Lesther Papa wins awards, gains graduate experience at the CPD

April 26, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

photo of Lesther Papa

Lesther Papa

Lesther Papa, a graduate student employee at the CPD’s Behavioral Health Clinic, received the Utah State University Student Association’s Dedication Award for his contributions to the organization. He graduates with an Ed.S in school psychology this year, and will continue work on a PhD in psychology.

He was one of four co-founders of the annual Mental Health Awareness Week at USU. In addition, he’s active in the Polynesian Student Union and the student-run Diversity Cabinet.

He also has been awarded the Lawson Fellowship from the College of Education and Human Services, for outstanding contributions for working with school aged children. He received it for the second time this year.

As for his work at the Behavioral Health Clinic, Papa said, “I definitely do enjoy the experience. It’s one of the most challenging sites that I’ve been in, because the skill level needed is pretty high.”

The interdisciplinary clinic serves clients in areas of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, academic problems and feeding difficulties.

He is from Hawaii, and his pathway to Utah State came through Northern Arizona University, where he did his undergraduate work. He came to USU because he was attracted to the combined clinical, counseling and school psychology PhD offered there. He also wanted to study with Dr. Melanie Domenech Rodriguez.

Papa has worked in clinical settings before coming to the CPD, but the Behavioral Health Clinic is his first experience with an interdisciplinary team.

“It is nice to see the process overall and get the whole picture in one instead of working a lot of little evaluations together,” he said.

His work at the CPD should help him secure a good internship. “In the future I want to be in academia. One of the things that I hope to be able to do is train interns in assessment.”

Congratulations, Lesther!

CPD director: “Why I do what I do.”

April 21, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

Photo of Matthew in Taiwan

Dr. Wappett, pictured here on a 2012 return visit to Taiwan.

By Dr. Matthew Wappett, executive director

Think about it…when was the last time someone asked you why you care about certain things?  What are you building through your daily efforts here at the CPD?

I can pinpoint the exact moment in my life that keeps me focused on why I do what I do.

It was a hot afternoon in Xindian, Taiwan in 1992 and I was visiting the home of of the Tseng family who had befriended me while I lived there.  We were sitting outside in the humid summer air drinking tea and talking when all of a sudden there was a strange noise that came from inside the house.  It sounded like some sort of animal in distress; like a wounded rabbit (which is one of the most horrifying sounds in the world).

I had heard the sound before, but I had always been inside the house and it had been much fainter. I just assumed that the Tseng family had some animal caged up in the back of their house. When the noise started again that afternoon, Mr. Tseng excused himself to go take care of it, and left me sitting alone on the porch.  It was clear that the sound was coming from the room next to where I was sitting, and that the window to the room was slightly ajar.  My curious nature got the best of me and I pried the window open a bit more so I could peek into the darkened room.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I could make out the shape of a person laying on the floor of a bare concrete room.  It took me a while to figure out what I was looking at, but I realized an adolescent boy, maybe 14-16 years old, was completely naked and chained to the wall by one wrist and one ankle.  He was clearly malnourished, unable to stand up, and had lost all of his hair on his head.  As I looked in a small slot in the bottom of the door to the room opened up and a dish of food or water was slid into the room by Mr. Tseng; in the small sliver of light I could tell that the boy had sores that were worn down to the bone where the restraints were on his wrist and ankle.  Opening the small slot in the door also changed the air pressure in the room and allowed a small breath of air to pass through the darkness and then out the window where I was watching. It reeked of infection and death.   Then the small slot in the door closed again, the boy’s free hand shakily reached for the bowl that had been slid into the room, and he was quiet again.

I was aware that there were kids with disabilities when I was growing up, but only in a very superficial way.  I was in the first generation of students to attend public school following the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s.  Even though students with disabilities had the right to attend public school, they rarely interacted with us. They rode the “short bus”.  It usually got to school about the time the bell rang for classes to begin.  As we sat in class we could look out the windows of the classroom and watch the motley assortment of students disembarking from the short bus.  Some lurched down the steep steps, some were escorted by aides who held their hands all the way into the school, others were lowered on the wheelchair lift at the back of the bus, all of them were clearly different and not part of my world.  After they entered the school I could hear some of them shout and holler as they made their way through the empty halls toward the special education room where they would stay until the end of the day.

Then the parade began all over again in reverse.  Thirty minutes before the rest of us got out of class, the door to the special education room would open, the empty halls would again be filled with shouting and hollering as aides and teachers herded the students with disabilities back out the front doors, and onto the short bus.  Clearly, they weren’t like us.  Nobody knew who they were, or at least they didn’t admit it if they did know them.

At that time I didn’t realize that I had been socialized into a particular social grouping, and afforded opportunities and privileges denied to others.  I didn’t consciously hear or understand the language, both verbal and nonverbal, that was used to reinforce and protect my social status.  But it was there, all around me and my peers.  It was in the language used to refer to others; it was in the places we occupied in the halls and classrooms; it was in the way teachers and administrators interacted with us, and in the case of the students with disabilities it was in the times they were allowed to cross through our physical spaces. I started to become aware of these things on that stiflingly hot afternoon in Taiwan.

I wish I could say that I somehow rescued the boy in the room. I really had no idea how to begin addressing the problem, but that lack of knowledge drove me to learn and try to figure out how to begin to solve the problem.  I am still learning, and I am still haunted by what I saw, and that motivates me to keep working on it: ensuring equal human rights for everyone, but especially people with disabilities.  I have never found myself wondering why I do what I do, because ignoring what I saw is not an option. Institutional models of care, segregation, restraint, neglect, and abuse are all still daily realities for far too many people in our world today, and as a human being I have a responsibility to do what I can to solve these problems.  I am proud to say that the CPD has historically been recognized as a leader in the nation in driving this change.

Sometimes it feels like “the system” is winning.  Sometimes we feel like we are jousting at windmills. This is natural, but we cannot give up or lose our vision.  To keep working through the hard times we have to have a tremendous amount of faith that we are making a difference, even if we are unable to see that difference in our lifetimes.

Thank you all for all you do.  I am constantly humbled and amazed at the talent and dedication you bring to your work, and I am honored to be able to work with each of you.


Six apps to help with reading & comprehension

April 12, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

Do you have resources for people with learning disabilities?

It’s one of the most frequently asked questions I hear at public events when I’m representing the  Utah Assistive Technology Program. We recently addressed the question in a webinar featuring Kent Remund of the Utah Center for Assistive Technology. Here are some resources and short videos on apps for reading and comprehension.

Prices vary and features change, so please, do your own research before you buy.

Read & Write for Google

Price varies. Free 30-day trial, after which a subscription is needed for premium features. At last check it was $129 per year for private use, less expensive in schools. More information at the texthelp web page.

This is a Chrome extension, available in the Chrome store; it works on a PC, Mac or Chromebook.


  • Reads what’s on the page out loud for visual and auditory feedback to improve comprehension
  • Integrates with Google Docs to play back documents
  • Predicts words as you type them in
  • “Understands” phonetic spelling
  • Built-in dictionary
  • Allows dictation of documents
  • Collects highlighted passages and assembles them into a separate document

LiveScribe Echo Smartpen

$130 on Amazon

  • Pen records audio, has a camera that detects where the pen is on its specialized paper
  • Plays back the audio when the pen touches the paper where the notes were taken
  • Must be used with specialized paper
  • Can attach a headset
  • Notes can be dropped into a free program that stores all audio and text
  • Can be used as a calculator
  • Best for motivated students in secondary ed and college


$9.99 in App Store

  • Can type or hand-write notes on an iPad
  • Touch on the screen and audio will play back
  • Features similar to smartpen, but it’s an iPad app


$34.99 in App Store

  • Predicts text
  • Reads back what the student has written
  • Predicts words that are spelled phonetically
  • Looks for information on educational websites to predict text that is relevant to the topic
  • Can be customized for students.

Claro ScanPen 


  • Can take a picture of a document and read it back
  •  Can change speed rate



Scans page, allows people to add notes, can translate and read back. 

Claro ScanPen and Prizmo are both featured in the short video below.

Pilot without arms shares experiences, resources with the CPD

April 3, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

photo of Jessica Cox

Jessica Cox

On a visit to USU, Jessica Cox shared her experience as a pilot–and how it fulfilled yet another goal in a string of achievements she has gained as a child of “can-do” parents.

But when she came to the CPD, she spoke candidly about experiences common to people with many kinds of disabilities. She has earned a black belt in taekwondo, learned to surf and scuba dive, and of course, she is a pilot. But she said her greatest triumph was regarding herself as a whole person in a world that only sees limitations when it looks at her. “One of the hardest things I do is convincing people I can do things,” she said.

Being different was also hard, especially in middle school and high school, when she wanted badly to fit in. For years she wore prosthetic arms, not because they made her life easier but because she stood out less when she wore them. At age 14 she left the prosthetics behind, functioned more easily in her world, and dealt more with staring from strangers.

At the CPD, she spoke with attendees about shared experiences; staring, learning to adapt, seeking to overcome the asexual stereotype that is so often assigned to people with disabilities. Worldwide, she said, people with disabilities lack access to information about sexual health, contraception and disease prevention, and their incidence of sexual violence is 1.3 times higher than in the rest of the population.

“It’s a little bit of a touchy subject,” she said, but it’s important.

In her own dating experience, she wanted to find someone who would love her for who she was, not because they admired how she could accomplish her goals while using only her feet. She didn’t want a partner who pitied her. She and her husband, Patrick, shared a passion for taekwondo. When they first met, he told her, “Try to kick me in the head as fast as you can before I kick back.” Their relationship blossomed from there.

But since they travel together for many of her speaking engagements, they have been in many different countries and seen many audiences. Sometimes, she said, when people hear their story, they thank her husband for loving her in a way that makes it sound like he should get a medal.

Those moments are uncomfortable for them both. It was also uncomfortable for Jessica’s family members growing up to receive the judgement of others when they let her do things for herself–and outsiders worried they weren’t doing enough for her.

But both Jessica and Patrick said they understand that people are coming from different cultures and perceptions–and they both give people the benefit of a doubt.