The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

ASSERT finds success in expansion

October 22, 2014 by Sue Reeves

By Natalie Nix, social media intern

Image of little girl and teacher with iPad.

An ASSERT student communicates with her teacher via an iPad app.

The Autism Support Services: Education, Research, and Training (ASSERT) program at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities has added an additional afternoon session to the program and administrators have so far been pleased with its success. The new session was the result of increased funding received from the state of Utah.

“Since our current classroom space was not large enough to accommodate four additional students, we decided to open up an afternoon session instead,” said Dr. Thomas Higbee, the director of ASSERT.

Higbee said that preparations for the expansion took place throughout the summer, some of which included training additional staff and rearranging the classroom to make more effective use of the space.

Lyndsay Nix, the ASSERT program coordinator, said that even though it takes more “coordinating,” having two sessions has allowed them to hire more staff because they are now more flexible with schedules.

“Adding an afternoon session has also facilitated our research by giving us additional access to students to run our research projects,” Higbee said. “It has also given us more flexibility when scheduling observations or training sessions as we can schedule them in either the morning or the afternoon.”

Nix said that it is fun to have students there all day, but it definitely affects time management for staff meetings and additional work that has to take place after the students have left.

“While it has certainly increased the amount of administrative time that is required to manage the program,” Higbee said, “the ability to serve more families has been worth it.”

Higbee said that two more families will be added to the program in January, bringing the total to 14 families.

“All in all, while difficult, the expansion has been a very positive thing for ASSERT,” Higbee said. “We have been able to help more families of children with autism, which is the most important thing.”

TAESE gets two new projects

October 20, 2014 by Sue Reeves

TAESE logoThe Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities is a partner in two new projects that will begin soon.

TAESE is one of several partners, including Westat and WestEd, that will be working on the IDEA Data Management Center (IDMC). The grant was awarded to Applied Engineering Management Corporation (AEM) for 5 years at $2.5 million annually.

Steven Smith of TAESE will be serving as the Deputy Director for the IDMC, and another TAESE employee will be fulfilling an as yet undefined role. IDMC’s central goals are to:

1. Improve the capacity of State Education Agencies (SEAs) to meet the IDEA Part B Sections 616 and 618 data collection and reporting requirements.

2. Assist SEAs in restructuring their existing data systems and in aligning their data collection for students with disabilities to the data collection for the general student population in their State-wide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS).

3. Improve the validity and reliability of the data reported to the Secretary of Education and the public as required under Sections 616 and 618 of IDEA.

The IDEA Fiscal Data Center (IFDC) project was awarded to WestEd for 5 years at $3.2 million annually. TAESE is one of several partners, including American Institutes of Research (AIR) and Westat.

Smith will be the Knowledge Development Functional Team lead, Wayne Ball will be the Technical Assistance and Dissemination Functional Team lead, and Shauna Crane will be the Technology and Communication Functional Team lead. IFDC’s goals are to:

1. Improve the capacity of State staff to collect and report accurate fiscal data to meet the data collection requirements related to the IDEA Part B local education agency maintenance of effort reduction and coordinated early intervening services and State maintenance of financial support.

2. Increase State staff’s knowledge of the underlying fiscal requirements and the calculations necessary to submit valid and reliable data on local education agency maintenance of effort/coordinated early intervening services and State maintenance of financial support.


Distinguished guests from Morocco visit CPD

October 17, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Mohamed Knidiri (left) and colleague visit with Vonda Jump and Bryce Fifield of the CPD.

Mohamed Knidiri (left) and colleague visit with Vonda Jump and Bryce Fifield of the CPD.

The Center for Persons with Disabilities recently hosted Dr. Mohamed Knidiri, the former Minister of Education for the Kingdom of Morocco, to discuss plans for a specialized neuro-rehabilitation center in Marrakech City, Morocco and the possibility of collaboration.

Knidiri, who is currently the president of the Private University of Marrakech and president of Association Le Grand Atlas, a non-governmental organization (NGO), is a highly regarded researcher in neuroplasticity. He has formally invited the CPD to collaborate with his proposed rehabilitation facility, and hopes that some of his staff will be able to obtain visas to come to the CPD to learn from the professionals here.

Dr. Bryce Fifield, director of the CPD, welcomed Knidiri, saying, “We are so honored to have you visit. We’re delighted to have you at the CPD.”

CPD researchers Vonda Jump and Mark Innocenti, CPD assistant director Cyndi Rowland, and Vicki Simonsmeier from the clinical services division also attended the meeting.

Knidiri hopes to raise $5 million over the next two years to build the first neuro-rehabilitation facility on the African continent. His clinic is currently housed in donated space in a medical center in Marakesh. It began operations in June of this year, treating 50 patients with a wide range of conditions including stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and children with congenital neurological conditions.

“The main reason we are here is cooperation and exchange of ideas,” Knidiri said. “We need partnerships to make it larger, and I hope we will have the chance to work together.”


Heidi’s Happenings: A Visit to the Fire Station

October 15, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Heidi Hill is a guest blogger for the CPD’s Developmental Skills Laboratory (DSL), a day program for adults with disabilities. Heidi loves to type and each month she’ll be sharing the fun activities that she and her “buds” are doing at DSL.

Image of woman in party hat.

We celebrated Marla’s birthday in September!

This month at the DSL worksite we had lots of fun! We celebrated many birthdays in September!

Heidi Sue and the buds were able to visit one fire station. When Heidi and the buds had reached this brick building, they saw some really long fire poles. They also saw some really long silver fire ladders. Everyone who went down there asked the crewmembers about how they can quickly save lives of people in traffic accidents. Heidi Sue watched how the Jaws of Life worked!

We also had one barbeque with Common Ground Outdoor Adventures. It was lots of fun and we had lots of hamburgers and hotdogs.

We also had another great party just ‘neath this six-poled pavilion. When all of the buds just were clustered outdoors, they heard their family members directly pull in. All the food really was super good. We had hot dogs and chili and lots of yummy food. It was great that our family members could join us for that pavilion opening. We are very happy that now we have a groovy pavilion right outside our worksite doorstep.

We also did window art in September, and it was lots of fun. We did food fun and made yogurt parfaits. We are excited for apples, and the Pumpkin Walk in October!

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DSL plans holiday cookbook

October 13, 2014 by Sue Reeves

30877704.thbStaff at the Developmental Skills Lab will be creating a Christmas cookbook for friends and family, and they need your help!

“We would appreciate your family favorite recipes,” said DSL staff member Daurie Bastian. “ Whether healthy, sweet, comforting–any and all recipes will be welcome!  They don’t have to be Christmas recipes, but please include your Christmas recipes!

Our participants love cooking, and I know they would love to share recipes with their friends and families.”

Bastian asks contributors to e-mail at least five recipes to her by October 31. Include your name, relationship to the DSL or to a participant, and the story behind the recipe. The cookbooks will be given out at the annual DSL Christmas Party as a gift from the participants.

“I hope you will participate in this fun project,” Bastian said. “I know I love recipes, and I would love to have a collection from the ‘DSL Worksite,’ as Heidi Sue would say! Ok, on your mark, get set, send me recipes!”

Send your recipes to Bastian at