Shreveport native Mattie Wilson has always been an advocate for her developmentally disabled son, Robert.
strongly supported him from academics to his
participation in the Special Olympics.
"I noticed that his
cognition wasn't at 4-year-old level," said Wilson
son, who was diagnosed with a developmental disability at age 4.
"I was working with him and I made sure that all of his
schools were, even if it meant driving across town to make sure he
was in the right setting."
Today, Robert, 24, is in driver's education courses.
succeeds is not a problem," Wilson
was presented the Patsy Barrett Memorial Award at the governor's 2007 Disability Community Action and Leadership Award Ceremony on Dec. 14 at the Governor's Mansion.
was among nine honored at the event.
"It's a prestigious honor," Wilson
was nominated for her
work to increase awareness about disability affairs, which included speaking publicly about disability issues at seminars and other events and her
promotion of Blanco's declaration of October as Disabilities Awareness Month.
also has discussed compliance issues with public safety officials, she
zest for helping others started with her
son, but due in part to her
own experiences has extended to others.
On Aug. 9, 1986, Wilson
children and two friends were involved in a car accident on a weekend trip to Shreveport.
On Interstate 20, between Longview and Tyler, Texas, the car that the group was riding in went 275 feet off the interstate and down an embankment.
Wilson's daughter, Twameeka, then 3, walked up the embankment and along the interstate for three miles until a car stopped to help.
woke up at Baylor University Medical Center
It took a month for her
to realize what was going on, she
"The doctor said that I would never walk again and then left the room," she
"It devastated my life.
I was 35 years old at the time, recently divorced and I had two babies to raise."
, that moment was the start of some of the biggest obstacles that she
had ever faced.
"I had to learn how to live again," she
"I had to learn how to tie my shoes, to cook and to care for my children.
It changed my life forever."
spent six months in rehab where exercises helped her
to build strength in her
took cooking classes to relearn skills and also learned how to drive using hand controls.
later learned to ski, scuba dive and swim - all of which she
didn't know how to do before the accident.
"I was motivated to learn as much as I could because I wanted to pass it on to my children," she
"I went through a lot, but I ended up doing it all.
It changed my life and how I look at life."
Two years after the accident, Wilson
career as a real estate broker and moved back to Shreveport where she
became heavily involved in spreading awareness for persons with disabilities and their rights.
Six years ago she was recommended for a seat on the Advocacy Center board in New Orleans where she worked as an advocate for persons with disabilities through the court system.
worked closely with a team of lawyers to represent those whose rights were violated through such situations as nursing home abuse.
The group played a big part in cases during the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she
Wilson also worked with Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network in getting needed technology ahead of FEMA during the aftermath of the hurricanes, she said.
Wilson currently is president of the Advocacy Center board and a member of the advisory council for the Governor's Office of Disability Affairs, of which she was appointed by Gov.
In addition, Wilson is a board member of The Arc of Caddo-Bossier - a program that helps infants and toddlers with down syndrome in Caddo and Bossier parishes - and serves as fund raising chair for the Special Olympics.
Wilson also is on the mayor's Advisory Council for Disability Affairs in Shreveport.
Looking back, "'86 was an awesome year," Wilson
children and her
work, has shown her
positive outlook about life has not been in vain, she
"I didn't want to be seen in a wheelchair," she
"It was a challenge to see folks that I knew because I didn't want them to see me as disabled.
My children inspired me to learn and to get better."
is independent and committed to her
continued advocacy for persons with disabilities.
"Awareness needs to be taught to the walking," Wilson