SPC ED 524 Advocacy & Empowerment with Individuals with Mental Retardation

Dept. of Educational Specialties, Special Education Program 
Dr. Susan Copeland
Geographic Area Served

Albuquerque, xx Other - specify in notes
Project Description
The purpose of SPC ED 524 is for students to gain a deeper understanding of advocacy and empowerment as these concepts relate to individuals with disabilities.

The community-based project incorporated into the class is designed to allow students to;
(a) deepen their understanding of advocacy, self-advocacy, empowerment, and self-determinationb) learn skills to support and facilitate self-advocates in their own growth
(c) to engage in advocacy.

The NM DDPC requested support for a project in which local self-advocates were trying to start-up a new center that they would run. The current project grew out of that effort. It provides unique learning opportunities both to UNM graduate students and to the self-advocates. Both groups acquire new skills in advocacy, develop relationships with people they might never have encountered, and deepen their understanding of self-determination of individuals.


1. Offers graduate students in the special education MA program an opportunity to broaden and deepen their understanding of disability and what that means in the lives of individuals who experience it. Through this project they also have the opportunity to work with adults and to see how adult service systems work (the rest of our program focuses on school-age individuals and the services provided in that system.)
2. Allows adults with disabilities an opportunity to interact with typical same-age peers (grad students) and to gain new and important skills that can enhance their own advocacy capabilities. For example, learning computer skills to create professional presentations, how to locate needed information, public speaking skills, etc.

In addition, I have designed and am carrying out an on-going research project with a colleague, Dr. Kelley Peters, which examines the impact of creating a Center for Self-Advocacy on the lives of the individuals with disabilities (and their families) who participate in the Center and with my students in SPC ED 524. This work is on-going but has already offered opportunities to present findings at local, national, and international professional conferences, including opportunities to present at conferences with the self-advocates themselves. The project is beginning its 3rd year. We've seen positive changes in self-advocates' advocacy skills and self-confidence. Graduate students have also reported making changes in their teaching practice to facilitate development of self-determination in their students.
THis course is an elective in the MA in special education. Anyone admitted into the university as a graduate student can take the course as well as senior level undergraduate students who have obtained permission to take a graduate course.

Course Information

Department: Educational Specialities, Special Education
Course #: 524
Frequency: Every Fall Semester
Advocacy & Empowerment with Individuals with Mental Retardation and Severe Disabilities  

Contact Information:
Location Mailing Address
UNM Main Campus
Special Education Program MSCO5 3040
Hokona Hall Rm 268
 UNM Main Campus
Educational Specialties College of Education
Special Education Program MSCO5 3040
Email Telephone
Susan Copeland susanrc@unm.edu
Susan Copeland (505) 277-0628

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