Category Archives: Institute on Community Integration

Poetz to receive National Leadership Award from AUCD

Photograph of Cliff Poetz, self-advocate for people with disabilities, at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Cliff Poetz, self-advocate for people with disabilities, at the Minnesota State Capitol.

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.”

NCEO receives $10 million to establish new center to support inclusive practices for students with significant cognitive disabilities

Sheryl Lazarus, principal investigator.
Kristin Liu, co-principal investigator.

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:

  1. Develop professional learning communities in partner state and local education agencie
  2. Develop coaching models for implementation of resources, inclusive practices and communicative competence.
  3. Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing resources.
  4. Support parents to become partners in the practice of inclusion for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
  5. 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.

Promoting employment for people with disabilities

ICI's Jeffrey Nurick speaking at a conference.
ICI’s Jeffrey Nurick speaking at a conference.

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.

ICI’s Gulaid among panelists for Voice of America town hall on autism and vaccines


ICI's Anab Gulaid (in blue headscarf) is interviewed on camera at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs on July 8, 2017.
ICI’s Anab Gulaid (in blue headscarf) is interviewed on camera at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs on July 8, 2017.

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.

See video of the panel discussion in English (which includes a short segment on autism research by CEHD faculty Jed Elison and Jason Wolff) and the other panel discussion in Somali (which includes Anab Gulaid).

Hewitt accepts University’s Innovation Award

Amy Hewitt, holding the award, accepting it on behalf of the DirectCourse team, who are also in the picture.
Amy Hewitt (fifth from right) accepted the award on behalf of the DirectCourse team (pictured).

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.”

Image of Amy Hewitt in a short video about DirectCourse.
Amy Hewitt speaks about DirectCourse in this short video.

The photograph (at top of post) was taken at the awards ceremony. Pictured, from left to right, are Bill Waibel (Elsevier), Barb Kleist, Jennifer Hall-Lande, Macdonald Metzger, Mark Olson, Barbara Cullen (Elsevier), Merrie Haskins, Susan ONell, Claire Benway, Kelly Nye-Lengerman, Amy Hewitt, Dan Raudenbush (Elsevier), Kristin Dean, David R. Johnson, and Bill Tapp (co-founder). Click here for more information about the awards and a short video.

Nye-Lengerman receives AUCD Young Professional Award

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.

Gulaid joins National Advisory Committee

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.


Thurlow speaks at White House convening on education

Martha Thurlow, director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the college’s Institute on Community Integration, participated in the White House Convening on Better, Fairer, and Fewer Assessments in Washington, D.c., on Dec. 7.

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.

Abery and Tichá launch project in Armenia

unicef_armenia_400wOn October 9, Brian Abery (left) and Renáta Tichá (center) from the College’s Institute on Community Integration (ICI) began a two-week visit to Armenia to launch Enhancing the Inclusion of Children and Youth with Disabilities in Armenia: University of Minnesota – Armenian State Pedagogical University Partnership, a project that is part of ICI’s Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education. Funded by UNICEF Armenia, the partnering universities are collaborating to ensure that inclusive education practices that were proven in the U.S. can be adapted to Armenia and their usability and feasibility understood in that central Asian country. Rafik Mansour (right), Deputy U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, opened the conference where the partnership was launched, as reported in local media, including The Armenian Post. Susan O’Connor (second from left) and Christopher Johnstone (second from right) also work on the project.

Judge Donovan Frank to keynote MN LEND Forum on litigation for disability rights

Banner image promoting the MN LEND Forum on November 17, 2016.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
  • Shamus O’Meara, Attorney, Managing Shareholder at O’Meara, Leer, Wagner & Kohl, P.A.
  • 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.

$10 million grant awarded to NCEO to improve academic assessments of children with disabilities

NCEO logoThe 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.”

ICI partners with Armenian university on new UNICEF-funded project

To promote inclusive education in Armenia, the Institute on Community Integration is building a sustainable partnership with Armenian State Pedagogical University (ASPU), the only university in that central Asian country that trains both general and special education personnel. Armenia is making education more inclusive, triggering a critical need in the country for training, knowledge dissemination, and technical assistance to assist with this endeavor. This has paved the way for a new ICI project called Enhancing the Inclusion of Children and Youth with Disabilities in Armenia: University of Minnesota – Armenian State Pedagogical University Partnership. The 20-month, $150,000 project is funded by UNICEF Armenia and began May 16, 2016. Renáta Tichá is principal investigator and Brian Abery  is co-principal investigator.

In this project, the partnering universities will collaborate to ensure that inclusive education practices proven in the U.S. can be adapted to Armenia and their usability and feasibility further understood. The collaboration will conduct gap analysis of current needs and inclusive practices in ASPU’s education and special education coursework, introduce ASPU faculty to inclusive practices in Minnesota, and build an online learning community (Inclusion Portal). Staff from the two universities will visit each other’s countries, and ICI filmmaker Jerry Smith  will produce a film for the project that documents Armenia’s progress towards inclusive education. “This project is a wonderful opportunity to share expertise and experiences of inclusive education between our two countries, and to build a strong partnership between ICI and a pedagogical university in Yerevan, Armenia,” Tichá says. The project is part of ICI’s Global Resource Center on Inclusive Education.

MN LEND funding renewed through 2021

Federal funding for the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program (MN LEND) at the Institute on Community Integration has been renewed and increased through a new five-year, $3.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that began July 1. “This renewal will allow continued opportunities for collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Human Services, Minnesota Disability Law Center and a number of non-profit agencies in areas that support policy innovation, service delivery, translational research, and other dissemination activities,” says Joe Reichle, MN LEND director.

ICI co-hosts summit in India on inclusion and Response to Intervention

Brian Abery (first on left) and Renata Ticha (second from right) from ICI helped organize the first International Summit on Inclusion and Response to Intervention, June 8-10, in Coimbatore, India.
Brian Abery (first on left) and Renata Ticha (second from right) from ICI helped organize the first International Summit on Inclusion and Response to Intervention, June 8-10, in Coimbatore, India.

Over 250 education leaders from seven nations attended the first International Summit on Inclusion and Response to Intervention on June 8-10, a milestone gathering organized by the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) and Avinashilingam University for Women in Coimbatore, India. Funded by the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative and held at Avinashilingam, the summit brought together international presenters to discuss engaging all children, including those with disabilities, within schools and communities. The organizers (pictured here with key presenters from India) — ICI’s Dr. Brian Abery and Dr. Renata Ticha, and Avinashilingam University’s Dr. Premavathy Vijayan and Dr. G. Victoria Naomi — have collaborated for the past three years on a project  between India and the U.S. fostering use of the Response to Intervention (RtI) education framework. A culmination of that project, the summit presented multiple perspectives on inclusion and RtI. “Participants will take back to their organizations a wealth of information about these approaches to education,” says Abery. “We hope these discussions will stimulate lasting systemic change in how children with disabilities are educated.” Presentations will be available for viewing on the summit Website next week.

Hall-Lande appointed MN Act Early Ambassador

Hall-Lande_JenniferDr. Jennifer Hall-Lande (Institute on Community Integration) has been selected as Minnesota’s 2016-18 Act Early Ambassador by the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. This marks the start of her second two-year term as the Minnesota point-of-contact for the CDC’s nationwide “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” (LTSAE) program to improve early identification of developmental delays and disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder. “Over the past five years, Minnesota’s Act Early team has partnered with state agencies, early childhood and parent organizations, and cultural organizations from diverse communities to share the message of “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” with thousands of parents of young children,” says Dr. Hall-Lande. “We greatly appreciate this additional support to further grow our efforts in our communities across the state.” On April 18 she took the message of “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” to the “Mom Enough” Podcast, where she was interviewed by mother-daughter co-hosts Marti & Erin Erickson on the topic of “Early Identification and Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Resources That Change a Child’s Life” (listen here).

ICI releases film on Wolf Wolfensberger and normalization

DVD cover of the film "Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization."
DVD cover of the film “Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization.”

“Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization” is a newly released film from the Research and Training Center on Community Living in CEHD’s Institute on Community Integration. The film explores the principle of normalization, an idea that challenged fundamental assumptions about people with intellectual disabilities, and the iconoclastic professor whose intense, multi-day workshops trained thousands of human services professionals in the theory and practice of this idea. His book Normalization, published in 1972, became wildly popular and provided a theoretical blueprint for community inclusion as the deinstitutionalization movement was gaining strength. His formulation of normalization swept through the field of disabilities and had a significant effect on the design of services and supports in North America and internationally, representing a sea change in thinking at a time when it was considered normal to warehouse nearly 200,000 Americans with intellectual disabilities in large institutions. “Today, there are still institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, and it is time for a new generation of leaders to rediscover the principle of normalization,” says the film’s director, Jerry Smith. To learn more, visit the “Valuing Lives” Web site.

2016 MN LEND Forum addresses the neurobiology of poverty

Dr. Megan Gunnar, University of Minnesota, Institute of Child Development
Dr. Megan Gunnar, University of Minnesota, Institute of Child Development
Researchers increasingly are aware that conditions in the first few years of a child’s life can influence their physical, emotional, and mental health throughout their lifespan. The 2016 MN LEND Forum, “The Neurobiology of Poverty – Children Living in Poverty: Neurodevelopmental and Biological Correlates,” explores what is known about the life-long effects of growing up in poverty via the perspectives of two leading researchers in the field.


Dr. Seth Pollak of the University of Wisconsin-Madison will discuss “Child Poverty and the Income-Achievement Gap: Insights from Cognitive Neuroscience” and Dr. Megan Gunnar from the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development will present “Poverty, Allostatic Load and the Stress Neuraxis: A Mechanism or a Bridge Too Far?”

The live Webcast from this sold-out forum at the University of Minnesota will take place on Thursday, April 28, 12:30 – 3:00 p.m. Central Time. For more information and to register for the Webcast see

The MN LEND Forum is an annual event sponsored by the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program ( of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota. The interdisciplinary MN LEND training program prepares future leaders who will serve children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, and their families in healthcare, education, human services, and policy settings.

Dr. Seth Pollak, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Seth Pollak, University of Wisconsin-Madison

NCEO: Working nationwide for students with disabilities and educators

Martha Thurlow, Director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).
Martha Thurlow, Director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).

As President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act on December 10, Martha Thurlow was meeting with several states to ensure that students with disabilities who are English learners are appropriately identified and served. It’s this kind of careful, ground-level work that the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) has been doing for over 25 years with one goal in mind: improve the nation’s ability to educate students with disabilities and help them succeed.

While national education policy and school-level practice have evolved in recent decades, NCEO partners with states, educational associations, federal government, and others to support educational assessments and accountability systems that appropriately monitor educational results for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are English Language Learners (ELLs). As Director Martha Thurlow notes, “NCEO’s work has contributed to dramatic shifts in attention to the educational success of students with disabilities.”

This past year alone, NCEO staff have traveled the country, conducting research, training, consultations, and information-sharing on needs ranging from accommodating test-takers with disabilities to including ELLs with disabilities in assessments. Some of the center’s activities include:

  • Research. NCEO is conducting a half-dozen projects and research studies that collect data on the participation and performance of students with disabilities, ELLs, and ELLs with disabilities in K-12 state and district accountability assessments around the U.S. An example of this is the Alternate English Language Learning Assessment (ALTELLA) project. ALTELLA is a collaboration of five states that will apply lessons learned from the past decade of research on assessing ELLs and students with significant cognitive disabilities to develop an alternate English Language Proficiency assessment for ELLs with significant cognitive disabilities.
  • Training and Presentation. NCEO regularly presents its findings — and trains others how to use the results. Last April, for example, Laurene Christensen and Vitaliy Shyyan presented “Choosing Accommodations for Assessments Based on Common Core State Standards” at the Council for Exceptional Children conference in San Diego. This April, Sheryl Lazarus will co-lead a workshop on formative assessment at the Council for Exceptional Children conference in St. Louis.
  • Consultation. NCEO has a national network of people who assist states and other agencies as they consider assessment issues. This is important because federal legislation requires that students with disabilities be included on state assessments, but many states struggle to implement this requirement so they seek NCEO’s expertise. For instance, in partnership with the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21) consortium, NCEO is collaborating with 10 states and other organizations to ensure that English language proficiency assessments and instructional supports are accessible for all ELLs, including those with disabilities.
  • Dissemination. Through its newly-redesigned Web site, NCEO offers over 300 reports and briefs on topics ranging from an online accommodations decision-making curriculum to a new interactive report series titled, Data Analytics.

For more information about NCEO, contact Michael Moore.