Student from Germany visits CPD

September 29, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of woman at table.

Jana Heckhoff participates in a clinical services meeting.

A speech-language pathology student from Germany is finishing a nine-week observation experience at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

“I wanted the chance to get out of Germany and see the world, and I preferred to come to the USA,” said Jana Heckhoff. She talked to one of her professors, who had a USU connection.

“She organized everything and made it possible,” Heckhoff said.

Heckhoff has observed assessments and classes at Sound Beginnings, as well as sessions at ASSERT and diagnostic evaluations at the Autism Diagnostic Clinic.

“It has helped me a lot,” Heckhoff said. “In Germany, we don’t really have much information about autism. The children go to special schools where all children with disabilities go. They are more hidden. I would not have had the opportunity to get this experience in Germany.”

Vicki Simonsmeier, who co-ordinates the autism clinic, said Heckhoff’s experience has been beneficial for everyone.

“She is really good, she asks great questions,” Simonsmeier said. “I’m so glad she had this experience, and that we did.”

Heckhoff said she wants to use the information she has learned at the CPD to work with children with autism in Germany.


Logan Film Festival to show film focused on ABA

September 26, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of JR Cairns

JR Cairns

A family who used applied behavior analysis techniques to help their young son with autism is the subject of a film that will be shown at the Logan Film Festival this weekend. The 40-minute documentary, “Be With Me,” chronicles the journey of the Cairns family of Phoenix. Their son, JR, turns 21 in December.

“It was very therapeutic for them and enlightening for me,” to work on the film, said Michael Terrill, the filmmaker. “We want to bring hope to people who need it.”

Terrill met JR’s mother, Lori, at a business function and was intrigued immediately by her story. When JR was first diagnosed, Lori said, there were no services available, so the family brought in therapists and ABA specialists to help.

“The family describes it as a perfect storm of therapists and a super-determined family,” Terrill said. “All the stars aligned.”

The message of the film, Terrill said, is hope.

Because of JR’s success, Lori now owns HOPE Group, which now provides ABA services to 700-1,000 families in the Phoenix area. Utah State University alum Bryan Davey, a board-certified behavior analyst, is her business partner.

The film will be presented at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27 at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan. For more information, visit

DSL adds picnic space

September 24, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Man grilling hot dogs.

Drake Rasmussen grills hot dogs for the DSL picnic pavilion dedication.

A new addition to the Developmental Skills Laboratory at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities will make every day a picnic day.

According to Drake Rasmussen, DSL program director, the new backyard pavilion gives the program more space for the 17 day program participants to enjoy sunny Cache Valley summer days.

“We love picnics,” Rasmussen said. “We go on them all the time. It’s good to have the opportunity to do it every day when it’s nice outside.”

The pavilion was recently dedicated at a lunch-time event for participants and their families.

“We hope to do a picnic like this annually,” Rasmussen said, adding that in the past, families have requested events such as this one.

USU facilities removed old bushes along fenceline at the back of the yard, opening up a beautiful view of the Wellsville Mountains, and did extensive concrete repairs before the pavilion was built.

DSL participants and their families can enjoy shady picnics under the new pavilion.

DSL participants and their families can enjoy shady picnics under the new pavilion.




CAC Corner: Affordable Housing Matters

September 22, 2014 by Sue Reeves

By Kim Datwyler, Executive Director, Neighborhood Non-profit Housing Corporation

Image of affordable home.When you hear the term “affordable housing,” what does it bring to mind? Some people think of it as having a negative connotation, but actually, HUD defines it simply as paying no more than 30% of a household’s total income for housing. Those that pay more are considered “cost burdened” and generally have difficulty affording basic necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care. When you think about it, everyone needs affordable housing. Having housing that is “affordable” creates stable living environments and a healthy economy. So the next time you hear somebody say something negative about affordable housing, you can politely educate them on what it really means!

However, there is a real concern about having enough affordable housing, especially for people with limited incomes. Average rents in Utah increased 3% again last year, making apartments less affordable. For instance, average rents in Salt Lake City are now $832; in Ogden they are now $764. These rents can be too expensive for many families. But there are resources available throughout the state that can help. Did you know the State of Utah’s Department of Housing and Community Development manages a website that lets you search for affordable apartments? It can calculate which apartments are truly affordable for your income (remember our definition above) and where there are available units. You can even specify which city you would like to live in and if you need accessible features. Go to and try it out!

For people that already have a place to live but are struggling to make ends meet, calling “2-1-1” can help you find out about other resources that may be available. You can find out about local programs that provide assistance, such as the HEAT and HELP programs which help people with utility bills, or the Utah Telephone Assistance Program (UTAP) that provides discounts on telephone bills for low-income households with landline telephones. Homeowners can ask about the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP); this helps families reduce energy costs and increase comfort and safety in their homes. Individuals, families, the elderly and the disabled who are no more than 200 percent of the current federal poverty income level are eligible to use this program.

Another statewide resource is the HomeChoice program. This is a program operated by Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation in partnership with the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund. It offers homeownership opportunities to families with a member that has a disability. You have to qualify for a mortgage, but this program provides a 1% loan for a portion of the purchase price, which makes the home more affordable. It also has the advantage of not having to use private mortgage insurance (PMI), which saves you at least $200 more every month. You can call the HomeChoice hotline at 1-866-493-4500 to request information and an application.

And last, you can become an advocate for affordable housing. Most people think this is a hard or frightening thing to do, but it just takes a little practice. Start by attending a city council meeting and see how they are conducted. Each meeting generally starts with a time for public comments, which means that anyone can address the city council on issues they feel are important. Once you see others give public comments, you will realize that most city council members are genuinely interested in hearing ideas from their constituents and take them into consideration. Then when an affordable housing issue comes before the city council, attend the meetings and speak up in support of it. Bring a friend if it helps you feel more comfortable. Remember that there will always be people that speak out against affordable housing projects, and if you don’t voice your support, the council members may think that the project isn’t important or needed. You can help them see that affordable housing is important and it does matter!

Heidi’s Happenings: Harry Potter Day

September 18, 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.

DSL participant Reed enjoys a bike activity with Common Ground Outdoor Adventures.

DSL participant Reed enjoys a bike activity with Common Ground Outdoor Adventures.

We did window art and we did other activities and we had fun! We had Harry Potter Day.  We dressed like him. We made wands and capes. Heidi and her buds sure did have one heck of an enormous blast, directly up here, on campus.

We did tons of activities inside this wooden and glass-windowed work-site. We made yummy smoothies which weren’t quite as thick as Heidi and her buds supposed they might be. Other than that, they were sticky, but yummy. Those drinks sure tasted good.

We also did other projects ’round here. We all worked on the bulletin board, and made the “very very hungry caterpillar” out of our handprints. Our hands got really messy with paint from that fun project.

We made our very own bowling game, and had lots of fun knocking over those pins.  We had a great activity with Common Ground. We cycled all over campus and it was fun.  We also made crepes, went swimming, and had Hawaiian Day. Summer program ended on august 15.  We sure did enjoy having those kids up here for the summer!

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