CADRE, The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education, presented SPAN Executive Co-Director, Diana Autin with their prestigious Anita Engiles Keys to Access Award during their 2022 Symposium on Dispute Resolution in Special Education on October 27.
CADRE presents this award each year to an individual or entity that has supported special education programs, early intervention services, and/or persons with disabilities and has:
- Promoted the welfare of society and supported peaceful and welcoming communities
- Demonstrated the value of diversity in policy, practice and perspective
- Encouraged cooperative processes among institutions in our society
- Supported collaborative relationships between individuals with the goal of achieving an inclusive society
- Promoted justice, equity and respect for all individuals
- Embodied in professional and personal relationships those qualities that foster and support full participation and self-determination
The organization states “CADRE is honored to recognize Diana MTK Autin, JD, as the 2022 Anita Engiles Key to Access recipient. A longtime collaborator with CADRE, she champions collaborative approaches to resolving conflict, and shares her extensive knowledge of inclusion, cultural humility, and stakeholder engagement with all she meets. Diana’s lifelong contributions to creating a better and more just world for families and children with disabilities embodies the values of the Key to Access award. She uses her legal knowledge to help train and support parents and parent leaders as advocates for their children and families as they navigate the education, health, mental health, and child welfare systems. She brings the voices of parents, families, and communities to the table on a number of state and national advisory committees on health and education.”
The award was presented to Diana by U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Project Officer Parent Lead, Carmen Sanchez. Carmen noted, “I am honored to make a few remarks about Diana Autin and why she so richly deserves this award. I have known Diana since I began working at OSEP sixteen years ago, although I had heard of her prior to that. And I have been the project officer for SPAN’s grants with the Department for almost all those sixteen years, working closely with Diana. From the moment I met her, and she not so subtly tried to size me up, I was struck by her fierce commitment to families of children with disabilities and civil rights.”
“…Diana is undeniably a pain, a thorn in the side of those who consciously or unwittingly pursue injustice. She will let you know in no uncertain terms that you are wrong, and in great detail why you are wrong. And 99% of the time she is right. She does not shy away from pursuing legal, formal actions when necessary on behalf of families and children. She has a razor-sharp intelligence and great reserves of energy that she uses in pursuit of justice. I cannot tell you the number of times I opened an email from Diana at 8 a.m. in the morning that was sent at 2 a.m. You can always count on her to bring up the issues that most matter to families and children, even in settings where others seek to gloss over difficult issues.”
“…From the very beginning, Diana’s focus has been on empowering families and youth, not just supporting them in the moment. Almost all the staff at SPAN are family members of children with disabilities that SPAN supported and then grew into wonderful leaders. Diana was instrumental in creating that culture of empowerment, particularly of parents from underserved populations. And that empowerment extends to how she provides technical assistance to the parent centers in her region and the family-to-family grants she supports, collaboratively creating a culture of continuous improvement with her colleagues.”
Diana’s award acceptance speech followed, which was highly personal and moving. To read the full text of the speech, click here.