Assistant Secretary of OSERS Visits New Hampshire Programs

November 18, 2016

Group Shot with Sue Swenson

Leslie Couse, Chair, UNH Department of Education, Mary Schuh, Betsy Humphreys, Sue Swenson, Rae Sonnenmeier, and Julie Smith

On October 13 & 14, 2016, Sue Swenson, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) from the U.S. Department of Education made a visit to New Hampshire and met with the NH SWIFT program, NH-ME LEND trainees, and NH Leadership Series participants, all programs of the Institute on Disability (IOD). 

On Thursday, Ms. Swenson met with the staff at the New Hampshire Department of Education and NH SWIFT staff for a discussion on “Promoting Educational Equity for ALL through Authentic Family and Community Engagement.” Participants had an active conversation on assessing the needs of local families and community members and assessing staff capacity for working with families and members of the community, as their programs work to break through cultural barriers and develop relationships. 

On Friday, Ms. Swenson met with participants of the NH-ME LEND program and the NH Leadership Series. She shared her personal journey navigating the health and educational systems as a parent of a child with disabilities with LEND trainees. She also talked about her work in several other areas: the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Montreal Declaration on the Rights of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Health Care, and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

In the afternoon, Ms. Swenson met with participants of the NH Leadership Series where she again shared her story as an advocate for her son. Ann Dillon, NH Leadership Series Coordinator, explained, “In her down to earth, approachable way, she helped our Leadership class see the importance of developing a vision for themselves and their loved ones who have a disability.”  

Sue Swenson is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education. In this capacity, she serves as advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education on matters related to the education of children and youth with disabilities, as well as on employment and community living for youth and adults with disabilities. The mission of her office is to provide leadership to achieve full integration and participation in society of people with disabilities by ensuring equal opportunity and access to- and excellence in- education, employment, and community living. You can learn more about Ms. Swenson’s current and past work on the OSER website.  

NH Leadership is an intensive, eight-month program that provides leadership and advocacy training for individuals with disabilities and their family members. Since 1988, the program has been a pivotal change experience for family members and adults with disabilities. It provides state-of-the-art information and strategies to effect change on disability-related issues locally and across the state. Alumni of the program have passed state legislation, founded advocacy organizations, and serve at all levels of New Hampshire local, state, and federal government. For more information visit  

The goals of the NH-ME LEND program are to increase the numbers of leaders in the MCH workforce, increase the leadership capacity of the workforce, and address health disparities in NH and ME through high quality interdisciplinary training. It is a collaboration between IOD, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies at the University of Maine and is funded by HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. NH-ME LEND trainees have gone on to regional or national leadership positions in higher education, public health, Title V programs, public policy, developmental disabilities government agencies, and direct clinical care services. Learn more at   

SWIFT (Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation) is a national K-8 technical assistance center for academic and behavioral support that promotes achievement for all students, including students with the most extensive needs. Learn more at