Charmaine Thaner

Advocate and Public Speaker

The problem is so many students with disabilities spend their days at school being lonely, feeling dumb, and believing they’re not good enough.

I am a Changemaker! (maybe I should put that on my business card) I can help you be a Changemaker too! First, you have to work with someone who has been there, done that (and of course, has the T-shirt). The T-shirts I wear say:

  • My child has an I.E.P. (Involved Educated Parent)
  • I’m a Teacher That Presumes All Are Competent
  • Want IEPs Without Drama? I’m Your Advocate
  • Teaching Future Teachers: The Art of Assisting Discovery
  • Keep Calm – Use Collaborative Special Education Advocacy
  • Our Lives Begin To End The Day We Become Silent About Things That Matter

I have years of parenting, teaching, and advocacy experience.
I currently support parents through advocacy and public speaking.

What makes working with me different?

(no comments allowed from my husband, Jim)

  • I know what it is like to be a parent and how essential it is to speak up for your child.
  • I also understand what challenges teachers face and how the education system works.
  • There aren’t many people that have the combination of life/job experiences that I do.
  • My variety of unique perspectives and skills will help you make a difference in your child’s life.

How can I help you be a Changemaker?

When you and I start working together, you will learn to:

  • Be Heard, Understood, And Respected
  • Help Others Know Your Child Better
  • Put The I Back Into Your Child’s IEP
  • Achieve Positive Outcomes For Your Child
  • Get Educators To Think Outside The Box

Everything I do is because I believe life can be better. My passion and work is to help life be better for students with disabilities.

  • Our children can be included and have that critical sense of belonging.
  • Each of our kids can learn new skills and show what they know.
  • Our children can have rich, fullfilling lives.

Charmaine has been an invaluable asset to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Her teaching abilities are engaging and represent best practice in the field. The strategies she shares allow current and future teachers to walk away with instant ideas for how to support their students. Charmaine is an awesome advocate for students and families, while also having the ability to connect to and support teachers!

– Christi Kasa, Ph.D., University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Need to know more about me (or is your husband asking who in the heck is this Charmaine and why would you believe she can help us)? You can continue reading, or click on the Services tab above to see what specific services I offer to help you advocate for your child.

My son, Dylan happens to have Down syndrome and was successfully included, from preschool through college. When Dylan told us he wanted to go to college like his brother and sister, we helped make that happen (confession: I did have my moments of doubt that this could really happen). Dylan became the first student with Down syndrome to take classes at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, pretty awesome!

I’m not going to lie to you – Dylan’s inclusion all though school didn’t happen without my husband and I being persistent, reminding ourselves that Dylan deserved it, and knowing in the end all of our efforts would be worth it (the other thing that helped in the beginning was to have a box of tissues at IEP meetings).

My husband, Jim and I quickly figured out how important it is to develop relationships not only with Dylan’s teachers (which means more than bringing cookies to meetings),but also with self-advocates, experts in the field, and fellow parents.

Thankfully, I heard a self-advocate from Canada, Judith Snow speak when Dylan was just three years old. Judith taught me the concept of giftedness. Then I met Paula Kluth, consultant, author and advocate extraordinaire who helped me learn how to be a better teacher. And where would our family be if Kathie Snow (author of Disability is Natural and as Dylan calls her – my second mom)and her family hadn’t decided to move to our small town? Kathie is more than my friend, she is my mentor, and my “go-to person” when I need reassurance that we don’t have to wait for the world to change – we can make it happen.

There were other lessons along the way that we learned – ask more questions – don’t go to meetings demanding a preconceived solution – have Dylan attend every IEP meeting – appreciate teachers and principals who “get it”, and the list goes on…

When we start working together, you can learn from my experiences and not make the same mistakes I did (that’s worth the price of admission). You will also learn how to be proactive, resolve small differences before they beome huge conflicts, be a creative problem solver, write awesome IEPs that actually get implemented (what a concept), and use positive negotiating skills – which will all lead to your child being safe, happy, and learning at school.

Whew, if you really want to know more about me, or are just trying to fall asleep you can keep reading – but feel free to save the rest of this long autobiography for another day…

Not only am I a parent, but I have also been a special educator, classroom teacher, adjunct university instructor, and advocate.

I was a special educator for 15 years and when I particpated in IEP meetings I would often give general educators suggestions on how to include students in their classrooms. But one day I thought that I have never been a classroom teacher, how do I know if these accommodations and modifications I am suggesting really can work in a class of 20 some students.

I decided to transfer to a general education classroom and see if it really is possible to include students with disabilities. And you know what I found out? Inclusion is possible. Yes, it takes work, collaboration, and learning new instructional strategies (which benefit all students), but kids with disabilities can receive the supports and services they need in general education classrooms and be successful. I loved the sense of community in the classroom, being with a group of students all day, and remained as a classroom teacher for 15 years.

After retiring from 30 years of teaching I was asked to be an adjunct university instructor for the Special Education department at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. I had the opportunity to teach undergraduate and graduate students (did you know graduate students still ask if the information is going to be on the test) how to include students with significant disabilities. I love teaching and learning from others and the chance to work with future and current teachers gave me a whole new perspective on the educational changes needed in our schools.

The last chapter, I promise – I also began my own advocacy business after retiring. This created wonderful opportunities for me to work closely with families, review hundreds of IEPs (don’t you envy me), make detailed suggestions so the IEP was more strength based and meaningful, and be the parents’guide on their side for IEP and 504 meetings. My new focus is to help more parents through webinars and more public speaking. I am excited about all the possibilites that exist for your child! Let’s make this happen!

If you are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with the special education process, get in touch with me by clicking on the Contact tab above.


Bachelor of Science, 1974
Special Education & Elementary Ed, Slippery Rock State College, Slippery Rock, PA

Masters of Art, 1991
Special Education, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, CO