On April 28, the Federation for Children with Special Needs will present Professor of Practice Thomas Hehir with the Martha H. Ziegler Founder's Award. The Ziegler award is given to individuals who have had a tremendous impact in improving the quality of life for children and students with special needs.
"It's a great honor because these centers provide a tremendous service to the hundreds and thousands of parents throughout the country," Hehir said. "I've worked with many of the families, who have been active in the Boston centers over the years. It's very humbling to be honored by the people you serve, these families with children with disabilities."
The Federation for Children with Special Needs, established in 1974, provides information, support, and assistance to parents of children with disabilities, their professional partners, and their communities. The Ziegler award is named after founding director Martha Ziegler, who was one of the prime movers in the parent community to pass special education laws in Massachusetts and the nation.
According to the Federation's executive director, Richard Robison, Hehir easily rose to the top against other award nominees.
"He was very influential in helping to establish special education systems as we know them and worked closely with the Federation," Robison said. "Then, he went on to Chicago and Washington D.C. I think his work in Washington D.C. and as a professor really brought this to mind for us."
Among Hehir's work recognized by the Federation is his involvement in drafting the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensured children with special needs would gain access to a general curriculum and high quality education programs. At the time, Hehir was serving as director of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs, a post he held from 1993 to 1999.
"That turned out to be an incredible legacy," Robison said. "Tom stood head and shoulders above any other name presented to us. He is someone who has left big footprints that have been positive, as well as challenging."