Denise Sullivan: Fighting for Children with Special Needs
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Denise Sullivan: Fighting for Children with Special Needs

When children with special needs aren't getting the services they deserve, Denise Sullivan, a professional special-education advocate in Chicopee, Massachusetts, goes to work.

Denise Sullivan takes on about 130 cases a year (some pro bono) and in nine years of fighting for kids' rights in the courtroom, before school officials, and with social services, she has never lost a case.

A recent success involved a fourth grader whose reading and writing abilities were far below average. With Sullivan's help he got a reading specialist, which made a huge difference. The boy now reads and writes close to his grade level -- and his confidence has soared.

Born with spina bifida, Sullivan has used crutches all her life but didn't let that stop her from adopting two kids with fetal alcohol syndrome and advocating for them, too. "I want to provide respect and a voice for every child who needs it," she says.

Sullivan is establishing a fund that will allow her to help more children without charging a fee. For more information visit


Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, September 2009.