Linda Hampton Starnes has spent her life actively involved in the disability community – as a college student, special educator, parent, volunteer, and advocate. Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, she has lived in Dallas, Boston, Washington D.C., and currently resides in the suburbs of Orlando, Florida. She graduated magna cum laude with a BS in both Special and Elementary Education from the University of Tennessee, and received a Graduate Certification in Training and Development from Georgetown University.
Her special education career spanned six years in the 1980s, working with students with disabilities and their teachers, in both Tennessee and Texas. During that time, Ms. Starnes had the unique experience of implementing several programs related to the inclusion of students with disabilities within general education classes, before the term “inclusion” was even in the educational vernacular. Her work was highlighted in a state training film for teachers in Texas.
New opportunities took Ms. Starnes to Boston and Washington, D.C. to work in higher education and government circles. After a year at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, she moved to Washington, D.C. to work as Confidential Assistant with U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Three years later, she moved to the U.S. Department of Education as a Special Assistant under Secretary Lamar Alexander.
Then in 1993, Linda began her most rewarding work as a mother of two children with significant disabilities. She has since been a volunteer and activist within the disability community, while supervising a household that required a new set of skills. She managed 24-hour home care nursing, worked with physicians in fifteen medical specialty areas, maintained multiple therapy schedules, and has overseen over 40 hospitalizations, surgeries or procedures under anesthesia for her children.
She continuously advocated for appropriate and fully inclusive general curriculum education at six public pre-K-12 schools, as well as inclusion in multiple community, recreational and religious settings on behalf of her children and all persons with disabilities.
Linda has been a board member on a many local, regional and national disability-related organizations and educational institutions, including two terms on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disability (PCPID) under Presidents Bush and Obama from 2006-2010, as sub-committee chair and then as PCPID Co-Chair. Currently, she serves in a variety of capacities: Chair for the Dean’s Board of Advisors for the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences at her alma mater, the University of Tennessee, and she recently completed a six-month term on a University-wide Task Force on Access, Inclusion and Disability at UT; Advisory Committee member for the Thornburgh Forum at the University of Pittsburgh; Board member of Nathaniel’s Hope of Orlando; and, she serves on the Healthcare Transition Workgroup and the Consumer Alliance Board for the Southeastern Regional NBS and Genetics Collaborative.
Over the course of almost two decades she has presented at a wide range of local, state and national disability-related events and conferences across the country. More recently, she and her two children have enjoyed encouraging others via presentations and workshops on advocacy, self-advocacy, transitions, and faith and disability.
Her volunteer work on behalf of persons with disability also extends to the faith community. Linda was a founding member for Access Ministry at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia. She helped lay the groundwork for this program, which has since grown into the largest ministry in the country devoted to the inclusion of persons with disabilities across the life of the congregation. After moving to Florida, Ms. Starnes helped start Access Ministries at her current place of worship, Northland-A Church Distributed, in Longwood, Florida, as well as worked to bring a consortium of faith and disability-related non-profits and organizations together across Central Florida. Lift Disability Network of Orlando recognized her efforts with an award for “Outstanding Community Connector.”
Because of her decades long advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities, and as a constant proponent for the field of education, Ms. Starnes has received a variety of awards, including being named to the “Educators Hall of Honor” at the University of Tennessee, and receiving the inaugural “Outstanding Community Advocate“ award from the Department of Teacher Education and Preparation at UT. She has been featured in several filmed presentations, and the story of the Starnes family has been portrayed in several books and magazine articles.
Linda Hampton Starnes resides in both Longwood and Jacksonville, Florida with her husband of thirty years and high school sweetheart, Tom Starnes. Together they have raised two wonderful young adult children – Emily, age twenty-two, and a senior at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee; and Mac, nineteen, a freshman at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
UPCOMING and RECENT PRESENTATIONS:
Including Students Who Use AT/AAC Across the School Community (Slated for Spring 2015)
Lessons Learned from the NICU to College U (Slated for two presentations, Spring 2015)
The Last IEP: Preparing for the End at the Beginning (Slated for Summer 2015)
Coming Together as a Team: Lessons Learned From Both Sides of the IEP Table
The Family Cafe: FL State Conference on Disability, Orlando, FL (June 2014)
Changing Roles: The Move from Parent Advocacy to Self-Advocacy, and, Changing Hearts and Minds and Opening Doors: Encouraging Inclusion at Places of Worship
Tennessee MegaConference on Disability, Nashville, TN (May 2014)
Parents, Self-Advocates, Practitioners: It Takes a Team for Tech Support
Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) International Conference, Orlando, FL (Jan. 2014)
Multiple presentations on the following topics: “Assistive Technology”; “Parent Perspective on Special Education”; “Positive Planning – Everyone's Role in the IEP Process”; “Students with Multiple Disabilities and Special Health Care Needs” for the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Education, Knoxville, TN (2011-2014)
Sotos Syndrome? So What?! Coming Full Circle from Parent Advocate to Self-Advocate
International Sotos Syndrome Support Association Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN (July 2013)
Coming Together as a Team: Lessons Learned From Serving on Both Sides of the IEP Table
Florida Council for Exceptional Children Annual Conference, St. Petersburg, FL (July 2013)
Passing the Baton: Advocacy/Self-Advocacy, and, Inclusion within the Faith Community
The Family Cafe: FL State Conference on Disability, Orlando, FL (June 2013)
Multiple presentations to staff and volunteers on Why Have a Disability Ministry? Disability 101, and, Disability Etiquette and Respectful Language
Northland, A Church Distributed, Longwood, FL (2006-2013)
A Parent's View of CHAMP Camp
CHAMP Camp Annual Fundraising Gala, Indianapolis, IN (April 2012)
Holidays Past and Present: Care for the Caregivers
First Baptist Church of Orlando Annual Caregiver's Tea, Orlando, FL (Nov. 2012)