This graphic shows the MO LEAP logo on top of a dark blue background

Learn About MoLEAP

In 2018, the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council (MODDC) funded the University of Missouri- Kansas City – Institute for Human Development (UMKC-IHD) to provide a lay educational advocacy training program based on the council’s Family Advocacy Curriculum , which was developed in partnership with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. This training was designed to empower self-advocates, family members, and community members to support families and students through the special education process in their neighborhood schools.

From August 2018 to January 2022, UMKC-IHD and its statewide partners developed and piloted what is now known as the Lay Educational Advocacy Program, or LEAP. Missouri Family to Family (MoF2F), Family Advocacy and Community Training (F.A.C.T.), Missouri Protection and Advocacy (MoP&A), and Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) are the partners who comprise the foundational LEAP team.

LEAP consists of comprehensive training, led by advocacy experts from Family Advocacy and Community Training (F.A.C.T.)  to help educate families, self-advocates, and community supporters on aspects of educational advocacy, including eligibility guidelines, transition planning and how to build an effective IEP.

During the three-year project period, more than 250 parents or professionals attended LEAP training sessions. They gained knowledge and skills to advocate for students and families during various Special Education-related meetings.

Meet the MoLEAP Trainers

Karen Cooper
Head shot of a woman with blonde hair smiling, She is wearing a yellow dress with flowers
thumbnail_Amanda Schneider

Karen Cooper

Training Specialist

Family Advocacy and Community Training

I am the mother of two; Sam and Sarah. Sam was diagnosed as language-delayed at 3 years old and received services starting in pre-school. He was later diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. It was very difficult finding the right services and supports for Sam. F.A.C.T. taught me that I needed to educate myself to be the best advocate for my child. I am passionate about sharing knowledge and empowering parents to advocate for their children and realize their best lives.

Kaycee Machino

Advocacy Supervisor

Family Advocacy and Community Training

I am the mother of four adult children; two boys and two girls.  I spent many years advocating for my sons who both struggled in school with ADHD and learning disabilities.  Often times, I felt alone and unsure of the choices I was making for them and their education.  I found FACT when my youngest son was in high school.  My advocate helped me feel that I was not alone.  I joined the FACT team in 2013 as an Educational Advocate.  It was important for me to be able to share my journey and empower families by giving them the tools they need to be able to effectively advocate for their own child.  As the Advocacy Supervisor, it is equally important for me to assist my team in providing quality services to our FACT families. 

Amanda Schneider

Managing Attorney of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri’s Education Justice Program 

Her current work focuses on addressing the root causes of education inequity utilizing a racial justice lens and a community lawyering approach.  Ms. Schneider is also an expert on education civil rights issues and the school-to-prison pipeline.    Prior to her current role, she was the first William Guerri Chair Attorney in the Children’s Legal Alliance, practicing in disability law including special education law, for nearly a decade.

Contact us at:

Funding for the Lay Educational Advocacy Project provided by the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council (MODDC), Grants #1801MOBSDD Seq. No.: 2018 / 4, #1901MOSCDD-02, #2001MOSCDD-02 and as authorized by Public Law 106-402 – Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (DD Act).