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Youngest DD board member earns recognition for self-advocacy

By BARBARA WRABEL • Nov 4, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Soft-spoken Colton Wilson, the youngest member of the Huron County Board of Developmental Disabilities at the age of 21, has received quite a bit of attention recently for speaking up.

Wilson, who joined the board in January 2017 while still a student at EHOVE, was selected to be a staff member for the Ohio Youth Leadership Forum for students with disabilities held in Columbus during the first week of August. Although the forum was familiar, since he attended in 2016 as a student delegate, he found the experience to be a bit different when viewed from a leadership role.

“I had the opportunity to see more of the inner workings of the program this year,” Wilson said. “As a staff member, you’re responsible for facilitating the discussions and knowing the rules. We had a very diverse group, which made it interesting. It’s eye-opening to see what people go through. Our group created a PowerPoint that students could use to present at their own IEP meetings, discussing future planning and career goals. It gives them a road map, and helps them to know what to discuss at those meetings. It’s important for people to have a voice, and to express their needs and desires.”

The development of his ability to advocate for himself has been, in Wilson’s words, “A work in progress.” Because he requires assistance with many day-to-day physical needs, he is often uncomfortable with asking for help, feeling he doesn’t want to be a bother to those around him. Serving on the DD board has helped his confidence, however, and has “given me more insight into various issues” that have direct impact on his life, and the lives of other people with disabilities, per Wilson.

It was his role as an HCBDD board member that led directly to his most recent honor, the annual ESDY Award from the Ohio Self Determination Association at the Synergy Conference in Columbus earlier this month. The award is given to “individuals or entities that have promoted the principles of self-determination which affected their own lives or the lives of others.” As the first individual with a disability to ever serve on the Board — and an avid follower of all things political — Wilson’s views and voice offer a unique perspective and potential to inform policies and procedures.

“I consider it a great opportunity and privilege to be able to encourage Colton to participate as an active and valued member of the Board,” said HCBDD President DeEtte Zimmerman. “I’ve witnessed his growth and increased confidence in that position over the past 10 months and look forward to his continued contributions.”

Wilson currently participates in HCBDD’s Aktion Club and self-advocacy group, and is also taking part in Artists’ Open Studio, while receiving support to find a job in the community and planning for his future with the help of service and support administrator (SSA) Brian Nickoloff.

“I’d like to work with people in some way, although I’m not sure exactly how yet. It’s best to be open to trying new things and find out what happens,” he said. “I may decide to further my education. My goal is to be the most successful person I can be, in whatever capacity.”

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bar­bara Wra­bel serves as com­mu­nity out­reach spe­cial­ist for the Huron County Board of DD.

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