July 24, 2007 • Volume 7, Number 7



Utah Center for Persons with Disabilities (UCEDD) Student & Staff Employee Winner of Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship. Sachin Dev Pavithran has been awarded the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship for outstanding blind students from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Sachin is the first person from Utah to ever win this prestigious $12,000 scholarship. The award was announced at the NFB’s 67th annual convention in Atlanta, Georgia where Sachin and 29 other finalists met with members of the awards committee. Sachin was born in India but lived most of his life in the United Arab Emirates. He came to the United States by himself at the age of 17 to attend Utah State University. He earned his degree in Business Information Systems, and went on to earn another in Marketing. Sachin is currently working on his Masters in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling. In addition to school, Sachin is the Assistive Technology Specialist for the UCEDD, under The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) where provides technical assistance on accessible information technology for individuals and groups and helps to evaluate products related to web accessibility and design.

MCHB Awards Evidence-Based Research Funding to Partnership for People with Disabilities (VA LEND Program). The VA LEND Program has been awarded a Knowledge-to-Practice grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). This three year grant is entitled Engaging Health Professionals and Families in Evidence-Based Research. The purpose of the project is two-fold: 1) Enhance the leadership skills of MCH professionals and trainees by facilitating the transfer of research knowledge and information related to MCH through web-based training; and 2) Engage family members of children with autism or genetic disorders to understand and consider participation in research related to MCH through an educational video or CD. For further information, please email Associate LEND Director Dr. Janet Willis.

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN UCEDD) Researchers Go To Camp. In special education, there is much debate as to whether individuals with Down syndrome are able to benefit from phonics-based reading instruction, arguably the most effective method of teaching the skill of reading. Some research suggests that individuals with Down syndrome are incapable of developing phonological awareness and are best served by engaging in “sight word” approaches, even though little to no effective comparison studies have been undertaken. A new pilot study based in the VKC UCEDD Explorers Summer Camp is challenging this idea by having tutors meet with campers with Down syndrome in two 30-minute sessions of phonics instruction for 6 weeks for a total of 30 hours of instruction. Douglas Fuchs, PhD, (Special Education) VKC investigator and co-director of the study, sees the next step as taking the results of this pilot study to gain a better understanding of how the population responds to phonics intervention in order that a larger comparison study may be undertaken. For more information, please email Gretchen Herbert.

Federal Grant to Improve Special Education Instruction Awarded to Indiana University’s School of Special Education. Indiana University was awarded a Special Education Pre-Service Training Improvement Grant, through the US Department of Education, to fund research designed to improve special education instruction with a specific focus on personnel preparation to help special educators met the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. The work of the grant will examine and improve special education and masters graduate certification programs. Issues related to highly qualified teachers, as mandated by federal law, will be addressed. Gretchen Butera, Associate Professor of Special Education, will lead the project in collaboration with other faculty from special education, math and language education, and the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (UCEDD). For more information, read the Federal grant to focus on "highly qualified" special education teachers article.

News and Activities from the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities (NJ UCEDD)

  • South Asian Community and Disabilities Conference. The Boggs Center coordinated a statewide conference, South Asian Community and Disabilities: Raising Awareness, Facing Challenges, Accessing Resources, in partnership with the South Asian Health Project (SAH Project) and South Asian Mental Health Awareness in Jersey (SAMHAJ), in addition to four other disability advocacy groups: the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities; New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, Inc; Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, and UMDNJ-Office of Academic and Clinical Initiatives. More than 150 participants, including members of the South Asian community, individuals with disabilities and their families, community leaders, and providers of disability and social services participated. For more information, contact Robyn Carrol.
  • Position Announcements. The UCEDD is seeking faculty and senior trainers with expertise in Positive Behavior Supports. For complete information, visit the Employment Opportunities section of the Boggs Center website.

News and Honors from the Institute on Disability and Human Development (IL UCEDD)

  • HHS Secretary Names Dr. Jim Rimmer to Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee (Press Release). Jim Rimmer, PhD, was appointed to the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Committee is one of the Federal advisory committees established to support initiatives being undertaken by HHS. The Committee was established to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services on scientific background and recommendations for Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This advisory committee has been charged with developing a report of recommendations based on current scientific and medical knowledge for the 2008 inaugural publication of the Guidelines.
  • DD Council Provides Funding to UCEDD to Promote Health Advocacy. Beth Marks, PhD, was awarded funding from the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities to complete a study entitled "Building Capacity among Pediatric Residents to Promote Health Advocacy among Persons with DD." For more information, contact Dr. Beth Marks.
  • Research Activities & Briefs
    • Understanding School Dropout for Urban, Ethnic Minority Teenage Mothers with Learning Disabilities (LD) (Brief). Youth who experience either LD or teenage motherhood often drop out of school. Further, about 50% of young girls with LD become mothers by their early 20s compared to 28% of young women in the general population. There is therefore a high likelihood that teenage mothers with LD will drop out of school. Dropping out of school is of concern because it typically results in a host of negative consequences, including an increased likelihood of living in poverty. Moreover, children of teenage mothers are likely to experience poor educational and health outcomes. It is therefore critical to understand why many teenage mothers with LD drop out of school in order to design effective methods of preventing them from dropping out.
    • Involvement of Adult Siblings of People with Developmental Disabilities in Future Planning (Brief). Planning for the future is a central task for aging adult siblings of people with developmental disabilities and their families. Adult siblings of people with developmental disabilities are the most likely people to be involved in the future as parents age and can no longer provide care. Yet many parents are reluctant to involve their children with or without disabilities in future planning (Heller & Caldwell, 2006).

News and Activities from the Center for Excellence in Disabilities (WV UCEDD)

  • New Lifespan Disability Policy Course Offered. The West Virginia University's College of Human Resources, Department of Special Education will be offering this opportunity as a special topics course beginning in the 2007 Fall semester. The course focuses on federal and state legislation and policies affecting individuals with disabilities and their families across the lifespan. The course was developed as part of the MCH/LEND grant and will be required for MCH/LEND trainees. The course is will be team taught by Diane Williams, MSW, MCH/LEND Training Coordinator, and Jennifer Forester, MSW, MCH/LEND Clinic Coordinator and Assistant Director or the Klingberg Center for Child Development. For more information, contact Diane Williams at 304-293-4692, ext. 1131.
  • Presentation: Sexuality in Socially Appropriate Ways. The UCEDD, Positive Behavior Support (PBS), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) programs, in conjunction with the West Virginia Office of Behavioral Health Service (OBHS), presented Developing Positive Sexuality & Dealing with Inappropriate Sexual Behavior on June 25, 2007. The seminar was geared to those providing supports for individuals with a developmental disability or traumatic brain injury who may benefit from guidance and training in expressing their sexuality in socially appropriate ways. For more information, contact Lori Risk at 304-293-4692 ext. 1113.

News and Activities by the Rural Institute (MT UCEDD)

  • Second Year Funding to Develop and Demonstrate Middle School Transition Planning Activities. The Montana Council on Developmental Disabilities recently funded an additional year of the Partnerships for Transition (PFT) project. PFT is a collaborative effort between the Council, the UCEDD, and the statewide Parent Training and Information Center, PLUK (Parents, Let’s Unite for Kids). The partners are working with ten middle school students, their families, schools and involved agency staff to create and implement “best practice” strategies that will prepare young people with developmental disabilities for success in the rest of their school years and in their adult lives. For more information, please contact Dr. Ellen Condon, Project Director.
  • Voting & Electoral Process Initiatives. The American Indian Disability Technical Assistance Center (AIDTAC) has been involved in several training and technical assistance activities relating to its current grants. Two teleconferences were held in July through the DHHS/Administration for Children and Families-funded Native American Considerations and the Electoral Process (NACEP) project. Barriers to the Electoral Process for Native Americans and Native Vote Initiatives, Histories, and Economic Factors: A Look at Voting and American Indians with Disabilities were seen as important and useful by the Protection and Advocacy staff participants.
  • Outreach and Employment Presentations. AIDTAC and Rural Institute staff have attended and presented at several conferences. AIDTAC Director Julie Clay, MPH, presented on outreach to American Indians and Alaska Natives at the Region 9 Independent Living conference in Casper, WY on June 28. Three RI/AIDTAC staff members attended and presented on “Community Infrastructure and Employment Opportunities for American Indians with Disabilities Living on Reservations” at the Institute on Disability and Human Development's (IL UCEDD) Disability, Race and Culture: The State of the Science conference in late July.

News and Activities from the Center on Disability Studies (HI UCEDD)

  • 20th Year Celebration. CDS kicked off the celebration of 20 years of service to the state and nation with a gala celebration at the Honolulu Design Center on July 18. The gala screening included cinema, live music, and culinary delights. Three award-winning short films about people with disabilities were shown. These included: Difference is Normal, Mercury Stole My Fire, and Wood Dairy. The gala provided the Hawaii premier of the new feature film, Mr. Blue Sky. This feature film stars a young woman with Down Syndrome.
  • Workshop: Career in the Entertainment Industry. In addition to the gala celebration, CDS brought Gail Williamson, who has had a successful Hollywood career helping young people with disabilities achieve a career in the entertainment busy. She served as the disabilities coordinator on the award winning, ER, Touched by an Angel, and now, Mr. Blue Sky. The sold-out workshop was held at Tenny Theater on July 21, with Ms. Williamson providing tips for people with disabilities who would like to consider a career in the entertainment industry.
  • New Literacy Development Grant Awarded. July 17, CDS received affirmation of funding for ACE for English Language Learner’s Literacy: Professional Development Program. This five-year grant will bring over $1.3 in federal funds to the state. Dr. Soon Kim Rupnow is the Principal Investigator, Peter Dowrick is the Co-Principal Investigator, and James Brightman will be a key faculty member on the grant.

News and Activities from New Hampshire Institute on Disability (UCEDD/LEND)

  • Living a Full Life with Autism: Donna Williams to Speak at Autism Summer Institute. Born in Australia, Donna Williams showed signs of autism from infancy. Williams will share her story at the 9th Annual Autism Summer Institute, August 13-16, 2007, at UNH Holloway Commons in Durham, NH. Joining Williams are Ros Blackburn, a lecturer from England living with autism; Jamie Burke, a Syracuse University student with autism and advocate for Facilitated Communication; and CarolAnn Edscorn, a New Hampshire artist and mother with Asperger Syndrome.
  • Under One Roof. The Under One Roof Project, a collaborative project with the UCEDD in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire, addresses the full participation of people with disabilities and their families by connecting them with local family support, recreation, and employment so that they can develop relationships in the same manner as other community members. Under One Roof recently launched the Recreation ALLIES Network, an exciting initiative which pairs high school students with peers who experience a disability for the sake of recreational support and relationship building. For more information on the Under One Roof Project, contact Molly Hajjar at 603-562-7196 or the visit project website.
  • Reaching Young & Old: Foster Grandparents Program. Participants in the Foster Grandparents Program, an intergenerational program which connects adults 60 years and older with at-risk and needy children for the purpose of mentoring support and academic assistance, recently had the opportunity to hear from the IOD’s Beth Dixon about working with children who experience autism. “Because of the increase in children diagnosed with autism, these grandparents showed a huge interest in learning the basic information about who they’re dealing with,” said Dixon. For more information, visit the Foster Grandparents Program webpage.
  • For NH Teacher Certifications, Changing Language is a ‘Step in the Right Direction’. Over the past 30 years or so, there has been a gradual language evolution surrounding the use of the term “mental retardation” (MR). Many national organizations have already adopted the term “Intellectual/Developmental Disability,” or IDD, in place of MR. In New Hampshire, IOD Project Coordinator Dr. Cheryl Jorgensen has been working alongside the NH Department of Education to change the name of university special education teacher certification programs to reflect the IDD vocabulary shift. The name change to “Special Education Teacher Certification in Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities,” as well as the respective teacher competencies, has been approved by the Professional Standards Board and is now awaiting language approval by the state legislature before it will be signed into law. “There is still a disconnect on the national level,” said Jorgensen. “But eliminating MR from university teacher certification titles is a good step in the right direction.”
  • September 19: Getting a Handle on Hoarding Workshop. Individuals who hoard are frequently at risk for losing their housing due to eviction. This interactive workshop will describe clinical disorders and cognitive features associated with hoarding and recent research findings. Learn more about the event on the AUCD Events Page.