Congratulations, CPD grads!

April 29, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of graduates celebrating.Seven staff members at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities will graduate with a  variety of degrees this semester. Here’s a quick look at them:

Natalie Allen is graduating with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (nurse practitioner) degree from the University of Utah. She has been a registered nurse with the Up to 3 Early Intervention program at the CPD for about 13 years. She has been a registered nurse for 25 years and said becoming a nurse practitioner has always been a goal. Her coursework took 10 semesters, and she will sit for the family and pediatric board exams later this spring.

Jared Gunnell is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He works with the ASSERT program. Jared switched to psychology from pre-med after taking a class in applied behavioral analysis. He is from Logan. His future plans include marriage and grad school as he continues to work with ASSERT and at Chrysalis, a residential provider of services to people with developmental disabilities.

Rene Hernandez is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. He works with Smart Start K-3 Plus. Rene is originally from El Salvador but grew up in Logan. He will continue to work with Smart Start while completing his second bachelor’s degree online in communication disorders through USU.

Greg Peterson is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He works in IT at the CPD and is from West Valley City, Utah. After graduation he will be a software development engineer in Boise, Idaho.

Curt Phillips is graduating with a Ph.D. in Disability Disciplines. He has been a physical therapist with the CPD’s Up to 3 Early Intervention program for 13 years. He participated in the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) program about nine years ago, and was encouraged by Interdisciplinary Training Director Judith Holt to enroll in the doctoral program, which took him 7 1/2 years to complete. In his newly found spare time, he plans to enjoy his family and continue to coach sports for his seven children.

Becca Roylance is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders. She works with the ASSERT program and is from Cottonwood Heights, Utah. She plans to finish the summer with ASSERT and will begin a master’s program in Speech-Language Pathology at USU in June.

Jess Trettin is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She works with the ASSERT program and is from Wildomar, Calif. She plans to return to California after graduation and work in a school district while completing a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology.

Congratulations, graduates!


CPD phonathon to start next week

April 26, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of presentation

Shane Johnson, associate director of development at the Center for Persons with Disabilities, introduces student callers to ‘people-first’ language.

A phonathon to raise money for two specific funds at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities will begin Monday and last for about a week, according to Shane Johnson, the CPD’s associate director of development.

Student callers will be soliciting pledges for the Family Assistance Fund, which allows needy families to access CPD services, and the Community Investment Fund, which awards grants to disability advocacy groups around the state of Utah.

The phonathon and a spring mailer are part of the CPD’s annual giving effort, Johnson said. The list of people the students will be calling includes those who have given gifts in the past, people who have worked or are currently employed at the CPD, and people who may have studied at the CPD but their own college didn’t call them.

Johnson encouraged people who receive the phone calls to offer feedback to the student callers. For many of them, this phonathon will be their first experience with disability and using ‘people-first’ language, which emphasizes the person rather than their disability.

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Engineering students build automated pill dispenser

April 24, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of product demonstration by students.

Engineering students Kris Payne (left) and Trevin Hafen demonstrate the Big Blue Pill Dispenser.

An engineering capstone project dubbed the ‘Big Blue Pill Dispenser’ made its debut at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities yesterday. Kris Payne, a senior electrical engineering student, and Trevin Hafen, a senior mechanical engineering student, made the presentation to several staff members, including Director Bryce Fifield and Assistive Technology Lab Coordinator Clay Christensen.

An Android tablet computer controls the device, which dispenses medications up to four times a day at programmable times. An audio prompt reminds the user to take the medications. If the pills are not removed from the tray, they drop to a locked compartment before the next dose is dispensed to prevent accidental overdose.

A caregiver loads the dispensing tray and programs the device using a touch screen which requires a password. A dispensing log can either be viewed on the touch screen or e-mailed to the caregiver. A text message can also be sent automatically to the caregiver if the medications are not retrieved from the dispensing tray.

The prototype built by the engineering students will be installed in the CPD’s Assistive and Rehabilitative Environments (AstRE) Lab Smarthome apartment, where automated assistive technology devices are tested and refined.

Close-up image of pill dispensing tray.

A closer view of the pill dispensing tray.

At this point, the Big Blue Pill Dispenser’s programmed cycle can’t be interrupted for refilling, and loading the dispensing tray is time-consuming. The students’ recommendations for the next design team include creating a template so the tray will be easier to load, and creating a way to pause the programming so the dispenser doesn’t have to be completely empty to reload.

Despite these issues, “It’s still quite an accomplishment,” Christensen said.

Hafen acknowleged the device’s current limitations.

“It does have some flaws, but it proves that it can be done,” he said. “It’s a proof-of-concept design.”

Payne said it was very different from the capstone projects other design teams worked on.

“It was the only one that had electronics,” he said. “I learned a lot about Java programming.”

“It was a more realistic project,” Hafen said. “This is what happens in industry.”

The prototype is about the size of a microwave oven, but Payne said it could be made smaller.

“If it went into production, it would be injection-molded plastic,” Hafen added.

The Big Blue Pill Dispenser will be demonstrated to the public from 4 to 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 25 in EL 207.

Seeing the possibilities

April 22, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of cardboard box

Corrugated cardboard and duct tape make a low-tech adaptive device.

With corrugated cardboard and duct tape, Amy Henningson can change the world.

Henningson, an occupational therapist with the Up to 3 Early Intervention program at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, recently created  a device for a boy who isn’t able to use his pointer finger. Essentially, it’s a cardboard box surrounding a switch-operated computer mouse. By inserting a finger into the hole in the cardboard, the boy can activate the switch that will make something happen—music will play or a game will start—on the computer screen. The more success he has at pointing his finger at the target, the more often he will be rewarded with some activity by the computer.

Often, the goal of assistive technology—to figure out what the need is and then make it possible—is not always the same thing as what is developmentally appropriate, Henningson said. And it doesn’t always have to be an expensive, high-tech solution. For ideas on ways parents can make adaptive technology for their own children, Henningson suggested Arizona State University’s Tots-n-Tech website. Photos and instructions are downloadable.

Disability: A natural part of the human experience

April 19, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Illustration of web browser.Gordon Richins, the Consumer Liaison at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, recently presented at the Bear River Association of Governments (BRAG) Housing and Human Services multi-agency meeting at the Riverwoods conference center in Logan. About 50 people representing different organizations, as well as representatives from Cache, Box Elder and Rich county governments, attended the presentation.

“In the old paradigm of disability, individuals with disabilities were thought to be broken and needed to be fixed by the medical field,” Richins said. “In the new paradigm of disability, individuals with disabilities are not broken–It is the systems and the environments that are broken and need to be fixed, so individuals with disabilities are included in all aspects of life.”

As part of his presentation, Richins offered a list of websites that can be used as resources by people with disabilities or organizations/programs who want to know more about disability programs and services.

Websites to bookmark:

Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University (CPD)

Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) 

Developmental Skills Laboratory (DSL)

USU Disability Resource Center 

Bear River Mobility Management 

OPTIONS for Independence

Cache Employment and Training Center 

Cache Valley Adult Day Center

Rocky Mountain ADA Center

Utah Parents’ Center 

Utah Developmental Disabilities Council  

Disability Law Center

Vocational Rehabilitation (State Office of Rehabilitation)

Division of Workforce Services

Division of Services for People with Disabilities