Thursday, April 5, 2012

Karen Tuohy

Autism Light #179 is Karen Tuohy.

Karen Tuohy lives in Wilmington, Delaware. Karen is a special education teacher and a single mother of two adult children with autism. She is also a volunteer with Autism Delaware. Karen Tuohy is an Autism Light for her diverse efforts day in and day out to make the world a better place for children with autism and those who love them. Karen Tuohy is the first Autism Light from the state of Delaware in our ongoing search across the world for bright lights for Autism.

Education: Karen Tuohy received her BA in Psychology and a Certification in Regular Education, K-6 and Special Education, K-12 in 1980 from the College of New Rochelle.

Karen Tuohy with her two adult children
Teaching: Karen Tuohy has served as a Special Education teacher at Heritage Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware for 18 years. The school is a mainstream school and the special education program serves children of a variety of disabilities. In 2000 she was named Teacher of the Year at the school. One of her roles in the school environment is to facilitate an after school sibling group for students who have a family member with a disability. In the group siblings are able to talk about issues that are unique to their lives while participating in social activities such as a game or art project. Karen Tuohy gives this advice to parents of special needs children about working with their local school.
As a special education teacher, I advise parents to remember that they are the best resource any teacher has. You know your child's strengths, interests, triggers, and what incentives will work with your child better than anyone else. Please share that information. It will make your child's schooling as successful and comfortable as possible. If your child needs an accommodation to ease his access to the regular education curriculum, please make sure that the accommodation is written into his Individualized Education Plan. This will ensure that the accommodation will be implemented across the school day and into the next grade.  Talking with school personnel about your child does not need to be adversarial. We all want what's best for your child. Go to conferences and IEP meetings with an open mind, and a list of what you'd like to see changed or implemented. You are the most important member of your child's team.  
Autism Delaware: Karen Tuohy serves as a volunteer for Autism Delaware and received their Outstanding Autism Delaware Volunteer award on March 30, 2012. Karen says, "My involvement with Autism Delaware began slowly as I realized how much they've given me and my children and it has been very beneficial to me and my children who are now adults. It has given us a supportive community that accepts us - blemishes and all."  Some of the volunteer roles Karen has filled include:
  • Working the Registration Table at Every Walk for Autism
  • Annual Golf Outing
  • Hosting the Weekly Bowling Event Throughout the Year
  • Helping with Bowling and Swim Practices for the Autism Delaware Special Olympics Team. 
The mission of Autism Delaware is "to create better lives for people with autism and their families in Delaware."  For more information on Autism Delaware visit their website at

The following video shares more about what Autism Delaware is doing in the state.

Karen Tuohy summarizes her advice to parents of special needs children in this way:
Being a parent of two special needs children has made me a better teacher and, yes, a better person. I've learned not to sweat the small stuff- when I do, I miss out on so many precious moments in life. To other parents of special needs children, I would advise to get invovled in their local Autism organization. At Autism Delaware, I was able to access resources, recreational opportunities, and social interactions for my children. Since I've been a single working parent for almost 20 years, with no immediate family in the area, members of Autism Delaware have been my sounding boards, my brainstorming team, my lifeline, in effect, my sanity.
Special thanks to Karen Tuohy for being a teaching light for autism and a hard working volunteer at Autism Delaware. The world is a better place because a kind and competent mother of two children with autism is serving as a special education teacher at Heritage Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Photos: The photos in this post were used with permission of Karen Tuohy.


  1. Yes, I agree Karen is a very special person and hard-working Special Ed teacher at Heritage. She has continually been a great advisor to me and a supportive Team player. Thanks Karen for making my work as a COTA that much more effective. HJS

  2. I have worked with Karen on Special Olympics activities, and I work with her daughter on a regular basis. I admire Karen, and have for a long time, for her commitment to the autism community, her patience, and commitment to her children and students. She is truly an amazing woman! SY