The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

Changes coming to CPD

June 12, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Image of orange road closed sign.

Orange construction signs such as this will be common around the CPD site by the end of fall semester.

Dr. Bryce Fifield has announced his resignation as director of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. Fifield will become a faculty member in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation, housed in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

Dr. Judith Holt has been named interim director and will lead the CPD in the transition to a new, as-yet-unnamed building that will house all of the College’s clinical services. The $30 million clinical services building will be constructed at the site of the current CPD.

During a meeting with CPD staff on June 5, Dr. Beth Foley, dean of the College, said the current CPD building will need to be vacated by the end of the Fall 2015 semester so asbestos abatement can begin in January 2016 prior to demolition. The target date for the opening of the new building is August 2017.

The four-story, 100,000-square-foot building will house more than 30 clinics and service providers that are currently spread out across campus in 10 buildings. The primary focus will be on interdisciplinary training opportunities for USU students, with the added benefit of easier access to services for clients.

“I think we have the opportunity to do something really special,” Foley said. “I have travelled around the country and looked at other, similar centers, and I haven’t found one that has the breadth of programs that we do in the College, plus a UCEDD as strong as this one.”

Sue Olsen, the CPD’s director of exemplary services, has been tasked with determining space allocation needs and temporary housing for CPD programs and projects during the construction process. Beginning later this month, the process of allocating space in the new building will begin.

“I think we can do some really amazing things,” Foley said, “But the downside is we only get to do this once, and we want to do it right as much as possible.”

Foley acknowledged that the process of tearing down one building and putting up another in its place will be a painful process.

“If we look to the future and we see the possibilities, and see something good at the end, we can be willing to put up with the disruption,” she said.

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CAC Corner: June is National Home Ownership Month

June 4, 2015 by Sue Reeves

By Kim Datwyler, Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing

Image of family at house construction site.

June is National Home Ownership Month.

Many people don’t know that June is designated as “Homeownership Month.” June 2015 is even more exciting, because agencies across the country are celebrating the 50th year of the Mutual Self Help Program and the completion of 50,000 homes! There are approximately 100 organizations nationwide participating in the Mutual SelfHelp Housing Program. Mutual SelfHelp Housing consists of families working together to build their own homes. With the assistance of skilled construction supervisors, a group of generally four to ten families is formed. These families provide at least 65 percent of the labor necessary to build the homes. Working together with other families, they learn valuable construction skills and create strong neighborhood bonds. Many people are surprised to learn that there is no construction experience required; licensed construction supervisors are there every step of the way to teach and oversee the work families do. In addition, tasks such as electrical, plumbing and HVAC work are completed by professionals.

The months spent building can save the ownerbuilders as much as $20,000 on the purchase price of their home. This “sweat equity” also acts as the down payment and means the owners won’t need to pay private mortgage insurance. Add to this interest rates starting at 1 percent and many families find out that their new house payment will be less than their current rent! Mortgage payments are based on a family’s income; the house payment is guaranteed to be affordable. And as a bonus, families don’t make payments during construction.

Families can choose their own house plan, lot, roofing, paint, carpet, flooring and cabinets, making each house unique to its ownerbuilders. Homes are built with Energy Star features; many of the homes are fully Energy Star Certified, saving the owners more money each month in utility bills (and in most states, they also qualify for Energy Star rebates.)

In addition to a new home, families gain valuable skills in budgeting, maintenance and home repair. Each participant is given firsttime homebuyer education, which provides great information to anyone becoming a homeowner.

There are many benefits to the Mutual Self Help Housing program; visit the national website here for stories and pictures from across the country and to find an agency offering this program near you. If you would like more information about the program in Utah, call Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing at (435) 7531112.

Aggies Elevated receives Sorenson grant

May 29, 2015 by Sue Reeves

A group of Aggies Elevated students.

Aggies Elevated program director Sarah Bodily (center) with a group of students. The program recently received a Sorenson Legacy Foundation grant.

Aggies Elevated, an inclusive college experience for young adults with intellectual disabilities, based at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, was recently named the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the Salt Lake City-based Sorenson Legacy Foundation.

“Becoming sustainable is a challenge we face daily with Aggies Elevated,” said Sarah Bodily, program director for Aggies Elevated. “We want to be here to support students for many years to come, and funding such as this grant from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation will allow us to continue. We are beyond grateful for the money from this foundation. It will allow us to provide daily supports for our Aggies Elevated students.”

The Sorenson Legacy Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation established by James LeVoy Sorenson and his wife Beverley for the purpose of promoting charitable, artistic, religious, educational, literary and scientific endeavors. The foundation’s board meets quarterly to consider grant applications. Grant applications are judged on several criteria, including:

–Assist the disenfranchised of society, such as but not limited to, abused spouses and children, in order that they receive the full benefits of membership in society and fulfill their potential as human beings; and

–Advance the programs at private and state universities and colleges that are consistent with the foundation’s charter.

“Through this grant the Sorenson Legacy Foundation is having a direct and profound impact on the lives of our students,” said Shane Johnson, CPD associate director of development, who submitted the grant proposal. “This funding is vital to helping us sustain the Aggies Elevated program and helps ensure that another class of students will get to have the same life-changing experience that our first Aggies Elevated class is having now. We are very grateful to the Sorenson Legacy Foundation board members for supporting this program and we are excited to demonstrate to them how big an impact this grant will have on the lives of our students.”


May is Better Speech & Hearing Month

May 28, 2015 by Sue Reeves

May Pediatrics-Childhood-Speech-Hearing-Disorders-750x1072is Better Speech and Hearing Month, and professionals at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities say that early intervention is key to helping at-risk children develop vital communication skills.

The power of early intervention can be seen locally in the CPD’s Up to 3 program, which provides early intervention services to children in Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties. This program is part of the federally mandated early intervention program and provide not only speech-language therapy, but also occupational and physical therapy, education, parent training, nutrition and care-coordination services.

“One aspect in which early intervention is extremely important is in the evaluation and diagnosis of children who have an autism spectrum disorder,” said Vicki Simonsmeier, speech-language pathologist and URLEND faculty member. “Again, families are fortunate that here locally, these services can be obtained here at the CPD. Once a correct diagnosis is made, families can get the early intervention that is so necessary for their child to be able to reach their full academic and social potential.”

Simonsmeier said if speech-language services are provided early, often children will not require services once they are enrolled in elementary school. If left untreated however, speech-language problems may have a negative impact on academic skills like reading, spelling, written language and social interactions. The goal of all early intervention is to alleviate or minimize the impact of these problems on a child’s academic, home and social life.

CPD hosts Russian Visitors

May 14, 2015 by Kelly Smith


A delegation of Russian professional educators and specialists visited the CPD May 11 as part of the Open World Program, hosted by Firefly. Firely is a charitable NGO with a vision of securing a healthy, productive life for all disadvantaged children. Their mission is to prevent children from being raised in institutions. Firefly is dedicated to helping Russian professionals significantly reduce the number of children in institutions by developing support programs for families who are socially at risk, raising young children with disabilities, and fostering or adopting young children.

Delegates toured the CPD and received a brief overview of services and projects at the Center. Dr. Mark Innocenti, Dr. Lori Roggman, and Dr. Vonda Jump discussed their research efforts in supporting parents and caregivers in improbing development outcomes. This presentation highlighted the PICCOLO research instrument.

The afternoon was spent in the ASSERT (Autism Support Services: Education, Research, and Training) classroom, hosted by Dr. Thomas S. Higbee. The visit provided a valuable opportunity for the delegates to see the ASSERT program in action.