Nan Leonard

leonard headshotMy career has turned out to be nothing like I had planned. I started out practicing corporate law at Palmer & Dodge until my triplets were born. Then things got complicated. One of the triplets, Will, missed all his developmental milestones, and my husband and I could see that he was going to have a difficult road ahead of him. What amazes me looking back is how well BC Law prepared me for this unexpected career in disability law and advocacy.

Leonard-childrenI became interested in finding more effective treatments to help people with developmental disabilities and completed a graduate program in applied behavior analysis (ABA) at Simmons College, receiving an Ed.S. degree in 2003 and qualifying as a board-certified behavior analyst. ABA is a method of breaking down skills into their smallest components and helping a person with learning challenges master skills they otherwise cannot learn. I spent time doing pro bonorepresentation of kids with disabilities in the custody of the Department of Social Services in Massachusetts. Children in poor cities like Lawrence and New Bedford had very little chance of getting the same services as a child in a more financially stable town. This disparity in care and the potential outcomes for children became a focus for me while Iwas doing a public policy fellowship at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, through which I earned a Masters in healthcare administration from Suffolk University.

In 2008, I wrote a bill that mandates health insurance to pay for treatment for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. After the law passed in 2010, children in poor cities have had an avenue to receive evidence-based treatments such as ABA that had previously only been provided to children in wealthier communities.

I’ve benefited from my corporate law experience while serving on the board of my son’s school, Nashoba Learning Group since 2002. Our school is presenting a new model of care for children and adults with developmental disabilities, raising expectations for what they can achieve now that the institutions that hid them away in the past have been shut down. I’m expecting to spend the next chapter in my career trying to expand the opportunities forpeople with developmental disabilities and giving them the chances that, but for their disabilities, they would have access to.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my BC Law classmates, especially those who have been affected by caring for a person with a disability. My husband, Cesar Brea (we married after my first year of law school) enjoyed our 20th reunion. Spouses should not worry that they will be bored! See you all in November!

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