Researcher honored for work on disabilities issues
Nancy Weiss
1:53 p.m., June 21, 2007--Nancy Weiss, co-founder and co-director of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, an organization coordinated through UD's Center for Disabilities Studies, was recognized last month at the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) annual conference with the organization's highest honor, the Presidential Award.

Chosen as the 2007 recipient for her many years of administrative leadership in the field of developmental disabilities, Weiss was recognized for her work in combating the use of aversive devices, such as electroshock, pepper spray and cold-water treatments, on persons with mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy and other severe developmental disabilities.

“I was truly honored to receive this award and I am especially gratified that AAIDD chose to recognize me for my work toward the elimination of the use of electric shock and other painful and dehumanizing behavioral interventions,” Weiss said. “These procedures are used unjustly and unnecessarily in an attempt to change the behavior of people with autism and other developmental disabilities. AAIDD should be acknowledged for bringing attention to this important issue through the bestowal of this award.”

Upon receiving the award at the AAIDD conference, which was held the fourth week of May in Atlanta, Weiss was publicly recognized for “her courage, unflinching advocacy and leadership, crafting of strong position statements and professionalism.”

The award, which is honorary, included the formal recognition and an engraved plaque.

Now spending a large portion of her time at UD on succession planning--scouting, training and supporting those who will succeed the current top-level administrators of programs for persons with developmental disabilities--Weiss continues to lobby against aversive procedures on her own time.

“Many people would be surprised to find out that there is still the use of electric shock devices like cattle prods,” she said. “I've done a lot of work over the years to eliminate the use of these procedures, so it was especially gratifying to be recognized for my work.”

Before coming to UD's Center for Disability Studies in 2006 to start the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities with Steven Eidelman, the Robert Edelsohn Professor of Individual and Family Studies at UD, Weiss worked for 11 years as the executive director of TASH (formerly The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps). She has more than 30 years' experience in the field of disabilities.

Article by Becca Hutchinson