UCEDD Success Stories - Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the UC Davis MIND Institute

November 1, 2022


University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) aim to positively affect the lives of people with disabilities by building and strengthening systems that support full community participation. These activities are carried out in alignment with the DD Act (hyperlink) through the UCEDD core functions which include: (1) interdisciplinary training including continuing education; (2) community service including training, technical assistance, model, and demonstration services; (3) research including evaluation, and analysis of public policy; and (4) information dissemination. The ExceLens series highlights the valuable work of the UCEDDs within university systems, the community, and in the lives of people with disabilities across the lifespan and their family members

UC Davis Mind Institute: Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities

The mission of the Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities is to collaborate with individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to improve quality of life and community inclusion.  The Center accomplishes this mission through advocacy, community partnerships, interdisciplinary training, and the translation of research into practical applications. The personal perspective of disability and cultural/linguistic diversity is prominent in all program activities and the Center strives for an organizational culture that values diversity and inclusion.

UC Davis MIND Institute: COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic

The Child Life Team at the UC Davis MIND Institute had a goal to provide COVID vaccinations to vaccine hesitant individuals with disabilities who had previously experienced medical trauma, while providing informed training to medical staff. This initiative has transformed what we initially would think of as your standard vaccine clinic into a reimagining of what these clinics can and should be. The clinic was designed by Erin Roseborough and Veronica Tuss, certified Child Life Specialists at the UC Davis MIND Institute, who partnered with family navigators. Standard large vaccine clinics can be loud and overwhelming which the team found were not a good fit for many vaccine hesitant individuals. Through this new clinic, they wanted to create a clear understanding of what accommodations can be made to modify the environment to make these procedures more successful for neurodivergent individuals and their families.

The UC Davis MIND Institute created a sensory-friendly, flexible environment with patient, trained care providers and engaged in outreach to prepare families ahead of time. The Child Life Team reached out to each family before their time at the clinic to help them prepare for the visit. Some additional accommodations included distributing fidget toys to patients, running a sensory/bubble machine, having rewards to choose from, and allowing flexibility in most aspects of the process (visit time, what room the shot would be given in, etc.). Implementing these strategies and establishing a team of individuals familiar with how to care for individuals with developmental disabilities functioned to create a successful environment for neurodivergent patients. While some may think that implementing these strategies could be too much work, they have proven that with just a few simple accommodations successful outcomes can be reached. These accommodations can help break the cycle of avoidance of care for neurodivergent individuals and family members who have had bad experiences with medical providers and facilities in the past and establish a trusting patient-provider relationship.

Initially the program started as a training initiative for medical professionals but because of COVID, the clinic project became a priority and the team and ended up administering vaccines to individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities and their family members.  This gave the team a unique opportunity to build a network of support during the vaccine appointments. By utilizing the short 15-minute period after the vaccine, providers were able to take the time to get to know the community of patients and establish relationships that will encourage them to keep coming back. Creating a positive medical experience and family-centered care environment was a top priority to the team and building support and hearing feedback was integral to the process. Currently, the team has had a 95% success rate for completing the vaccine process with clinic patients and are working to document the entire process which will allow other clinics to implement and replicate their methods.

More Information:

  • For more information on the UC Davis MIND Institute COVID-19 vaccination clinic, please contact Katharine Harlan Owens
  • Find the full article on the UC Davis MIND Institute COVID-19 vaccination clinic here.
  • Please send any questions, comments, related resources, or stories you would like to share to the URC team at AUCD.