2007 AUCD Trainees at the Disability Policy Seminar

March 7, 2007

44 trainees from AUCD's UCEDD and LEND programs attended this year's Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, DC. These trainees participated in two days of intense policy and legislation briefings before heading to Capitol Hill to advocate with their Congressional Representatives and staffers on disability issues important to them. Some of the issues included:

Boston LEND trainees
ICI (Boston) UCEDD/LEND faculty & trainees

In addition to this valuable advocacy experience in the Nation's Capitol, these 44 trainees had the opportunity to meet and network with over 600 self-advocates, faculty and staff from AUCD programs, key policy makers, and each other. AUCD held a trainee reception where AUCD Board of Directors members and Central Office staff were available to talk about opportunities within the network available to trainees both during training and after graduation.

Below are comments from some of the trainees who attended the Policy Seminar as well as photos from the event. We hope you'll join us in 2008!


Becky Baum, OH-Nisonger Trainee

The Disability Policy Seminar was a fantastic experience. Around 600 people attended

Ohio trainees on Capitol Hill

Dr. Dan Coury (LEND Director), Jeffrey Sigel (SW trainee), Helen Alexander (PT faculty), Rebecca Baum (Dev. Beh. Pediatrics Fellow) and a staff member of Rep. Pryce.

the conference, including a number of self-advocates from all across the country. During the first two days, policy experts reviewed a number of pertinent new disability-related bills and legislation up for renewal. On the last day, we had the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill and meet with legislators or their assistants about disability-related policy issues. Our group met with the legislative assistants for three congress members from Ohio and talked about the importance of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and the LEND program.

Overall, the policy review was very helpful to better understand policy issues and how decisions are made. Plus, it was incredibly exciting to spend a day being part of the "process" in Washington, DC!



Jennifer Holland, NH LEND Trainee

The 2007 Policy Seminar was a wonderful, jam-packed schedule and I learned so much!

Policy Seminar Attendees
2007 Disability Policy Seminar Attendees


What I took back with me after this experience was two things:

  1. The number of people involved in this field is phenomenal and I can better understand the need for even more people to be involved, as policy affects everything we do on a daily basis.
  2. Participating in policy change is so much easier than I had anticipated, and it was an experience I truly enjoyed. As a result of this experience, I am trying to stay involved by keeping up on legislation and keeping contact with my local representatives.



Katie Fiore, NH LEND Trainee

It was extremely powerful to me to be a part of a group of 600 people who came from all over the country to learn about and advocate for disability rights. I have a new sense of comfort with the word "activist" and "lobbyist;" those titles do not pose quite the same threat as they used to. I also really appreciated the focus on how the policies that we discussed are "civil rights" issues, rights that every individual deserves.


Rene Jamison, KUMC LEND Trainee & AUCD Virtual Trainee

Trainees at the policy seminar
AUCD Trainees, Rene Jamison at right

I want to thank AUCD for allowing me to attend the seminar as part of my position as the Virtual Trainee. I also want to say hello to everyone I met at the seminar. It was great to meet so many trainees from AUCD programs around the country! For those of you unable to attend, here are some brief highlights and memorable moments. The first two days of the seminar consisted of a variety of speakers who provided rich information about current policy issues related to disabilities and realistic strategies for effective lobbying. The last day of the seminar was spent lobbying on the Hill in state groups, meeting with Congressional Representatives and Senators. This was my first time on the Hill and I felt like I was really making a difference, at a systems level. This trip was both a learning experience and fun. My most memorable moments were:

  • The AUCD trainee reception: The reception was attended by over 50 people including trainees, AUCD staff, program faculty, and AUCD Board members. I enjoyed meeting fellow trainees and getting to know the person behind some familiar emails. I also witnessed trainees linking with program faculty making connections for future opportunities...great networking!
  • Autism Breakout Session: Since this is an area of interest for me, this was a major highlight of the seminar for me. Individuals spoke from Senator Clinton's office, Easter Seals, Missouri Division of MR/DD, and the Autism Society of America. This panel provided perspectives regarding federal changes and legislation, statewide initiatives, and parent perspectives on diagnosis, services, research, and education. A very interdisciplinary perspective!
  • Dinner with fellow trainees: I enjoyed dinner the last night of the seminar with several trainees (past and present). We took the train to China Town for a late dinner at a Spanish tapas restaurant. It was great to get to know everyone in a relaxed atmosphere, share program experiences and future plans. I hope to see you all again someday, good luck in all you do!

In summary, I learned more about policy, government, and making changes in these three days then I did in any government or other class in school!!!

For those of you who will continue on as trainees next year, I strongly encourage you to attend. Watch the AUCD website (www.aucd.org) for information on the Spring 2008 Disability Policy Seminar.


Trainee Reception at Policy Seminar
AUCD Trainee Reception

Jennifer Brooks, NH LEND Trainee

As a LEND Trainee, my discipline is Social Work. I found it most interesting at the macro-level to witness a community organizing effort before my eyes. The [Policy] Seminar itself was the catalyst of the organizing effort, providing self advocates and professionals a common meeting place to learn and move forward in change efforts. I

found the process fascinating taking away a renewed belief in the democratic process.


Geri Lotze, M.S., M.T., Va-LEND trainee

My name is Geri Lotze and I'm in the Virginia Commonwealth University LEND program. I am completing my third year of a PhD program in Developmental Psychology. This was the first time I've attended the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C.

All in all, I felt that the seminar was absolutely exciting and packed with information. As I described it to others, imagine a panel of professionals who all know their fields inside and out who have basically 10 minutes to share it all!!! Incredible! I truly appreciated copies of powerpoint slides to refer back to later and was disappointed that some speakers in the pull out sessions did not provide them. It was a very valuable experience.


George Wootton, Utah Trainee

Highlights of my trip:

  1. Finding others from my state who are involved in the same or similar work,
    US Capitol
    US Capitol at sunset
    photo courtesy: Brent Fisher
    driven by similar motivations. I have made connections with people in my state that I would not have made had I not attended the conference.
  2. Seeing all the people around the country who are involved in this work; hearing issues they are facing, hearing solutions others have come up with.
  3. Finding people on a national level who are the coordinators, motivators, advocates for policy, and who know the Washington, DC scene and how to maneuver through the complexity of the government and the political system.
  4. Getting to meet my Senators and Representatives in Washington, getting a feel for the complexity of what they must work with, trying to figure out how best to help them to understand what I learned about policy, funding, the needs of clients with whom I work.
  5. Getting to see the view of service to people with neurodevelopmental disabilities from the policy perspective. I am a better provider to these clients by understanding how the system works, how to better counsel clients I work with regarding these issues, how to help them and their families to be better advocates.
  6. To see the Supreme Court! What an amazing feeling to be in the same room where so much history has been made. This is one of the greatest gifts we have been given from our founding fathers, my absolute heroes and political role models. The only thing that could have been better was to see the court in action.

I am grateful to Dr. Judith Holt, our LEND Director and P.I. on the grant serving the Utah and regional LEND program. She is a major driving force in serving this community and made this opportunity available to me and to many others. My service is forever changed because of the opportunities she has provided me.


Brent Fisher, Waisman Center, WI trainee

During our recent trip to Washington D.C. my classmates and I from the UW-Madison MCH LEND program were treated to

Wisconsin trainees at policy seminar
Waisman (WI) UCEDD/LEND faculty & trainees
a veritable cornucopia of useful information of the likes we’ve never seen. In short, we learned the art of advocacy and its many applications in what felt like a dizzying crash-course. The ins and outs of the current political climate were laid out in terms that opened our eyes to the needs and opportunities that are of vital importance to individuals with disabilities. We spent time in small groups in order to better understand the ways in which to carefully effect change in this new Congress.

At the AUCD reception we met other student and parent trainees. We enjoyed seeing faces from places across the country and learned about the potential of networking. All of the opportunities and experiences culminated in a visit to “the Hill” where we spent time with legislators and their staff from our respective states and districts. It was time to put into practice that which had been so carefully placed in the previous days of the seminar. At the day's end we left exhausted yet refreshed, having enjoyed a great learning opportunity and met so many kind and thoughtful people.

Wisconsin trainees with Senator Kohl Wisconsin trainees with staff of Representative Baldwin Wisconsin trainees with Senator Feingold
with Sen. Kohl
photo courtesy: Brent Fisher
with staff of Rep. Baldwin
photo courtesy: Brent Fisher
with Sen. Feingold
photo courtesy: Brent Fisher