As president of the Middle Valley Civic Association, Teresa Champion has been active in Mount Vernon District regarding the impact of development in the southern portion of Fairfax County. The mother of an autistic son, she also advocates for specialized training for general and special education instructors in county schools. For these reasons, Champion is this week's People Profile.
Years in the community: Three as a military (Marine Corps) brat; (Fairfax High School graduate); two as a military (Navy) family and 5 as a retired military family.
Family: Husband John Quigley; daughter Sydney Quigley, 14, a freshman at West Springfield High; and son James Quigley, 12, a student at Sangster Elementary.
Education: A B.S. from Murray State University, Murray, Ky. and J.D. from University of Louisville, Louisville, Ky.
Current job/primary occupation: Community activist for Mount Vernon, Springfield and South County issues and parent support in the autism community.
Achievements: Works in progress are raising children to be independent, productive adults, networking our neighborhood’s residents as the Middle Valley Civic Association’s president, networking parents of children with a diagnosis of autism to provide encouragement and resources for each other. Most recently completed project is South Hunt Valley’s effort to be placed in a neighborhood school.
Activities/interests/hobbies: Spinning classes at Jungle’s Gym, walking with my neighbors, Sudoku.
Favorite local restaurant or place: Austin Grill, Tippy’s Tacos on Backlick, Whole Foods Market (did you know they have a breakfast bar?), Healthways Health Food store for gluten/casein free foods (they have gf/cf donuts!), and Starbucks coffee.
Community concerns: First, I am worried about our vanishing “hidden treasure” — open space — and the current bent to increase density beyond what the infrastructure and environment can support under the umbrella of “Dillon Rule."
The solution? There is a “reasonable man” standard that needs to be revisited and the elected officials are beginning to listen to the citizens when they demand greater scrutiny. After living in Washington State and learning that under their state laws trees have rights, it is hard to swing the pendulum back to any environmental concern is always trumped by the threat of “by-right” development.
Second, I am concerned about the lack of resources for the autism community in the schools and in the private sector. While we currently have a supportive and professional placement for my son, this has not always been the case. The numbers of children with a diagnosis of autism nationally has increased from 1/10,000 when my son was diagnosed 10 years ago, to 1/166 today, according to the most recent Center for Disease Control reports. Solutions for the schools include more support and specialized training for general and special education instructors. This must include modified and adapted school curriculums with visuals and manipulatives being handed to teachers along with skill-based training for all service providers. In the private sector, we need to establish a nationally known research-based education/treatment center in the Northern Virginia/National Capital area. Parents, educators and medical professionals would have resources to share at this one location. A big tent!
Virginia also needs to reduce its waiting lists for MR and DD (Developmentally Delayed) Medicaid Waivers. There is no “common wealth” when people are asked to wait for services they need to live. Unless supports are provided in the home, if the family fails (aging parents die or are disabled themselves), the individual is institutionalize. Not the desired outcome on anyone’s list.
Community hidden treasure: I am so excited to see what Laurel Hill will become. I have a lot of respect for the residents and elected officials of Mount Vernon District that had the vision to see a community with a new high school (and creatively fund it), planned retail and housing along side open space and community facilities. The plan includes parks, schools, homes and retail. Let’s keep it all balanced. We must not let the cumulative impact of the rush to up-zone every piece of developing property adversely impact our watersheds and open spaces.
Personal goals: Some day, I hope to be in a position to assist the disabled community and ensure individuals and families have the financial and community resources they need. Something as simple as mandating sidewalks be in every development allows residents that are visually disabled or physically disabled, and don’t have their own automotive transportation, but can walk with assistance or use a wheelchair to move about their neighborhood and not be forced to be in the street.
My son has been blessed beyond expression by the opportunity to ride with Simple Changes Theraputic Riding at the Bureau of Land Management property out towards Mason Neck. Maintaining therapy opportunities like this for the disabled community makes Fairfax a better place to live and work. The developers think we are an “urban county,” but we must proactively maintain and protect the open space, and access to it, that is irreplaceable.
Do you know someone who should be featured in the Connection's People Profile? Send your nominations to Rebecca Halik at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-917-6422.