NH-ME LEND Trainees Display Scholarship and Leadership in 2021 Capstone Poster Session

June 152, 2021

On May 7, 2021, twenty-four trainees from the 2020-2021 New Hampshire-Maine Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (NH-ME LEND) Program shared their scholarship and leadership development during the annual Capstone Poster Session and Celebration. In keeping with federal and state Centers for Disease Control (CDC) health and safety guidance, the event was held online. For the second year in a row, the trainees remotely collaborated with faculty mentors and leadership partners to complete their capstone projects throughout Maine and New Hampshire.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Cari Moorhead, Dean of the University of New Hampshire Graduate School encouraged the trainees to pause and reflect on their personal and professional growth over the past year. "Think about the person you were when you decided to put in the application to participate in [NH-ME LEND]. . . . What were the concerns, the anxieties, the expectations that you might have had? Embrace the change that you have felt in yourself - the strength that you can take from this experience."

"This is our first ever virtual LEND cohort," said Dr. Betsy Humphreys, NH-ME LEND Program Director. "We needed to do it and we did." Speaking directly to the trainees, Humphreys said, "It's been such a pleasure to work with you this year. To be witness to your determination for what it's taken to engage. We're so very proud to be here on this capstone day to see your work and how it's unfolded across the year."

The trainees' posters showcased their leadership development through community placements in settings that included state agencies, community health providers, advocacy organizations, and partners in each state's developmental disabilities network. Trainees were joined online by over 70 attendees: faculty from the University of New Hampshire (UNH), University of Maine (UMaine), and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; leadership partners who mentored the trainees' during their community placements; and other state disability leaders.

UMaine trainee, Hibo Omer, MPH, (pictured at right below) completed her leadership project, Evaluating Services for the New Mainers' Community, with Stephanie Gelinas, Executive Director of Sandcastle Clinical & Educational Services in Lewiston, ME. New Mainers are recent immigrants to this secondary resettlement area, and their families.

Image of a black woman wearing a pink hijab smiling at the camera.Omer's first survey for all parents receiving Sandcastle services carried the additional challenge of translation for the New Mainers community. "Most of the families can't read or write in their own language, let alone in English," said Omer. "We are coming from a place where if you have a disability, you are doomed for life. But then when we come to the United States, we have to overcome that; we need to rewire parents that this child [with a disability] has the same chance in life as the other child they have at home."

Omer also surveyed the Sandcastle Clinical & Educational Services staff to determine what barriers to access, if any, they perceived for families that are culturally and linguistically diverse (with a focus on Somali families). In analyzing the provider data, she identified an awareness of cultural differences and an openness to change. Omer emphasized the importance of having cultural humility. "No one can be culturally competent in another culture, but having humility and seeing yourself [as if] you were in their shoes - what would you want people to do for you?"

Omer also recommended that providers make direct connections with families rather than with the interpreters, community health workers or cultural brokers who assist. "That kind of shift will have more impact on the parents and give them power," said Omer.

Omer's recommendation echoed comments made earlier in the day by Dr. Lou Ann Griswold, Interim Associate Dean of UNH's College of Health and Human Services. Standing in for Dr. Michael Ferrara, Dean of the College, Griswold shared her experience with the first LEND many, many years ago. "I can say that families and people with neurodevelopmental conditions are the ones who probably have taught me the most and are most critical to helping us all grow and continue to expand what we do and how we think about people in general."

L-R Image of a white woman with long grey hair wearing a sweater and smiling at the camera. Image of a white woman with long blonde hair wearing a blouse and smilting at the camera.UNH trainees Shawnna Bowman, BS, and Ellen Rislove, OTR/L (pictured at right), completed their leadership project, Finding Your Way Through Early Supports and Services, with leadership partners Terri Ohlson-Martin, Co-Director, NH Family Voices; and Kathy Gray, Part C Coordinator, Bureau for Family-Centered Services. Their community placement is a continuation of an ongoing project with Early Supports and Services and New Hampshire Family Voices over the last several years.

Bowman and Rislove's goal was to gather qualitative data about how a visual tool, How to Find Your Way: Parents' Roles in Family Centered Early Supports and Services (FCESS), helped or did not help parents' and caregivers' understanding of the FCESS process of Intake, Evaluation, and Individual Family Support Plan (IFSP).  

Rislove and Bowman were able to interview 11 families (out of a possible pool of 28) via Zoom or telephone. The low numbers are a result of a significant decline in Early Support and Services' referrals this year due to the pandemic. The trainees utilized a "partnership model of listening" by applying their diverse disciplines (family discipline and clinical discipline) to generate different perspectives of the participants' responses. Overall, there was a positive response to the visual tool, but varying levels of effectiveness, depending on where in the process (Intake, Evaluation or IFSP) the visual was introduced.

At the conclusion of the capstone poster session, Dr. Kelly Nye-Lengerman, Director of the UNH Institute on Disability congratulated the trainees and extended this invitation: "As you continue on your personal and professional journeys, I want to welcome you to a network of promise. The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), the LEND network, and the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) network are your home and your community for the remainder of your career. You will always find a place where there are colleagues, friends, allies, and resources to do the work that you do."

Nye-Lengerman encouraged the trainees to find that sweet spot of who they are personally and professionally; to locate that intersection between passion, mission, profession, and vocation. "Because the world needs all kinds of people, all kinds of professionals in different roles," said Nye-Lengerman, "and what was truly reflected today in the program presentations is that we all bring mission critical skills and experiences to the fields we work within."

The virtual session wrapped up with congratulatory remarks individualized for each trainee by their faculty mentor.

All of the 2020-2021 NH-ME LEND Program capstone posters may be viewed on the UNH Graduate Research Conference website, Student Research Media Gallery.

For more information about NH-ME LEND, please visit the program websites at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maine.

Photo credits:

Images of Shawnna Bowman and Ellen Rislove courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.

Image of Hibo Omer courtesy of Hibo Omer.