Ali Thompson to serve on state Developmental Disabilities Council

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Ali Thompson of Berthoud officially serves as a parent of a child with developmental disabilities on the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council, but her job experience gives her even more to offer.

Photo by Shelley Widhalm – Ali Thompson of Berthoud, a member of the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council, right, and her daughter, Amelia, 10.

Thompson, who attended her first meeting July 24, is a criminal investigator with the Colorado Attorney General, a role she has had for more than three years. She investigates abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities that accept Medicaid as part of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

“In my job as well as my personal life, I’ve gotten to be familiar with people with disabilities and got to see how amazing and capable they are,” said Thompson, who has worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years.

The council, which has 24 members, was appointed July 1 by the governor to serve a three-year term. The council advocates for the creation and implementation of public policy that promotes the independence, self-determination, inclusion and integration of state residents living with developmental disabilities, as stated on the council’s website, www.coddc.org.

“It’s such a diverse group of folks, and everybody has their own knowledge base,” Thompson said, explaining the council includes parents, legislators, state agency representatives and self-advocates. “People with developmental disabilities represent themselves … which is amazing. It’s important when people with developmental disabilities can advocate for themselves.”

The council meets in Denver on a monthly basis and has several subcommittees, such as executive, planning and grants, and legislative public policy that also meet monthly or less frequently.

“It’s amazing how segregated society is for people with disabilities,” Thompson said. “We need to realize everyone has abilities and disabilities. We should encourage them to use their abilities instead of limiting them by their disabilities.”

Thompson’s daughter Amelia, 10, has developmental disabilities, and she also has a son, Joe, who is 12. Amelia has polymicrogyria, a brain malformation with an excessive number of folds in the brain, and as a result has developmental delays and epilepsy and is considered to be nonverbal.

“She can communicate with intonations. She can sign. … She gestures,” Thompson said, adding she cannot form most consonants but can make vowel sounds. “She can communicate very well for a nonverbal kiddo. … She’s the bossiest, loudest, nonverbal child you’ll ever meet.”

Amelia also is happy, forgiving, has lots of empathy and “can cheer anyone up,” Thompson said.

“That’s her God gift to spread love,” Thompson said. “Everybody who meets her, she makes them smile.”

Amelia attends the deaf and hard-of-hearing program at Monroe Elementary School, because “signing is her primary expressive language,” Thompson said. Amelia, a rising fifth grader, also needs access to an intensive learning center for students with special needs, which is not available at the school, she said, adding she has “encountered issues but can’t discuss the details.”

“The school is not equipped to meet her academic needs. She has communication needs and social needs,” Thompson said. “There is not an elementary school in Thompson School District that has an intensive learning center and a deaf and hard-of-hearing program.”

Thompson found Amelia has difficulty communicating in an intensive learning center, which she attended at another school before transferring to Monroe. She had tried using an augmentative alternative communication device but didn’t like communicating that way, Thompson said. Thompson moved Amelia to Monroe so she could communicate in her preferred method of signing and hired a private tutor to further help with her education.

Thompson is excited to serve on the council to be able to offer advice based on her experiences with Amelia and in her job.

“I have a unique perspective,” Thompson said. “I know how long-term care facilities and group homes are run. I have expansive knowledge besides being just a parent. I’m excited I can bring all my life experiences from both sides, the mom side and the cop side, and bring them together.”

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