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Aubrie Westmaas


Aubrie is a 23-year-old young adult enjoying a busy life as an 

active member of her community. After completing 

high school, Aubrie graduated from the Transitional Living

Program at Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.  She

attended Helen Keller National Center from August 2019 until

returning home abruptly in March 2020 due to Covid-19. Not 

one to miss an opportunity, Aubrie has been taking remote

dance classes from Broadway Dance Center and acting classes 

with an LA/NYC acting coach from the safety of home!  

Despite a long list of challenges related to Kabuki syndrome,

Aubrie is determined to enjoy the same opportunities and

experiences as her peers. She hopes to pursue a college degree in musical theater to prepare for a career related to her Broadway passion. She has been fully included in her neighborhood school for all of her educational career except two years when she chose to commute daily to the nearby Illinois School for the Deaf. She returned to several summer camps every year, was a top cookie-selling Girl Scout, has received a variety of school awards, was active in her church youth group, and participated in her high school drama productions, Quiz Bowl team, chorus, and marching band. Aubrie was recognized as the 2014 Illinois Statewide Transition Conference Student of the Year. In 2019, Aubrie was a top finalist in the NPR Student Podcast Challenge. Her podcast is featured in an episode of NPR's Code Switch. 


Aubrie has been an advocate as long as she can remember. After learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. in third grade, Aubrie said, "Martin Luther King, Jr. said we should treat everybody equal. But we're not doing a good job of that!"She once visited the state capitol and sat at the governor's desk. She's attended statewide conferences, rallies at the capitol, and met Temple Grandin. In June 2019, Aubrie graduated from Illinois Partners in Policymaking.  

Aubrie Westmaas, a young woman with short brown hair, glasses, and a green button-down shirt smiling in a formal portrait.
Michele Westmaas


Michele had been an elementary school teacher, a preschool

teacher, a day care provider, and was mom of a blonde,

snake-loving young boy when Aubrie was born. Michele and

her husband were shocked to find that the baby girl they'd

long anticipated was born with a host of medical problems

due to a genetic syndrome.  

Michele became a full time learner - about medical issues, early intervention, balancing the needs of two very different children, navigating the special education system, and understanding disability rights. When she finally returned to the workforce, Michele entered the world of disability advocacy. She has worked for Hearing and Vision Early Intervention Outreach, Illinois School for the Deaf Outreach, Family Support Network, The Arc of Illinois, and the Illinois Association of Microboards and Cooperatives. Michele is currently the coordinator of College for Life, a post-secondary opportunity for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities at John Wood Community College.

Michele began a Facebook group for local parents to connect about special education concerns and has provided informal support for local families - which has been the foundation for ExtraOrdinary Education. Michele initiated an exciting project in her community, EPIC: Everyone in Pike Included & Contributing, a one-year circle-building project funded by the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. Expect ExtraOrdinary Communities promotes community inclusion throughout the lifespan.

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