Iowa Lend Self-Advocate Trainee "Makes the Connection" at National Conferences

March 29, 2018

Iowa LEND's first self-advocate trainee, Ed Esbeck, recently returned from the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) national conference where he served as lead presenter on a session entitled "Developing an Inclusive and Accessible LEND Curriculum." It was Esbeck's second trip to Washington in the past three months, having attended the AUCD national conference in November.

"Both conferences were great," Esbeck explained.  "AUCD was a 'coming of age' for me.  I made a lot of connections, and was honored to meet Bill Kiernan who told me that he may be able to help me make some international contacts.  I 'fired' my training director because I'd gained the confidence to complete an assignment without his help.  I really liked becoming part of the LEND self-advocate trainee group and making new friends from Puerto Rico.  I've joined the self-advocate trainee Facebook group and recently had a four-hour online conversation with my friends from Puerto Rico."

"At AMCHP," continued Esbeck, "I saw myself as a resource.  Following our presentation, several attendees sought my recommendations on how to improve the LEND training experience for self-advocates and asked about my future goals.  Since this was my second AMCHP conference, I was able to introduce our LEND training coordinator, who was attending for the first time, to people I thought she should meet."

"Ed's emergence as a young leader affirms our decision to include the self-advocate trainee in all aspects of the LEND training," commented Julie Christensen, Training Director of ILEND and director of Iowa's UCEDD.  "He's gained the confidence to reach out and advocate for what he needs," added Kelly Von Lehmden, ILEND Training Coordinator.  "This is an excellent leadership skill which will serve him well throughout his personal and professional life."

"Being an ILEND trainee is a perfect leadership training opportunity for Ed," commented Judy Warth, an Employment Training Specialist housed within the Iowa UCEDD who provides job coaching supports.  "While learning valuable leadership skills alongside his peers, he is also educating them and us about how best to support and accommodate persons with disabilities through his lived experience."

Esbeck feels a strong connection to AUCD, and is continuing to look for opportunities to be an active network participant.  "I know a lot of people within AUCD care about me, and that means a lot," he said.