During rare disease week, we had the chance to talk to Monica Weldon, whose son was the sixth person diagnosed with SYNGAP-1, a gene mutation linked to autism. She tells us about her journey from working as a school teacher to becoming the CEO and founder of Bridge the Gap, the first SYNGAP-1 advocacy organization in the world. She shares what it was like to receive a diagnosis that had no structure in place for her son, and how she pushed through the hard times and make progress in research and awareness of sensory processing disorders. Check out Bridge the Gap online at https://bridgesyngap.org/!
In November of 2012, Monica's twin son, Beckett, was the first to be diagnosed at Texas Children's Genetics Clinic with the gene mutation SYNGAP1 (6p21.3). When Beckett was 4 months old, she noticed he was not meeting the same milestones as his twin sister. Monica then began a journey to find answers to help her son. She started to blog about his progress and this led to building a community of parents and caregivers that are now a strong support group. She is the Founder and President/CEO of Bridge the Gap – SYNGAP Education and Research Foundation. It is her passion to help support these families by raising awareness and creating a strong foundation that will accelerate a path to better therapies.
She retired in 2016 after 23 years in education teaching secondary science. Her new focus is on building the programs and mission of Bridge the Gap – SYNGAP Education and Research Foundation. She is the Primary Investigator on the SYNGAP1 (MRD5) Registry and Natural History Study. She is a life member of the Worldwide Association of Female Professionals and a member of the first class of 2017 Illumina Ambassadors established in the United States. In addition to leading the foundation, she is an author, public speaker, consultant on rare disease business strategies and advocates for rare disease legislation at both the federal and state levels. Several of her authored scientific publications include Nature Neuroscience, The Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and The Journal of Pediatrics. She has authored a book about her son Beckett’s diagnostic journey called “Slow Moving Stream - My Special Boy”. She is a graduate from East Texas Baptist University with a Bachelor's of Science in Biology/Psychology (1991) and Secondary Certification in Education (1995). She will be attending Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in the Fall of 2020 to earn her Masters in Science Law. She has five beautiful children, Haleigh (28), Taylor, USMC (25), Sawyer (23), and the twins Beckett & Pyper (12). She was a Global Genes 2015 & 2016 RARE Champion in Advocacy Award nominee for her work in the rare disease community and Wego Health Awards Nominee for years 2015, 2017, 2018, & 2019. 2020 Global Shakers Rare Disease Champion .
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