DSL summer program in full swing

June 28, 2013 by Sue Reeves

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DSL staff member Amanda with participant Abbie at a summer program event.

For nine young adults, the Developmental Skills Lab at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities is the place for summer fun.

DSL aide Daurie Bastian said the summer program participants join with Common Ground Outdoor Adventures once a week for activities like cycling, canoeing, rock climbing, picnics and trips to local parks. The summer program, which runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the DSL, also includes activities like movies, a science day, a trip to Hill Air Force Base near Ogden. They are even learning to work in the kitchen, Bastian said, and made jam for Father’s Day.

“They’re wonderful, it’s really fun,” Bastian said. “There are not a lot of behaviors you have to stop, they can just go and be and do.”

The five staff members for the summer program are mostly special education or speech-language pathology majors at USU who regularly provide respite care during the school year.

“They’re great,” Bastian said. “The summer program is just lots of fun, and lots of work. I’m really happy and excited for it.”

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Save the date! CPD summer picnic is July 11

June 26, 2013 by Sue Reeves

image of picnic suppliesPack up the beach towels and swimsuits for the CPD’s annual summer picnic and swim on July 11. Festivities begin with a picnic at the Willow Park West Rotary Pavillion (500 West 700 South, Logan) from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Pulled pork sandwiches are available for $1 if you call the CPD main office by July 5 to RSVP. Bring a potluck item to share.

At 7 p.m., employee awards for years of service will be announced.

For $1, you can purchase a raffle ticket with a chance to win a fun summer item like an insulated beach tote, beach towels, beach balls, a small inflatable boat with oars, lawn games like Bocce, Frisbee or Styrofoam planes, a Nerf super soaker and s’more kits. Winners will be announced at the picnic.

After the picnic, head over to the Logan Aquatic Center  (451 South 500 West, main gate) for a free swim from 7:30-9:30.

See you there!


TAESE training enhances cultural competence

June 24, 2013 by Sue Reeves

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Multicultural training aids states served by TAESE as well as the CPD’s divisions.

North Dakota’s oil boom is causing extreme changes in the demographics of that state, says Juan Carlos  (J.C.) Vazquez of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, and is challenging the school systems as they work with people from completely different cultural backgrounds. Vazquez is a coordinator with Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE), assisting North Dakota’s director of education, and is also the CPD’s multicultural coordinator.

“The makeup of the American population is changing,” Vazquez said, “and we need to understand how to deliver services.”

Helping school districts identify similarities and differences between groups with different languages and fundamental beliefs, such as how each group sees disability within their cultures, helps the districts obtain a deeper understanding, he said.

In addition to the training he has created for the states served by TAESE, Vazquez is also developing cultural competence training for each of the CPD’s divisions.

“One of the main responsibilities of this new position is to be able to develop training materials targeted toward the different divisions in regards to cultural and linguistic competence,” Vazquez said. “I identify best practices, materials and research, combined with some the experiences I’ve obtained in my career, and put it together to present to different divisions.

“We hope the information is something they are already familiar with, so they can work more effectively with the families they serve,” he said.

Here in Cache Valley, there are many Spanish-speaking people, but also people whose native languages are Arabic, Russian and others.

“Cultural competence allows anyone who provides services with the best tools to enhance communication and deliver services,” Vazquez said. For example, he said, it’s important to know whether shaking hands or making eye contact is a sign of respect or disrespect.

“It’s sort of like a chess game,” he said. “You have to think about the strategy … When we become more sensitive, we become more appropriate in our interactions with others.”

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Torres wins RGS seed grant

June 21, 2013 by Sue Reeves

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Dr. Anthony Torres

Dr. Anthony Torres, M.D., a senior research scientist at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, has been awarded a seed grant from the university’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies to catalyze development of research teams and projects that involve more than one department, research center, college or institution.

Torres said he has been working with scientists from the Genetic Disease Branch of the California Board of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and Pittsburgh University on a project to determine if there are differences in immune function genes that associate with pre-eclampsia, a condition characterized by dangerously high blood pressure in pregnant women.

“We have DNA samples from newborn babies born preterm at 32 weeks or less and DNA samples from the mothers selected from 350,000 births in 50 hospitals in Southern California,” said Torres.

These samples are unique, Torres said, because the Board of Health in California has been saving newborn blood spots on all babies born since 1980, a total of about 14 million samples.

“If they want to research disease X, Y or Z from certain counties they can go to the medical records, then pick out the archived samples,” Torres said.

Torres said he and his collaborators are hoping to replicate the genetic results found in English subjects at Cambridge University with the California Hispanic preeclampsia population. Many genetic studies are different in different ethnic groups.  The data collected during this study will be used to apply for outside grants.

Torres studies the relationship between immune function genes and autism in a similar manner.

Thain honored as 2013 Alumnus of the Year

June 19, 2013 by Sue Reeves

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2013 CPD Alumnus of the Year, Dr. Wilbur “Bill” Thain.

Dr. Wilbur “Bill” Thain M.D., was honored recently as the 2013 Alumnus of the Year by Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities. Thain was a member of the original committee that planned the Exceptional Child Center, which later became the Center for Persons with Disabilities, and also served as its medical director for a time.

The Alumnus of the Year is honored for his or her role at the CPD and contributions to the disability community, as well as their career activities after their time at the CPD.

“As one of the founders of the Exceptional Child Center, you not only helped shape the identity and reputation of our fledgling organization, you served thousands of families and trained countless young professionals who participated as interns, trainees, practicum students, and clinicians during those early years,” said Bryce Fifield, current director of the CPD. “Your work had an enormous influence on individuals with disabilities and their families, not only in the immediate vicinity, but throughout the region.”

Thain was born in Logan, Utah but moved with his family to California at age 2. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of California Los Angeles and medical school at the University of Southern California. He interned at the San Diego Naval Hospital, served in the Navy during the Korean War, and then finished his residency in Bakersfield. When he came back to Logan, there were 27 physicians in the Cache Valley, and almost all were family practitioners like himself. Now, he said, there are 220 physicians in the valley. Thain served as the CPD medical director for 13 years, and practiced medicine in Arizona and California before retiring at age 75.

Thain recalled an experience as a medical student that helped shape his perception of disability.

“I was on an OB rotation and the chief resident delivered a lady of a Down’s syndrome child. I went with him to confirm with her that the child had Down’s. The chief resident asked her if she wanted him to put it in the insane asylum because that’s where they all ended up anyway.”

The original committee’s vision of the Exceptional Child Center was very limited at the time, Thain said.

“We looked forward to identifying all the children,” he said. “We also looked forward to a time that we could have an impact. At first, that was just getting them to move. These kids were 7 to 10 years old, and had never been out of bed. They had never been out of diapers, they were fed baby food, they never went to church or school, they never went out. Their mothers kept them confined because they thought they had done something wrong. Most of the early mothers would dredge up something they had done that God was punishing them for … We were looking forward to bringing these children and parents out of the darkness.”

Congratulations to Dr. Thain, the 2013 CPD Alumnus of the Year!