Rose McManus of Saco, ME, has dedicated herself to addressing the challenges faced by children with disabilities. As the parent of an 18 year old daughter with Down Syndrome, Ms. McManus' efforts to improve the quality of life for her own child led her to seek out other parents who had children with special needs. She eventually became an advocate for all children with disabilities. Her mission has been to educate other parents, educators, administrators, and organizations to fully understand disabilities and bring about societal inclusion for children with disabilities.
When her daughter Marcy was born, opportunities for inclusion in community activities were limited and attitudes regarding the potential of children with disabilities were still rooted in a model that recommended institutionalization.
In response to her child's special needs, Ms. McManus became an effective advocate for her daughter's unique needs. As a result, Marcy was the first child with Down Syndrome to attend the public schools in her district. Ms. McManus assisted the school system on how to appropriately teach Marcy, how to develop an appropriate Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and how to integrate kids with disabilities with their non-disabled peers in the public schools and surrounding community settings.
Amid the ongoing efforts to secure an appropriate program for Marcy's special needs, Ms. McManus began to branch out and assist other parents with special needs children. She developed the Down Syndrome Society Guild of Maine to provide support and a published guide to parents of newborns diagnosed with Down Syndrome that was a valuable resource in hospitals and doctors’ offices. Ms. McManus is also an active participant and leader in support groups and advocacy organizations. She has served over the past six years as a Board Member for York County Parent Awareness, chairing numerous committees, organizing fundraisers, and working closely with families in need of support and services. As Board President currently in her fourth year of leadership, Ms. McManus oversees the operation of a parent-centered organization that has grown from a support group of 18 parents to an organization that provides information, educational opportunities and support for over 4,000 parents and professionals. She constantly pushes for innovative programs, such as training, a bi-monthly newsletter and a statewide online bulletin board service that links children and adults with disabilities, their families and those who serve them through no-cost, low-tech access.
On a community and systems change level, Ms. McManus consistently advocates for quality services that provide both in-home and community supports to families who are struggling to raise their children in as "normal" a fashion as possible. To this end, she has participated in countless advisory committees, sought out policymakers within each of the local and state agencies that provide services and has helped organize public forums with key legislators to help advance the perspective of parents of children with disabilities and the problems they face.
She is also an 11th year advisor to the Boy Scouts of America, Pine Tree Council, Explorer Post, which serves 14 to 21 year old individuals with disabilities. In addition, she performs in the "Kids on the Block Puppets," a puppet show that she established in 1985 that features puppets with disabilities interacting with non-disabled caricatures of children to educate children about disability tolerance.
Ms. McManus receives no salary or stipends for any of her community service efforts.