Reflection of My Visit to a New LEND Program (WA LEND)

By Courtney Davis, MS RD CD LEND Nutrition Fellow University of Washington

April 6, 2018

My visit to JFK Partner's LEND program at the University of Colorado began 3 months prior with a simple question, "what do other LEND programs look like?" I was cognizant of the 51 other programs operating around the country, but had little knowledge of their clinical focuses and expertise. I had lived in Colorado while attending college and was curious how their state's program compared to my own. I approached my nutrition faculty member about a potential visit who thought it was be a positive way to immerse myself further into the LEND program. After establishing contact, receiving a schedule, and patiently waiting for several months, the time came for my experience. My initial thought upon my arrival was how welcoming JFK partners and those affiliated with their program were. Each person was gracious and made me feel included in conversation and activities. I had the opportunity to connect with faculty and fellows from multiple disciplines and share in the fellows' clinical experiences.

Unsurprisingly, there were differences between how developmental evaluations are conducted and the characteristics of the individuals and families served between our two programs. Yet the dedication, compassion, and proficiency of the faculty, staff, and fellows was the same. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to attend seminar with their LEND fellows on the topic of "employment for individuals with developmental disabilities." Fortuitously, the states compared the most throughout the presentation were Colorado and Washington! It generated great discussion between our two programs. Further, the examination of both of our state's strengths and weaknesses inspired me to think of ways to advocate for those individuals I serve. Although we always strive to think about the big picture, it's easy to become absorbed in our own program's day to day activities. The most resonating aspect of this visit, was the reminder of a broader community. Each individual I have met throughout my LEND journey is passionate about improving the lives of individuals with disabilities. No matter the discipline or the location, each person is eager to learn, enhance their skills, and advocate for the disability community. I am grateful to share this passion with my colleagues at the University of Washington and thankful for my colleagues at the University of Colorado who confirmed that we all share the same determination and enthusiasm for our work.