We are passionate about helping families who have children with special needs through education, coaching and facilitating effective communication. We empower clients to cope with current and future challenges.
All our advocates are highly qualified by having these skillsets:
- Acquire a Special Education Law and Advocacy certificate from USD or other qualified certificate program
- Possess a college degree
- Use mediation skills to collaborate with school
Shannon Vajda is the owner of Pacific Coast Mediation and Pacific Coast Advocates. Shannon is a mother of three. She has a passion for helping couples find the best solutions for their particular needs as peaceful as possible. Being optimistic is an important trait in helping families see individual future goals instead of focusing on the past tribulations. Shannon has worked with children and families with special needs since she received her teaching credential in the area of Special Education in 1992 in the state of New York. She has worked in the capacity of a special education teacher, administrator, and special education advocate.
- Syracuse University: B.S. Degree in Special Education, endorsement in mild/moderate and moderate/severe disabilities
- Pepperdine University School of Law: Training in Systematic Approach to Mediation Strategies
- National Conflict Resolution Center: Training in Art and Practice of Mediation, Introduction Course
- National Conflict Resolution Center: Training in Advanced Mediation Skills
- Mosten Mediation Training: Training in Divorce and Family Mediation
- American Institute of Mediation: Mediation Skills Training
- San Diego Small Claims Court: Mediator
- University of San Diego: Certificate of Special Education Law and Advocacy
- American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution 15th Annual Spring Conference in Chicago: Presented on facilitating Open Adoption Communication Plans.April 2013
- The Adoption Experience event: Presented on facilitating Open Adoption Communication Plans and was a panel member to speak as an adoptive mother. November 2012
- San Diego Hospice Center: Presented on Special Education rights and advocacy to care takers, social workers and support staff for children that are receiving hospice in last stages of life and are attending public schools. August 2012
- The Muslim Community Services of San Diego: Presented on different types of school options in state of CA, Special Education process and Parental rights in regards to Special Education. June 2012
- Chula Vista Asperger’s and HFA Parent Group: Presented on learning how mediation skills/techniques can help provide supportive sound solutions for parents of children with disabilities. April 2012
- The Adoption Experience event: Presented on facilitating Open Adoption Communication Plans and also was on the panel speaking as an adoptive mother. November 2011
- Utah Council of Conflict Resolution: “Get Creative and BE the Solution” The key to helping mediators find their calling is to find novel ways to apply their skills to their passions. Presented case studies to demonstrate how I use mediation skills in open adoption and special education work and explored how these skills apply in other niches. May 2011
- The Ninth Annual ADR Academy: “The Changing Face of Mediation” Presented use of mediation skill set in the area of special education and adoption. October 2010
- (SCMA) Southern California Mediation Association
- COPAA (Council of Parent , Attorneys and Advocates)
Special Education Advocate
Vicki Christensen is passionate about advocating for families of special needs children through the IEP process, always with a child-centered approach. Equally important is educating parents/guardians on the rights of a person with a disability and on communication strategies to allow for a positive and open relationship with the IEP team, school & district. Vicki’s background is a unique combination of 7 years of special education advocacy both as a parent and a professional, over 10 years as a professional in the healthcare field, both allowing her to utilize her degree and experience in Communication Studies. Vicki is a mother to a 7-year-old son with global developmental delays and is experienced in early intervention, the IFSP and IEP process, as well as working with the Regional Center. Vicki is widely networked with both parents of special needs children and professionals in the San Diego area and looks forward to continuing to provide advocacy services to many more families.
- University of Kansas, B.A. Communication Studies
- University of San Diego, Certificate of Special Education Advocacy
- Special Education Advocacy Internship at Compass Family Center
- Parent of a child with global developmental delays
- Trained on mental illness and mood disorders
- Unique-rare chromosome support group
- SOFT-Support Organization for Trisomy
- Parent Partners-parent networking group
- Early Intervention group-San Diego Unified
- San Diego Food Bank
- Going to the beach with my 2 boys, husband and Golden Retriever
- Running/marathon training
Special Education Advocate
Christy Scadden believes a student-centered approach with advocacy is vital in supporting families as they navigate the often confusing and emotional world of IEPs or 504 plans. Christy is passionate about parent education. When families understand parent-rights they feel confident in longterm planning for their child in addition to being meaningful members of their child’s team. She also works on building bridges between families and schools so communication is healthy and the child’s needs stay central. Christy works with families facing a variety of disabilities, medical conditions, and qualifying conditions as they discover what is necessary for their child to have meaningful access to their education.
Christy understands the challenges of being a parent of a child with a disability and has gone through both the 504 and IEP process as a parent. Her personal and professional experience began 18 years ago. Being a mother of two now young men, she understands the value of backward planning, thoughtfully written Individual Transition Plans and possibilities or hurtles that lay ahead. It is never too early to begin planning for our children’s future. As a parent, she has experience with Autism, Visual Impairments, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome and mood disorders. She continues to assist her oldest son, through a variety of adult programs (regional center, department of rehab, etc), as his conservator.
- YMCA COMPASS Internship: Special Education Advocate
- University of San Diego: Certificate of Special Education Advocacy
- Association of Community Rehabilitation Educators (ACRE), Employment Services: Certificate in Community Employment
- San Diego State University: BA Graphic Design
- Parent of an adult with disability
- Speaking engagements/parent trainings to parents, future professionals and staff: USD, home based parent groups, disability specific conferences.
- Emmanuel Family Homes, Inc. (group home for children with disabilities)
Community Advisory Committee for Special Education – SDUSD
- Special Education Community Groups and Workgroups
- Parent Support Groups
- Disability Networking Groups
- Community empowered education groups
Marymichelle Lotano, Esq.
Special Education Advocate
Marymichelle Lotano is an attorney licensed to practice law in California and New York.
Marymichelle has her certificate in special education law and advocacy via University of San Diego. For the past eleven years she has represented children with disabilities as an educational advocate in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. In addition, she has been employed by a local ABA agency in the capacity of parent educator and IEP coordinator for children receiving services. Her career has also encompassed reviewing student’s education files to evaluate claims for violations of special education law rights, preparing pleadings and filing for Due Process, attending Early Resolution Conferences and Mediation, successfully settling many claims prior to hearing.
In her private time Marymichelle enjoys activities with her son, running and the beach.
At PCA Marymichelle is only acting in the capacity as a special education advocate. She is not providing legal advice or legal services through PCA
Special Education Advocate – Consultant
Marsha Markle (consultant for PCA) is dedicated to serving children with disabilities and their families. Her experiences include parenting a son who was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at a time when the cause was considered to be “refrigerator mother”, moving to providing behavior therapy for children in a hospital pediatric clinic, to a career as a school psychologist and as a university professor instructing students in the master’s degree program for special education. Marsha has attended several hundred IEP meetings, some as a parent, many as a school psychologist, and several as the IEP team administrator. She knows how the system functions from multiple perspectives.
- M.A. in Public Speaking, Florida State University
- M.A. in School Psychology, Western Michigan University
- Ed.S.( Educational Specialist), Western Michigan University
- Certificate, Coach U
- Certificate, Special Education Advocacy
- Certificate, Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Parent of an adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- 22 + years, School Psychologist in a K-12 district with attendance in more than 2,000 IEPs
- University Professor in special education and school psychology
- Personal Coach for Parents of Children with Special Needs
- Special Education Advocate Internship
- Board Member of local Professional Organization (SANDCASP)
Volunteer work/Interests and Activities:
- Positive Behavior Supports
- Assessment planning, interpretation and evidence-based recommendations
- Goal Writing
- Assistive Technology for Academics for mild/moderate student needs
Pacific Coast Advocates are unique in the field
WHAT OUR CLIENTS ARE SAYING
“PCA was referred to me by a neighbor. I was feeling overwhelmed and helpless. My advocates provided me with a binder & instructions so that I could get organized and able to move forward & take action for my child.”