As a mother to four children with special needs, Susann Getsch knows firsthand the challenges families face as they work to ensure that their children with disabilities receive the care they deserve. In fact, it was after more than 15 years of serving as her children's own personal advocate with medical and education professionals that she decided to return to school and become a voice for the voiceless.

"My decision to seek a graduate degree was the result of much soul-searching, as I knew the systems within which I was working were not functioning to the full benefit of my own and other children," Getsch says. "I came to believe from discussion with friends and family that I could provide a unique and distinctly helpful perspective to influence change."

Getsch's personal experiences included the misdiagnosis of her youngest son as mentally retarded. After six months of observing her son daily at school, she was able to provide sufficient evidence of a pervasive development disorder. One new school and new diagnosis later, her son has shown significant progress.

After successfully earning her MS in Psychology with Walden University in 2005, Getsch chose to pursue her doctoral degree at Walden as well. She credits Walden's solid reputation and quality faculty, as well as her desire to further advance research she began in her master's program, in her decision to continue her education.

Working under the direction of Walden faculty member Dr. Stephanie Cawthon, Getsch is assisting in an ongoing study to determine how educators assess students who are deaf or hard of hearing. She views student assessment as an understudied area of research that requires additional attention as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act. "It is my sincere hope that this research project will influence the field of education to truly consider more carefully individual student needs and challenges, leading to improved programming and assessments that better serve an underserved population," Getsch says.

In the meantime, Getsch continues to apply what she learns in her Walden program to her understanding of her own children's needs. Her oldest son, who has a traumatic brain injury, believes his mother will be instrumental in designing and implementing more effective brain injury rehabilitation methods in the future. One day, Getsch hopes to specialize in pediatric neuropsychology in upstate New York where she sees a severe shortage of practitioners in this area.

"I do believe I can change the world," Susann says with all her heart. "One step, one course, one child at a time."

You can turn your passion into a positive force for change. And you can start today at Walden University.

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