Their Voice: Advocates wanted to teach about those with special needs | News, Sports, Jobs

The definition of an advocate is “a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy,” which is a perfect description of Marshall. I don’t think that advocating is something that he thinks about or does on purpose, rather it is something that comes naturally to him. Specifically, Marshall is an advocate for individuals with disabilities including those on the spectrum. The reason that being an advocate is second nature is that Marshall has a brother that he obviously loves deeply who has autism, which not only makes him an excellent direct support professional but also a very strong advocate.

It would be nice to think that people with developmental or intellectual disabilities would no longer need someone to stand up for them, but I have been recently reminded that they do.

As my place of employment begins our annual summer program for children and youth with special needs, we are reminded of both the progress that has been made toward inclusion and the work that is still to be done. We have found businesses and their employees such as The Hive in Spanish Fork, the Scera Theater in Orem and Provo Cinemark to be great examples of not only allowing those with special needs to patronize their business but actually creating ways in which they can feel welcome and equal to their peers.

Sadly, however, we have had experiences with customers who have blatantly made rude comments toward the people we support as they were navigating through the excitement of trying a new activity. This is where Marshall and his advocacy comes in and he finds himself attempting to use these moments to teach about acceptance and understanding.

My hope is that someday parents will no longer stand by as their children call someone cruel names or customers of businesses will have the patience to allow someone with disabilities the time to do the job they have been given without expressing their frustration at them. But as I have been learning again this week, we are not there. So until we are, I am thankful for Marshall and all of the staff working with this population who do advocate and try to teach people about the wonderful individuals they work with.


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