. Coulston co-founded the Bush Early Education Center PTA and the Brandywine Special Needs PTA, the first district-wide PTA of its kind in Delaware. She graduated in 2004 from Partners in Policymaking, which gives participants a thorough understanding of public policy and legislation regarding individuals with disabilities. Coulston has served for six years (as president and later secretary) on the executive board of the Parent Information Center of Delaware, which seeks to advance academic outcomes for students most at risk of academic failure by empowering parents and educators to become knowledgeable and powerful advocates for school improvement and student success. She is a Reading Assist-trained tutor with students in her community, for which she has received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2008, and serves as chairperson for Reading Assist student recognition. She is a Special Olympics Delaware volunteer, has been named Parent Volunteer of the Year in 2003, received the “Building Bridge Between Parents and Teachers” award in 2008 and 2009 for active parent involvement at Harlan Elementary School. Coulston serves on the Special Education Task Force Committee for the Brandywine School District Strategic Plan: 2007-2012, and volunteers for the International Dyslexia Association of New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.