"Whose Life is it Anyways?" Person-Centered Practices Family Training: A New Collaborative Project (TX UCEDD)

June 27, 2016

"Whose Life is it Anyways?" Person-Centered Practices Family Training: A New Collaborative Project In collaboration with the Center on Disability and Development (CDD), the University of Texas Center on Disability Studies (TCDS), the Texas Division of Blind Services (DBS), the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), Educational Service Center Region 6 (Huntsville) and Region 12 (Waco), and Fungineering, over 25 parents and 19 young advocates with visual impairments participated in the "Whose Life is it Anyways?" Person-Centered Practices Family Training.

The curriculum for the parent and young advocates was developed by Jeff Garrison-Tate (Certified Mentor Trainer) and Aimee Day (Person-Centered Trainer Candidate) who are both affiliated with the Institute on Person-Centered Practices, which is a collaborative initiative between the CDD at Texas A&M University and TCDS at the University of Texas. Luis Castillo, Rick Moss, and Greg Mason from DBS played an important role throughout the development of the training and identifying the parent and young advocate participants. Lynne McAlister, Eva Lavigne, and Tad Doezema from TSBVI were integral to ensuring that students received appropriate accommodations throughout the training. Michelle Craig with Region 12 graciously provided the venue for the training as well as technology support.

Diane Roberson with Region 6 was at the table from the beginning to provide her expertise in transition and working with students with visual impairments. Jeremy Steinshnider with Fungineering provided the young advocates with a fun and "hands-on" lesson with a focus on teamwork and leadership skills. The exciting new piece to the person-centered practices training was the development of the young advocate curriculum, which was facilitated by Aimee Day (Center on Disability and Development) and two peer-to-peer "People Planning Together" Trainer Candidates, Shelby Davenport and Justin DeLeon. The peer-to-peer trainers led the students through a day and half of activities focused on developing their own plans for their futures.

The young advocates were guided to identify what was important "to" them and "for" them as they developed their plans. With the support of their peer-to-peer trainers, the young advocates also developed a short video on their smart devices as another way to share their plans. Aimee Day noted, "the idea was for these young advocates to be able to share their plans with others such as their parents, teachers, and ARD committee members in a way that was easily accessible and portable. The fact that the video was meaningful and something the student created was important and significant to the core beliefs behind person-centered practices." Although the training was a huge success and provided a meaningful learning opportunity for the family members and young advocates, one piece of this project that was integral to its success was the collaboration between the universities, service providers, and school regions.

The idea for "Whose Life is it Anyways" project came about when Dr. Meagan Sumbera, Associate Director of the CDD, and Luis Casitllo with DBS sat down for one of their monthly brainstorming sessions at a local coffee shop. They were already working on the development of the Purposeful Life: Family Training Series in the Bryan-College Station area, and wanted to provide a more focused and specific training for area families. Once the idea was born, Aimee Day with the CDD and Jeff Garrison-Tate with the TCDS were asked to join forces to develop and deliver the training. Other partners were invited to the leadership team as the idea and project grew making this a true collaborative effort among all involved. Dr Sumbera, CDD Associate Director, stated, "...all of us have the same goal, which is to support people with disabilities and their families to create better lives for themselves. As a collaborative, we can provide opportunities to improve outcomes and their quality of community life. We might do this in different ways, but ultimately, we are here to help others. We are stronger together and we can accomplish more by connecting resources, personnel, and brainpower. It has been an absolute pleasure working with everyone on the 'Whose Life is it Anyways?' leadership team and I am thrilled to continue to work with DBS, TSBVI, TCDS, the Region Centers, and Fungineering in the future at this level. "

The "Whose Life is it Anyways" Leadership team plans to continue to meet and develop a high-quality learning experience for families in Texas. For more information on "Whose Life is it Anyways?" Person-Centered Practices Family Training, please contact Dr. Meagan Sumbera or Luis Castillo. Also, please visit our CDD website to read our "Whose Life is it Anyways?" press release.