Portland Maine LEND Holds Annual Family Picnic

March 19, 2018

On the last Saturday of September, the LEND Program held their family picnic. This was an opportunity for LEND trainees and facilitators to meet with parents and individuals who could benefit from the program.

"The family picnic is the first step of our family-led experiences for LEND Trainees. We welcomed 5 families during the picnic and solicited more in the process. Each LEND trainee will be matched with a family that fits their learning goals. Host families will teach the trainees about everyday life with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Trainees will play, eat, and enjoy family life with their host family and in the process they will learn deep lessons that they will carry through into their leadership. Trainees may also accompany children to appointments, school planning, activities, and family experiences," explains LEND Training Coordinator, Clinical Professor and occupational therapist Dr. Kathyrn Loukas.

There were a variety of activities including: cornhole, a sensory table, blocks, a coloring station, chalk drawing, baseball and karaoke. Hotdogs and hamburgers were served as well.

Diane Frechette, a nurse and LEND trainee last year found great value in the program; "I am a nurse and a mom of a son with a neurodevelopment disability. He has down syndrome, ADHD, and actually, through LEND experience, learned that he is on the [Autism] spectrum; so that was one of the benefits of LEND for me. As I came on as a nurse and a parent, LEND was a great experience because I got to see things clinically that I had never seen before; and bringing things in to be true interdisciplinary, and that's a great experience for families, so they are not siloed. And able to pass on knowledge and build a network that feels safe; to be able to go to, so you can do what's best for your child."

"As a LEND trainee, I am receiving interdisciplinary leadership training in the field of neurodevelopment disabilities. The picnic invited members of the community who may be interested in becoming a LEND family. We organized activities for children and met families in the community. I think the picnic went great! The children seemed to enjoy the planned activities and it was great to meet them. I also really enjoyed talking to the parents of the children," said Emily Gall, a physical therapy student.

Dr. Loukas explains a little more about the program's intentions, "During our first year...the trainees described their learning about family-centered practice as transformational. We hope for even deeper transformation for this year's trainees as they experience the joys and challenges of life with a child or young adult living with neurodevelopmental disabilities."

[My role at the picnic was to] "interact with families participating in LEND. Also, play with kids in the rice box and challenge anyone to a game with sandbags [cornhole]. Developing a sense of community at the picnic was important to us. The smiles and laughter from the children and parents leads me to believe we achieved that goal. The trainees and LEND families seem equally excited about this opportunity," added Seth Hunsicker, a social worker and LEND trainee.

Another LEND Trainee, Taylor Cahill, an occupational therapy graduate student observed, "This year's LEND picnic went very well! It was great seeing families and trainees enjoying the afternoon engaged in fun and games and forming connections. Who doesn't enjoy blowing bubbles, playing Legos and spending time in the sunshine? As a LEND trainee, I am gaining experience working with families and learning about the rewards and challenges of raising a child with neurodevelopmental disability. Understanding the rewards and challenges through the family perspective, I hope to enhance my ability to support families in ways most meaningful to them. Every family is unique and care should be centered around each families individuals goals and needs."

Frechette, summed things up, giving a family perspective. "This picnic was fantastic today because it was nice to watch the families come in and talk to them about what they want from LEND, or what they think they can get from LEND. And to contribute; because as families, we can contribute a lot because we live it, we live it everyday; it is great to have people with other expertise come in and, together, build even more knowledge. So it benefits everybody. That is probably the biggest take away is the benefits and the relationships that are built; that's immeasurable."