Oct 11, 2021

Helping Students Thrive

Woman outside in front of trees wearing hair back, white blouse and a statement necklace, smiling
As a young adult, Lisa Grady thought she’d be a lawyer or psychologist. She was working as a waitress during college when a co-worker asked for a favor. Could she babysit their daughter, Danielle, who was deaf, used limited sign language, and had multiple disabilities?

“I said yes, knowing no sign language and very little about the young lady and her specialized needs,” Grady said. She kept signing “go” and “horse” but Grady couldn’t understand. These miscommunications made Danielle frustrated and anxious.

“It left me curious about how to work with students with special needs,” Grady said. “I wanted to enable them to live their lives with a greater sense of calm and understanding. I also wanted to find a way to help parents, like her mother, who often would break down in tears about the stress of raising her daughter.”

That one night led her down the path of special education and a 35-year career of helping students and families. Grady recently retired from Hamilton County DD Services, where she was Transition Supervisor for the past six years. She began her career as an instructor at St. Joseph Home in 1986 and then briefly worked with adults at Franks, an adult work and activity center then-owned by HCDDS. Grady spent much of her career in the classroom at Margaret B. Rost and Bobbie B. Fairfax schools, as well as Miamitown Elementary.

“Lisa is the paragon of what an educator should be. She is the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to educating children with disabilities, especially regarding transition planning,” said Matt Briner, director of Integrated Services for HCDDS, who worked with Grady for close to 15 years.

“By being so prepared and committed, all of her students were able to learn, grow and prosper. Lisa also worked very hard to build relationships with the families, which have continued long after the children have graduated.”

As she reflects on her career working with children who have disabilities, Grady is grateful for her colleagues with whom she created fun and inspiring activities, and tried new ways to solve problems. She also appreciates how they supported each other through challenges and successes. But one student and family left a particular impact on her. The young woman had a serious medical issue that left her with multiple disabilities. Grady had just lost her mother and said, “it took a great deal emotionally, spiritually, and professionally to rise to the challenge.”

Each time she worked with the young woman and her father, Grady tried to help her move a bit more freely and find the best outcomes for her situation. “It was one of the greatest joys of my life to bring a smile and laugh to her face,” she said.

“Laughter goes a long way in this field and job. I feel that fostering positivity through your enthusiasm and dedication is a powerful way to motivate and remain motivated in your work.”

Congratulations, Lisa, on your well-deserved retirement! We will miss you.

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