Letter to Directors from AUCD Board President

April 5, 2007

Dear Colleagues:

First, let me apologize for the length of this open letter to you—AUCD network directors. I am approximately six months into my year as president of the Association and wanted to provide an update on the major activities and developments that have been underway over this period.

Let me first say that the last six months have gone by much more quickly than I imagined, with still much work to be done. I have been impressed by the range of issues and the number of individuals involved, both within the network and from federal agencies, the Hill , and other advocacy groups that the Association interacts with on an almost daily basis. Our network clearly is involved in a number of arenas that impact the lives of people with disabilities and their families.

Welcome New Network Members
Over the last six months, we have welcomed three new University Centers into the network, including the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California Davis, the Sonoran Center at the University of Arizona, and the Marcus Center affiliated with Emory University. These centers have joined our network as the result of successful work on advocating for increased appropriations. The Sonoran Center presentation at our winter board meeting provided a glimpse into their future plans to enhance state support for persons with disabilities and their families. These new members add to the capacity, diversity, and expertise of the AUCD network.

On the international front, we have welcomed a new international affiliate member, the Center for Augmentative and Alternative Communication at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. In addition, the network continues to expand its technical assistance in Dubai. We are currently exploring strategies to advance the UN International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities which was recently adopted by the UN General Assembly.

Kudos on Policy Efforts
Our legislative and policy efforts have had some notable successes including the late passage at the end of last year of the Lifespan Respite Care Act and the Combating Autism Act, which has provisions for the expansion of current LEND programs and expansion of the network to states that do not now have LEND Programs.

Just recently a number of centers and AUCD national office staff have been working diligently on a bill to expand services for children and adults with Autism. Senators Clinton and Allard introduced the Expanding the Promise to Individuals with Autism Act. The bill provides for the development of a National Training Initiative for all UCEDDs in the provision of statewide training and technical assistance in the area of autism spectrum disorders. There is a long way to go before this bill becomes law, but it is a significant milestone for the Association and recognition of the value and capacity of the UCEDD network to meet emerging national needs.

Resource Portfolio
The development of a diverse resource portfolio for the AUCD network reaches beyond our legislative and policy efforts and includes the activities of the program and other committees of the board. A few examples of these efforts are the submission and approval by the U.S. Department of Education MATO agreement as well as the collaboration with ABT Associates of Boston, MA, submitted to CDC for contract tasks in future years. We wait to here on this proposal in the coming months.

Increasing Diversity
One of the major agenda items of the board has been to enhance our network activities to increase diversity at all levels of the network, from trainees to external partnerships. These efforts continue to be a centerpiece of the board and national office. Examples include:

  • Expanding the network to include minority institutions of higher education through provisions in Senator Clinton’s Autism Bill
  • The inclusion of a request in the FY2008 appropriations planning grants for minority serving institutions to collaborate with current UCEDDs
  • Inserted language stipulating in the Combating Autism Bill that trainees in the proposed expansion are "culturally competent and ethnically diverse"
  • The development of a plan through the MCHB work group to increase diversity for faculty and trainees in the Interdisciplinary Leadership Training Programs

This is just the beginning, and I hope more examples will be initiated in future months.

The board has been meeting monthly by phone and had its winter retreat in February. We spent quite a bit of time going over the current portfolio of AUCD activities as well as looking at future opportunities to work in areas such as adult services, post secondary education, and partnering with other advocacy groups in areas of mutual interest. With all of the activities and efforts of the Association, we still remain financially sound. I personally want to thank the board members and those of you throughout the network who participate on councils, workgroups, and committees. Your contributions to the network in time, knowledge, and support allow us to continue to be successful and to stay grounded in real world needs and challenges that face individuals with disabilities and families in each state and across the country.

As I look forward to the next six months, I want to reiterate my invitation to all of you to participate in the Association, to consider joining the board, and to provide any input or suggestions that you think the board should address. As always, please feel free to contact me with your thoughts and ideas. These are challenging times for our nation yet these challenges present new and exciting opportunities for the AUCD network. I believe we can take these new opportunities to meet the challenges facing people with disabilities and their families through the “power of the network.”

With best regards,

Royal P. Walker, Jr. JD