The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

Costume contest winners announced

November 6, 2014 by Sue Reeves

First place winner in the Halloween Costume contest, Heather Mariger.

First place winner in the Halloween Costume contest, Heather Mariger.

The results have been tallied, and here are the winners of the 2014 Very Scary CPD Halloween Party Costume contest!

In first place, with 36 votes, is Heather Mariger (Project GOALS/StartSmart) as Mother Nature. In second place, with 26 votes, is Jacqueline Guymon (Up to 3) as Tauriel, a wood-elf from The Hobbit movie. And in third place, with 19 votes, is Miriam Williams (Up to 3) as the Queen of Hearts!

Congratulations to our winners, and thanks, everyone, for participating!

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Innocenti presents in Australia

November 4, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Mark Innocenti

Mark Innocenti

Mark Innocenti, director of the Research and Evaluation Division at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, recently visited Australia as one of three keynote speakers at the Early Childhood International Australia conference.

Innocenti’s keynote topic was the importance of parenting on services for parents of children with disabilities. He also led a breakout session on the HOVR (Home Visiting Ratings) Scale and strategies for using it. HOVR is an observational measure of home visitors, published in 2008 in the back of a parenting book, Innocenti said. Interest in the tool has been increasing, and soon there will be a manual and a research article, he said.

The focus of the conference, Innocenti said, was for the most part, early childhood—serving kids and working with families.

“Australia is a bunch of states, and each varies in the way they provide services,” Innocenti said. “Queensland doesn’t do a lot of home visits, but in Victoria they do. They’re debating national disability insurance right now. Once passed, it would give parents more power over the flow of money for their children … not unlike here, where we give it to the school districts. Here, the program controls the money. There, it would be like national health care, except around disability.”

He also participated in a panel discussion and led a PICCOLO (Parenting Interactions with Children: Checklist of Observations Linked to Outcomes) workshop.


Ending the MPRRC after thirty-four years

October 29, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of blue door.

It is said that when one door closes, another opens, and TAESE staff will keep looking for new opportunities.

The last several months have been tumultuous and bittersweet at the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE). In March, TAESE was awarded a five-year contract to provide professional development and technical assistance to special educators in the state of Utah. In April and May, however, it was learned that a long-running project, the Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center (MPRRC), might be ending.

Staff meetings during that period of time were difficult, said John Copenhaver, TAESE director.

The emotions in the office ranged from excitement for the new Center in Utah to disappointment that the MPRRC was closing.

The MPRRC was first established in 1980 and was funded for thirty-four years by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The MPRRC was one of six Regional Resource Centers (RRCs) across the United States

“We thought the MPRRC would always be around,” Copenhaver said. “The MPRRC provided excellent services to State special education directors, SEA staff and Part C Coordinators for those many years.”

A statement was issued in April that the RRCs would no longer be funded and a RFP would soon be created to fund one larger center—the Center for Systemic Improvement. TAESE partnered with other agencies and wrote a proposal for the new center. Ultimately, WestEd was awarded the contract. MPRRC’s operations ended as of September 30, and several of the staff members lost their jobs.

“After thirty-four years, it’s a pretty big deal,” Copenhaver said. “I’ve never had to let people go before. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”

On the positive side, TAESE has numerous contracts across the United States, and many MPRRC staff members were absorbed into those contracts.

When one door closes, other doors are opened. TAESE staff members are always looking out for the next opportunity—even with this setback, the future continues to be bright.

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The dignity of risk

October 27, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of bubble wrap.

It would be much easier to bubble-wrap children than allow them to fail, but it is often in taking a risk that learning occurs.

Risk is a part of success. All accomplishments come from some level of risk-taking. It’s how people learn.

“You first learn to walk by falling down,” said Judith Holt, director of the Interdisciplinary Training Division at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities. “You fall down a lot. Eventually, you learn things to keep from falling. You will never learn balance unless you fall. You don’t learn unless you have experience. You don’t gain experience without failure.

“We all learn by making choices, and sometimes that doesn’t end up to our benefit,” she said.

Parents want to see their child succeed, but often do whatever they can to reduce the risk to the child. For parents of people with intellectual disabilities, the need to protect is higher, as the expectations become lower. Trying to keep everything in a little bubble becomes the focus, Holt said.

“Risk is better in terms of learning. We’re not talking about unreasonable risk, but the risks you learn from,” Holt said. “If we don’t let people with disabilities take risks, we are denying them what it means to be human. To be human, you need agency. You need opportunities. It’s hard for a parent to let go of any child, but to let go of a child with a disability, it’s even harder.”

Allowing people with disabilities to take reasonable risks is part of treating them as the adults they are. Allowing risks does not mean being unsafe, or setting them up to fail. It means providing them with the opportunities to experience new things, to discover their strengths and use them to achieve what they never thought possible.

“We don’t want to throw them off the deep end,” Holt said. “We want to let them stretch, to do new things. There will be failure. There’s a certain dignity to that.”

Mummy Wrap added to Halloween event

October 24, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of cartoon mummy

Gather your teams for the Mummy Wrap! See story for details.

By  Chris Glaittli, social media intern

It is a trick and a treat for Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities at the first-ever Very Scary Halloween Party, open to all staff and students.

This Halloween party isn’t just food, games, contests and good fun. It is also a chance for the CPD to pull everyone together from the different divisions and programs, according to Shane Johnson, associate director for development for the CPD.

“The Halloween party is an effort to engage the students who are working or doing internships at the CPD,” Johnson said. “So often, they will say, ‘I work at ASSERT’ or ‘I work at Up to 3,’ but they don’t connect with the CPD as a whole. We’re hoping to change that by creating a fun way to interact with staff and other students so they really can say, ‘I am the CPD.’”

Currently, around 200 students work within the CPD’s various programs.

One of the ways staff and students can connect is by forming teams for the Mummy Wrap, a newly announced event at the party. Teams consisting of two students and one staff member can race the clock to wrap one team member in toilet paper. The team with the fastest time wins! No pre-registration is necessary.

The Halloween party will also feature a CPD trivia contest, a costume contest, a photo booth, and the opportunity to zap a zombie

This spook-tastic event will take place in the Haunted Lab (CPD 170) from 11:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, October 31.