Council on Leadership in Advocacy (COLA)


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The AUCD Board of Directors has established a number of Councils and Committees that are made up of experts in the field to help the Board address emerging trends and issues, and to facilitate communication across and beyond the AUCD network. The Council on Leadership in Advocacy, also known as COLA, is made up of individuals with disabilities and family members from each University Center across the AUCD network.  COLA members are involved in Community Advisory Councils at University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs), AUCD Councils and Committees, AUCD Special Interest Groups, and other advocacy opportunities.  Membership is open to anyone in the AUCD network. However, each center will designate an individual representative who will cast one vote when a matter before the Council requires such action.





The mission of the AUCD Council on Leadership in Advocacy (COLA) is to advise and assist the AUCD network to enhance the quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. COLA works to enhance AUCD by fostering and supporting current and new leaders with lived experience of disability, including their family members in order to promote this same leadership in their programs, communities, and regions, and to serve in liaison roles with local disability leadership. The Council helps the association to:

  • Build effective partnerships with other AUCD Councils and Committees, federal agencies, and other national disability groups.
  • Build the capacity of local University Center Consumer Advisory Committees (CACs), including identifying needs for assistance, providing technical assistance, and disseminating information about exemplary and innovative practices.
  • Envision, actively advocate for, and disseminate information about the next generation of policy and practice that will help make the promise of full participation a reality.
  • Develop leaders and mentors that build the capacity of the network to affect change at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Assist in the development of standards for participation of people with disabilities and family members in UCEDD education, research, and service programs and in AUCD functions.
  • Serve as a model and resource for others desiring to infuse the participation people with disabilities and family members into program planning, research, and evaluation.





The purpose of the Council is to enhance the Association by fostering current and new leaders with lived experience of disability, including their family members, to promote leadership in their programs and communities. Council membership will expand to include directors, faculty, staff, and advisors at center programs, and CAC members.




The Council on Consumer Affairs first convened in the fall of 1994; the name was later changed to the Council on Consumer Advocacy. The Council was formed as a result of AUCD's (formerly AAUAP) increasing recognition of the importance of receiving consistent and ongoing consumer feedback. Start-up activities were funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, through a Project of National Significance entitled "Leadership and Choices." Principle support was provided by Bruce Eddy of AUCD and Carl Calkins of the University of Missouri/Kansas City, Missouri's UCEDD.

The Council leadership structure includes several internal committees and two co-chairs. 1998 By-Laws stipulate that one co-chair must be an individual with a disability, and the other be the family member of an individual with a disability. The three-year, staggered co-chair positions carry with them a slot on AUCD's Board of Directors.

Full Council membership consists of one representative of each UCEDD, designated by that UCEDD's director. The Council continues to strive to meet its long-term goal of full membership.

In 2003-2004, AUCD made a commitment to revitalize the role of COCA within the network. Past President of AUCD, David Johnson appointed an ad hoc COCA Workgroup. This workgroup, chaired by Carl Calkins, solicited feedback from the AUCD network and met several times to develop a renewed vision to strengthen the role of COCA. A final set of recommendations was produced and presented to the board and UCEDD Directors at the UCEDD Directors' retreat May 2-3, 2005 in Chicago, IL.



COLA Leadership







Congratulations to Mrs. Melina Cavazos on her passing dissertation Defense on a topic about school psychologists' involvement in transition planning

Mrs. Melina Cavazos will be graduating with her doctoral degree in school psychology from Texas A&M University in December 2021. She has just defended for dissertation titled Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP) Involvement in the Assessment and Planning of Postsecondary Transition in Texas.



PATHS Virtual Open House

The PATHS Certificate Program at Texas A&M University will be hosing a virtual open house on Thursday, December 9, 2021 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. PATHS stands for Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services



The PATHS Program application is now open and available for applicants to apply for the 2022-2024 cohort!!

The Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services (PATHS) Certificate Program prepares individuals for jobs as Direct Support Professionals and Child Care Professionals. Upon completing the two-year program at the Center on Disability and Development, participants earn a certificate that combines classroom instruction with hands-on career building experiences.



A Community-Based Health and Nutrition Initiative for Families of Children with Developmental Delays and Disabilities

Good nutrition is an essential aspect of the health and well being of children at risk for and with developmental delay and disabilities. Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (GUCEDD) physician faculty and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) trainee are implementing an innovative community-based initiative that supports nutrition education for parents of young children who have young children at risk for and with developmental delay and disabilities.



Alumni Update: Deeqaifrah Hussein (MN LEND, 2017-18)

Deeqaifrah Hussein (MN LEND, 2017-18) is the interim executive director of special education and health services for Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), the district recently announced.



CAC Chair Receives Wisconsin Diehard Award

Maria Nogueron, the Waisman Center's Constituent Advisory Committee (CAC) Chair from 2015-2021, was awarded the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities Diehard Award in October.



Charting the LifeCourse Nexus Ambassador Badge Academy

In the summer of 2021, Charting the LifeCourse Nexus piloted the Ambassador Badge Academy courses with a select group of LifeCourse Nexus Coaches. And, after a successful pilot run, the Ambassador Badge Academy courses are now available to all certified Charting the LifeCourse Ambassadors.



Coordinated and Integrated Data System for the Early Identification (CIDSEI) of Young Children with Developmental Delays or Disabilities

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) has expanded its National Center on Disability in Public Health efforts with a one-year project to identify states or territories with coordinated and integrated data systems for the early identification (CIDSEI) of young children with developmental delays or disabilities and to use this information to develop and pilot tools, materials, and resources to support additional states and territories in the development of a CIDSEI.



GAIPSEC Receives 'Access to Education' Award

The Georgia Inclusive Postsecondary Education Consortium (GAIPSEC), a project of the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) at Georgia State University, was honored at the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) Soiree of Stars Gala on October 21, with the Access to Education award.



Grants to Help Parents/Future Parents with Disabilities

The University of Cincinnati UCEDD's Associate Director, Kara Ayers, is the co-investigator for two research centers that will help improve the experience of parenting and pregnancy for people with disabilities. These grants will fund research that address gaps in support and challenges that parents with disabilities may face.



Hitting New Strides

Tonya Hinrichs was just cold-calling, really. Her 3-year-old son, Bentley, has pachygyria, a rare genetic brain disorder, and she was looking for intensive therapy options when she dialed the Munroe-Meyer Institute and left a message for Sandy Willett, PhD, director of the physical therapy department.



Introducing BoggsCast: A Podcast by The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities (NJ UCEDD/LEND)

Introducing BoggsCast: A Podcast by The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities (NJ UCEDD/LEND) The Boggs Center is excited to introduce BoggsCast, a podcast where faculty and staff explore best practice, showcase success stories, and help listeners envision possibilities for innovation through interviews with state and national experts.



Iowa's Center for Disabilities and Development Publishes Its Post-COVID Annual Report

At the end of 2019, while working on the new strategic plan for the Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD, Iowa's UCEDD), we had no idea what lay ahead. We began 2020, challenged by tightening resources, and the ongoing need to build capacity to meet the demand for clinical services and community supports. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we responded with even more dedication to that mission, working together so that people with disabilities and their families enjoy healthy, independent lives in the community



Mailman Center Associate Director Dr. Jeffrey Brosco to Lead Population Health Initiative

Jeffrey P. Brosco, M.D., Ph.D., professor and associate director of the Mailman Center for Child Development in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been appointed the department's inaugural associate chair of population health.



MHDD EDI Webinar on Intersectionality of Mental Health, Disabilities, and American Indian Culture

The MHDD EDI webinar from October 2021 highlights what AUCD is working on during November - Native American Heritage Month. It is a great way to learn more about these intersections and improve your cultural competency.



Michael Baca Named Administrator of Iowa's Center for Disabilities and Development

Michael Baca was recently named administrator of the Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD), University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. CDD is home to Iowa's UCEDD and it's the state's tertiary level diagnosis and evaluation center for people with disabilities. Baca serves as a member of the core faculty for Iowa's LEND program, also based at CDD, and as administrator of its newly awarded IDDRC.



Partners in Maine DD Network Collaborate on COVID-19 Vaccination Video PSAs

Partners in the Maine Developmental Disabilities Network (the University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, Disability Rights Maine, Maine Developmental Disabilities Council, and Speaking Up for Us) collaborated with Gray Media Group (WAGM-TV) to design, produce and broadcast seven video public service announcements (PSAs) to help increase COVID-19 vaccinations among people with disabilities and direct support professionals; the individuals who support people with disabilities where they live and work.



Putting Faith to Work: How Faith Communities Can Support Employment for People with Disabilities

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) (TN IDDRC, UCEDD, LEND) researcher and VKC UCEDD co-director Erik Carter, Ph.D., collaborated with Bill Gaventa, M.Div., for a guest blog post on the Administration for Community Living (ACL).



Registration for the National Training Institute on Effective Practices: Addressing Challenging Behavior 2022 is now open! Register today!

The National Training Institute provides an in-depth learning experience built around the #PyramidModel. The Institute, sponsored by Florida Center for Inclusive Communities and the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (OSEP) brings together experts from around the country who skillfully present three-hour workshops and 1-hour toolkit sessions offering practical, ready-to-use information on systems and practices to promote social-emotional development in young children.



Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

The first video in a series of the Worth The Shot Campaign by the Mississippi Developmental Disabilities Network is now available to view at The video is available in long format and a 30-second format that will air on local television stations.



The Indigenous Communities Workgroup

The Indigenous Communities Workgroup will be meeting December 8 4-5pm ET. This meeting provides a space for programs to collaborate on effective and culturally competent indigenous engagement.



The NCED Family Navigation Network: Mapping the Maze

By Marcia O'Malley, Family Resource Coordinator

As most parents know, mapping out healthcare when you have a child with a special health care need is anything but simple. Located with the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, the Family Navigation Network offers family-led healthcare system navigation. Staffed by family members of children and youth with a variety of health conditions, we support other families in their own leadership and advocacy journey, and we promote family-centered care and family/professional partnerships.



The Ohio State University Nisonger Center's Behavior Support Services provides training to OSU East

The Ohio State University Nisonger Center's Behavior Support Services is now working with OSU East to provide training to nursing staff on working with individuals with developmental disabilities and challenging behavior while they are hospitalized. They will also be available to provide case specific consultation as needed.



Virginia UCEDD Announces New Executive Director

Dr. Parthenia "Parthy" Dinora has been named the new Executive Director of the Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Dinora has spent her career in the disability field administering direct service projects focused on community participation for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, conducting research and evaluation studies focused on disability services and supporting families, and generating new focus areas at the UCEDD.



WVU Expands Options for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

This fall six new West Virginia University students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are paving the way for future students to be able to go to college, live on campus and gain academic and career preparation.



AUCD and ecoAmerica Partner to Bring Disability Perspective to Climate Justice

By Adriane Griffen, DrPH, MPH, MCHES and Rebecca Rehr, MPH

"We look forward to partnering to proactively work on these issues. People with disabilities need to be engaged at every level of climate justice. We must work with climate and health partners to foster connections, build trust, create sustainable relationships," says John Tschida, AUCD's Executive Director. "Our work is to help partners identify opportunities for disability inclusion in local planning and show how to take action."



Translation of the Survey of Well-being of Young Children (SWYC) into Tagalog, Samoan, and Chuukese

The California-Leadership in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Program (LEND) Program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, directed the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB)-funded Health Professional Support Program for Children with Zika Virus Infection in American Samoa and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Basin. After working with American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam and traveling to American Samoa, the CA-LEND team collectively identified that developmental screening tools were not available in languages that are commonly spoken in the islands



LEND Representation in the Arkansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Elizabeth Cleveland, PhD, CCC-SLP, Director of Training for the AR LEND, has been elected as the Arkansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association President-Elect for the 2022 calendar year. Dr. Cleveland was also recognized earlier this year as a Distinguished Early Career Professional through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Center.


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