The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) website featured MNLEND Fellow Elise Niedermeier‘s collaboration with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to bring sensory tents to the Minneapolis parks this summer. Sensory tents can help people, such as children with autism, cope with sensory overload. The article is titled, “MNLEND Fellow Leads Creation of Sensory Tents in the Minneapolis Parks.”
Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization screened to an audience of over 300 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis on March 1. The film, directed by Jerry Smith of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI), explores a concept developed in the 1960s that provided a framework for moving people from large institutions into their home communities. This had a dramatic influence on services and supports for people with intellectual disabilities and fundamentally changed the way many professionals understood their roles in supporting people. Dr. Colleen Wieck set the stage historically with a presentation on the impact of Normalization in Minnesota. A panel discussion following the film examined the need to revisit Wolfensberger’s ideas, at a time when many communities are building new, segregated facilities for people with disabilities. The evening at the Walker concluded with a tribute to ICI’s Angelo Amado, who is retiring in March. Valuing Lives is available for purchase at rtcmedia.vhx.tv.
Anna Chistokhina (left) and Zoya Berdnikova (center) from the Social Innovation Fund in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, traveled to ICI in January for a scouting trip as part of the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Project, a collaborative project with ICI’s Global Resource Center on Inclusive Education (GRC). The project, funded by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, is developing systems to support the community inclusion and employment of young adults with disabilities.
Chistokhina and Berdinkova, along with GRC co-directors Renáta Tichá (far right) and Brian Abery, visited sites focused on transition from secondary school to community living and employment by young adults with disabilities, and discussed similarities and differences between service and support approaches in the U.S. and the Russian Federation. Among the sites were the Success Beyond program in St. Paul (pictured), Lionsgate Academy, and The Arc of Minnesota; they also shadowed professionals who support young adults with disabilities in community-based settings. This was part of the preparation and planning for a larger Russian delegation coming to ICI in April.
The Peer-to-Peer project is a continuation of a long-standing partnership between Krasnoyarsk State University and ICI. “What I really enjoy about this continued collaboration between Krasnoyarsk and Minnesota is how sincere and dedicated our Russian partners are to making a difference in the lives of children and young adults with disabilities back home,” says Tichá.
The new contract’s primary areas of focus include expanding implementation of statewide person-centered practices and positive behavior support through regional training and technical assistance; building service professional capacity using DirectCourse, the online competency-based training system operated by a partnership of the RTC-CL and Elsevier; facilitation, coordination, and implementation support for Minnesota’s statewide plan for building effective systems for implementing positive practices and supports; technical assistance and training for organizational change to promote the use of person-centered practices within Minnesota DHS; building and sustaining in-state training capacity for person-centered thinking and person-centered planning; development of Web-based resources on best practices in implementing person-centered and positive behavior supports; and coordination of communities of practice for person centered practices and positive behavior supports.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) renewed the appointment of ICI’s Jennifer Hall-Lande as the Minnesota Act Early Ambassador, extending it through October 2018 to spread the CDC’s “Learn the Signs, Act Early” message throughout the state.
CDC trained her to develop and expand on ICI’s Act Early work of promoting early identification, screening, and intervention for autism and related neurodevelopmental disabilities in culturally- and linguistically-diverse communities across Minnesota. That work expanded this fall when the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), through a subcontract from CDC, awarded her $137,000 for a new nine-month project, “Learn the Signs, Act Early” Formative Research Evaluation of Developmental Books. ”
This project helps the Minnesota Act Early team to evaluate the effectiveness of our materials in promoting parent-led developmental monitoring, and it’s also a great opportunity for building a strong professional partnership with the AUCD team and UCEDDs in New York and Indiana,” she says. UCEDDs (University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities) are a federally-designated network of programs similar to ICI that are housed in major universities and teaching hospitals across the country to promote a nation in which all Americans, including Americans with disabilities, participate fully in their communities.
“This grant adds to ICI’s growing portfolio of ‘Learn the Signs, Act Early’ projects, including our Outreach Work and State Systems Grant: Minnesota Act Early,” says Hall-Lande. Also, in September, ICI’s Minnesota Act Early team partnered with Minnesota Help Me Grow to train another group of cultural delegates to conduct Learn the Signs outreach in their communities. The newly-trained delegates join the ranks of an existing “Minnesota Learn the Signs, Act Early” statewide network of approximately 100 trained delegates who use the Act Early materials and resources to help parents monitor child development. In this way, delegates connect with families in their communities to support early identification.
On October 1, the College’s Institute on Community Integration (ICI) received a one-year, $100,000 grant from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to create virtual and in-person platforms for dialogues between professionals and parents who support young Russians and Americans with disabilities. The goal is to develop opportunities and strategies for inclusive community living and employment (independent or semi-independent housing and community participation) for young adults with disabilities in both countries. Specifically, the grant will support 16- to 21-year-olds in the Twin Cities and in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Known as the U.S.–Russia Peer-to-Peer Project: Developing Systems to Support the Employment and Community Inclusion of Young Adults with Disabilities, the collaboration will include electronic exchanges on inclusive community living and employment. There will be dual person-to-person exchanges between Russia and the U.S. (including conferences in each country) and dialogues about how culture affects community inclusion in both countries. The exchanges will feature seven adults in each country, including professionals, family members, and at least one person with a disability representing each country. The project will form learning communities to serve as resources for successful transition approaches and strategies, author a guide outlining key practical steps for inclusive employment and community living, and create online modules in these areas available in both countries.
The Russian collaborator on the project is the Social Innovation Fund in Krasnoyarsk. Project director Renáta Tichá and colleague Brian Abery (pictured together in Moscow in 2015) have worked on various projects with people in Krasnoyarsk, including staff from Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University, and look forward to expanding those relationships. “This project is an important continuation of our work with professionals in Krasnoyarsk who support children and youth with disabilities. This new opportunity provides a venue for collaboration with our colleagues on transition issues for young adults with disabilities from school to community,” says Tichá. U.S.–Russia Peer-to-Peer is a project of ICI’s Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education, of which Tichá is also director.
The College’s Institute on Community Integration (ICI) has been awarded a $2.5 million “Stepping-Up Technology Implementation” grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, to develop technology tools that support the national implementation of two evidence-based web applications over the next five years. For more than 26 years, the Check & Connect intervention model has helped keep thousands of students across the country on track towards graduation. The Student Engagement Instrument (SEI) is the second web application that will be utilized in the project. SEI is a screening tool that establishes reliable and valid measures of students’ cognitive and affective engagement. This “Stepping Up” project will develop, pilot, and disseminate web-based tools (i.e., interactive web site, online professional development, manuals and guides, and other specific technology resources) that support the implementation of these two particular interventions. David R. Johnson is Principal Investigator (PI) on the project; Eileen A. Klemm will serve as Co-PI.
“We are thrilled to receive this note of confidence from our colleagues at the U.S. Department of Education,” says ICI director David R. Johnson. “The Check & Connect model is a well-established intervention that has proven to work with disengaged students. We look forward to further developing the technology support system that will enable its national implementation.”
The new project will be conducted in three phases. The first phase (years 1-2; including 3 total schools) will involve initial iterative development of the supporting technology tools. The second phase (years 3-4, involving 4 total schools) will feature a pilot program to further develop and evaluate the technology tools and resources with test sites. If approved, the team moves into the third phase (year 5, featuring 10 total schools) where they will implement and continue to evaluate the specific tools in the additional schools that will become first time end-users. A formative and summative evaluation process will be designed and implemented by an evaluation coordinator to provide continuous feedback on all project activities. A dissemination plan will also be developed as part of the project’s scope.
Check & Connect is an evidence-based mentoring intervention for K-12 students who show signs of disengagement from school and may be at risk of dropping out. At the core of the Check & Connect model is a trusting relationship between student and a dedicated mentor. Students are referred to a Check & Connect mentor when they have poor attendance, behavioral issues, and/or low grades. The mentor both advocates for and challenges students to keep education salient using systematic “Check” and “Connect” procedures. Check & Connect is the only dropout prevention intervention listed on the IES What Works Clearinghouse found to have positive effects on staying in school.
Cliff Poetz of the College’s Institute on Community Integration will receive the Leadership in Advocacy Award from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) during the AUCD 2017 conference in Washington, DC on November 5-8. The award is presented to an outstanding individual or family member who has exhibited exceptional leadership and self-advocacy skills in the area of developmental disabilities.
Poetz’s self-advocacy began in 1970. Like many people with developmental disabilities at the time, he lived in a large institution and was labeled “retarded.” But his institution was in Minneapolis and “the city was alive with talk of social change and civil rights,” he recalls. Poetz protested the discrimination, people listened, and the media took notice. He has influenced social change and legislation every since. An active and effective advocate, he helped launch Advocating Change Together in the late 1970s and People First Minnesota in the 1980s. He went on to serve as a board member of numerous organizations and has had advisory roles with a number of foundations and academic centers.
“I only wish my parents could have seen how my life has turned out,” he reflects. “They would not believe how I live on my own, how I travel all over the country, how people with impressive titles and jobs know me and listen to me. Self-advocacy has given me wonderful opportunities. I see my involvement in continuing to organize self-advocacy groups as one way that I can help other people have wonderful opportunities of their own.”
The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the college’s Institute on Community Integration (ICI) has been awarded a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs to establish a National Technical Assistance Center on Inclusive Practices and Policies. The new center will be called The TIES Center: Increasing Time, Instructional Effectiveness, Engagement, and State Support for Inclusive Practices for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities. Sheryl Lazarus will be the principal investigator and Kristin Liu the co-principal investigator.
The purpose of the TIES Center is to create sustainable changes in school and district educational systems so that students with significant cognitive disabilities can fully engage in the same instructional and non-instructional activities as their general education peers while being instructed in a way that meets individual learning needs.
The TIES Center will be funded for five years, $2 million per year. Subcontractors for the TIES Center identified by NCEO are University of North Carolina Charlotte, University of North Carolina Greensboro, University of Cincinnati, CAST, University of Kentucky and the Arizona Department of Education.
“This is wonderful opportunity for NCEO and its partners to do important and exciting work on the inclusion of students with significant cognitive disabilities,” says Lazarus. Future project activities will support increased student engagement and improved learning outcomes for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
What the TIES Center Will Do
The primary outcome of the TIES Center is to improve the quality of instruction for students with significant cognitive disabilities in inclusive environments through the use of existing curriculum and instructional materials. The new center will also provide models and coaching to both general education and special education teachers to create more inclusive opportunities. In addition the TIES Center will support changes to inclusive practices and policies within partner state and local education agencies.
The TIES Center has identified five goals to support its outcomes:
Develop professional learning communities in partner state and local education agencie
Develop coaching models for implementation of resources, inclusive practices and communicative competence.
Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing resources.
Support parents to become partners in the practice of inclusion for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
Support systems change within the leadership of state and local education agencies for implementation of inclusive practices.
Established in 1990, NCEO is a federally-funded technical-assistance center that supports states and districts on issues related to inclusive assessments, particularly for students with disabilities, English learners (ELs) and ELs with disabilities.
Employment for people with disabilities is a growing trend and researchers and staff from the College’s Institute on Community Integration are spreading the word. For example, on June 19-22, Kelly Nye-Lengerman presented four sessions at the National APSE (Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst) conference in Portland, Oregon. They were: “Full Speed Ahead: Promoting Youth Readiness for Employment and Education with PROMISE”, “How Are We Doing with Implementing Good Practice in Employment Supports?”, “Power of 5: Moving the Needle: The Words We Use Matter”, and “Bringing Employment First to Scale: State of the Science.” Meanwhile, on June 22, Jeffrey Nurick (pictured) was in Duluth as a panelist on the discussion, “Living the Dream: Employment First in Action,” at the Minnesota Age & Disabilities Odyssey conference.
Anab Gulaid, a public health expert in CEHD’s Institute on Community Integration, was a panelist for Vaccine and Autism: Myths and Facts, a recent town hall forum held to address Somali parents’ concerns about the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, autism, and the measles outbreak affecting the Twin Cities’ Somali community.
Held on July 8 at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, the forum was hosted by the Humphrey School and the Voice of America news network, which broadcast the two panel discussions – one in Somali and one in English – to its worldwide audience. The gathering, which was covered by numerous media (e.g., Minnesota Public Radio,Fox 9 News), was prompted by the measles outbreak tied to low MMR vaccination rates among Minnesota’s Somali community.
Crediting her colleagues at DirectCourse, the Institute on Community Integration’s Amy Hewitt accepted a Committee’s Choice Award at the University of Minnesota’s 2017 Innovation Awards on March 28.
Hosted by the University’s Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office for Technology Commercialization, the event at the McNamara Alumni Center recognized 220 University inventors whose technology had been licensed or patented between July 2014 and June 2016. Hewitt’s award was one of only four Innovation Awards presented, all of which recognize the accomplishments of outstanding University innovators who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit, are actively engaged in developing new innovations and transitioning those technologies to the commercial market, and have made an impact on society.
DirectCourse is an online training curriculum designed to empower support and care professionals to help people with intellectual, developmental, physical, and psychiatric disabilities, and older adults, lead meaningful lives within their communities. During last year alone, it provided more than 6 million hours of training to over 500,000 learners in 41 states and abroad.
Hewitt has led the research, development, and management of DirectCourse over the past 15 years, working with a team of staff at ICI, its business partners at Elsevier, and its community roots. “I am delighted that this award recognizes an ‘invention’ that was created by and for the community in alignment with our university’s land grant mission to promote education and collaboration that advances knowledge which benefits communities, the state, and the world,” Hewitt told the gathering. “DirectCourse was not created in a laboratory on campus: the community was its laboratory and this has made all the difference. The learning provided by DirectCourse has had an immediate and lasting effect on hundreds of thousands of direct support professionals and the people with disabilities they support.”
On December 6, Kelly Nye-Lengerman from the College’s Institute on Community Integration received the AUCD Young Professional Award during the AUCD annual conference in Washington, DC. This award is presented to professionals in the disabilities field under the age of 40 who have demonstrated dedication and commitment to people with developmental disabilities and their families through their work as a bridge between the academic sector and the community.
In October, Anab Gulaid from the college’s Institute on Community Integration was invited to join the National Advisory Committee for the Diversity & Inclusion Training Action Plan (D&I-TAP), a one-year project funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The goal of the project is to research, develop, and disseminate a D&I-TAP for the national network of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs), of which ICI is a member. Gulaid’s committee duties began in November.
The convening brought together about 100 representatives from states, districts, and schools, as well as researchers, and assessment developers. The purpose was to discuss how to improve assessments and reduce the burden of redundant assessments, consistent with the Obama Testing Action Plan released in October 2015.
Thurlow (pictured here, center) participated in a panel discussion on better, fairer, and fewer assessments. Representing the “fairer” aspect of the convening, she responded to questions from Gene Wilhoit, director of the National Center for Innovation in Education, and the audience. Thurlow also collaborated with Jose Blackorby of CAST in a breakout session focused on increasing accessibility.
“It was a great opportunity to ensure that the development of innovative assessments and efforts to reduce the number of assessments continue to ensure that the results are fair to all students, including those with disabilities and those who are English learners,” noted Thurlow.
NCEO provides national leadership in designing and building educational assessments and accountability systems that appropriately monitor educational results for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are English Language Learners. NCEO receives funding from the federal government, states, and other organizations.
The Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopment and Related Disabilities Program (MN LEND) at the College’s Institute on Community Integration will present its fall forum, “Litigation: Advancing the Rights of People with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities” in St. Paul on November 17. The keynote speaker is the Honorable Donovan W. Frank, U.S. District Judge for the District of Minnesota, and long-time champion for the rights of people with disabilities. He will be joined by a panel of local and national legal experts to discuss how litigation is framing and moving forward the human and civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities:
Greg Brooker, First Assistant U.S. Attorney
David Ferleger, Attorney with Supreme Court and federal court experience
Pamela Hoopes, Attorney, Legal Director at Minnesota Disability Law Center
Roberta Opheim, State of Minnesota Office of the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities
The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required. “MN LEND focuses on improving access to and equity of high quality assessment, services and supports for all children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families,” says Amy Hewitt, MN LEND training director. “Litigation has always been key to transforming systems and moving forward the disability rights movement in the United States. We are so fortunate to be able to bring together such an esteemed group of professionals for our MN LEND forum.”
The forum will be on Thursday, November 17 in the Grand Hall at the TIES Event Center, 1644 Larpenteur Avenue West, St. Paul, MN 55108. The program, with a light lunch at the start, runs from 12:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m., followed by an ice cream reception.
The event will also be filmed and posted on the MN LEND website in the LEND Webinar Archive for later viewing.
The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the Institute on Community Integration has been awarded a five-year, $10 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, to continue its knowledge development and technical assistance work focusing on participation and performance of students with disabilities in relation to state and districtwide assessments.
With this new funding, which began October 1, 2016, NCEO will work with its long-time partners, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), and add two new partners, AEM Corporation and WestEd, in its efforts to meet new objectives. Among the new areas of focus is supporting states in their efforts to support districts to improve results for students with disabilities. In addition, NCEO will collect, analyze, synthesize, and disseminate evidence-based information on such topics as inclusive, technology-based, formative, and summative assessments, as well as the use of assessments for instructional decision-making purposes and to ensure implementation of State Identified Measurable Results (SIMRs).
NCEO will continue to provide leadership on the inclusion of students with disabilities, English learners (ELs), and ELs with disabilities in comprehensive assessment systems. It will examine the participation of students with disabilities and ELs with disabilities in national and state assessments and the reporting of assessment information on these students. It will also continue to seek ways to bridge general education, special education, English as a Second Language or bilingual education, and other systems as they work to increase accountability for the results of education for all students, and ultimately, their improved outcomes.
“It is great to have an expanded focus in the five-year grant to continue NCEO’s activities,” says NCEO director Martha Thurlow. “We will work more closely now with states as they support their districts to increase participation in and improve performance on all assessments.” Her colleague, NCEO senior research associate Sheryl Lazarus, agrees, adding, “The new award will support improved instruction and assessment of students with disabilities, resulting in better outcomes and more students being prepared for college and careers.”
The Institute’s Check & Connect program has reached south of the equator. The comprehensive student engagement intervention is being implemented in Australia and New Zealand. Check & Connect director Jean Echternacht and ICI director David R. Johnson were warmly received in August when they spent nearly three weeks “down under” promoting it. “It was rewarding to see how a relationship-based, evidence-based model developed at the University of Minnesota is being implemented with fidelity so far from home,” says Echternacht. Last fall, Check & Connect mentors from Australia and New Zealand presented at the program’s 25th anniversary conference in Minneapolis. Echternacht and Johnson returned the favor by co-presenting at conferences in both countries last month. “More than 100 people who were informed and interested in Check & Connect attended our presentation at the New Zealand Schoolwide Conference on Positive Behavior Supports; we were invited to speak there because they implement Check & Connect as part of PBS,” says Echternacht. They also discussed Check & Connect with officials from the New Zealand Ministry of Education, which has used it in high schools for the past three years and began implementing the model in middle schools this fall. And Echternacht packed another ICI export in her luggage: “I brought along Expanding the Circle, a transition curriculum originally designed for American Indian students, to help with their indigenous students, and the Ministry staff were delighted.”
In this project, Check & Connect will serve as a targeted or intensive intervention that will complement MDE’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), coordinating and collaborating with existing practices and supports such as response to intervention (RtI) and positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS). The project goal is to ensure a comprehensive approach that leads to increasing graduation rates for Black and American Indian students with disabilities in four Minnesota school districts: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Osseo.