Welcome to Va-LEND

Welcome! Virginia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (Va-LEND) is an interdisciplinary leadership training program at Virginia Commonwealth University. We are a project of the Partnership for People with Disabilities. Our program  is funded through a grant (# T73MC00040)  from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration. The grant supports an interdisciplinary training program to prepare health professionals and related disciplines in the field of childhood disabilities for leadership and advocacy roles. In addition we provide continuing education and community training and consultation/technical assistance.  We encourage you to explore our website to learn more about our program.

For updates about our activities follow our postings below.

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Important Opportunities Coming Soon!

As Fall approaches and classes begin, we wanted to alert Trainees to opportunities to get in some much needed practicum hours. Here are 2 events coming to Richmond, VA that might interest you.

Building Bridges VI: A diversity ‘unconference’ for the disability community.  Friday, October 7, 9a-4p @ St James Episcopal Church                      Building Bridges Conf 2016

Baylor college of Medicine, Transition from Pediatric to Adult based care.  Thursday, October 27- Friday, October 28,       9 am-5 pm.

This FREE 2 day Broadcast will take place at the VCU, Partnership for People with Disabilities, 700 East Franklin Street, Richmond, Temple Grandin Conference Room. For more information and to register click on the link below.

Baylor Transition Conf_2016

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Top 10 Reasons to Become a Virginia LEND Trainee

  1. Make a difference in the lives of children with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and their families.
  2. Learn leadership and advocacy skills for working with children and their families.
  3. Develop problems solving skills and learn how to collaborate with other disciplines (interdisciplinary).
  4. Expand networks and resources to use within your professional practice.
  5. Advance your career and expand job searches.
  6. Work with experts in the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities.
  7. Participant in research opportunities in collaboration with LEND faculty.
  8. Create a leadership project that will have a impact on the health care system or within the community at large.
  9. Have a “real” experience with a child with a disability and their family (Family Mentorship Experience).
  10. Continue quest for life-long learning and skill development.zipporah at Gala
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We are taking Va-LEND Applications through June 15, 2016

Va Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) is recruiting applicants for the Fall 2016 LEND cohort.  Find out more about Va-LEND  here: va-lend-brochure-sept-2016

To view the training schedule for 2016-17 click here: Va-LEND Training Schedule 2016-2017

Applications listed below.

Va-LEND application – Long Term Trainee Family Trainee or ASD Fellow 2016

Va LEND_Medium Term Application

For more information regarding the Va-LEND program call 804-828-0073 and speak to Dr Beth Bader, Associate LEND Director or Tracy White, Training Director

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AUCD GALA Presentation of LEND Leadership Project a great success!

The Association of University Centers on Disability, (AUCD) our national organization, celebrated the anniversary of the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act, now known as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by having an evening “Gala” in Washington on Wednesday evening, March  2nd

Zipporah Levi-Shackleford, a Va-LEND Trainee and Trainee Representative to the AUCD, Board of Directors  presented her Leadership Project and was asked to address participants and give closing thoughts to an audience of notable guests, AUCD representatives, family and friends.  Va-LEND recognizes her energy, leadership and many contributions to its program.

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Poster Presentations at 2015 AUCD Conference

Va-LEND faculty and trainees have just returned from attending the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. Amidst sessions, meetings, and receptions, several poster presentations were made by members of the Va-LEND program. Trainees presenting posters were Becky Balog, Samantha Costanzo, Zipporah Levi-Shackleford, and Sarah Nockengost. Faculty members Beth Bader, Marie Chapin, Carole Ivey, Elaine Ogburn, and Tracy White helped support these presentations.

Samantha Costanzo’s topic was “Age Differences in Fine Motor Milestones between Ghanaian and American Children” and Sarah Nockengost’s was “Locomotor Training in Children with Lower Extremity Paralysis.”

Va-LEND alumna Shannon Haworth presented a poster titled “Growing and Engaging Leaders: Creating the AUCD Alumni Network.” Here’s some additional information from Shannon on her project: “AUCD will be creating an alumni association for graduating and former trainees. It will include a member directory, groups, facilitated discussions, and a mentorship program. If you would like to be a mentor or want more information contact shaworth@aucd.org.”


From left: Shannon Haworth, Marie Chapin, Elaine Ogburn, PC: Tracy White


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2015 LEND Book Adventure


During September and October, faculty and trainees will participate in Va-LEND’s Book Adventure program. This annual activity fosters community and engagement with books that address topics related to disabilities, life course, family centered care, and inclusion. This year, El Deafo (2014) by Cece Bell and Wonder (2012) by R.J. Palacio were selected for the book club. Trainees have picked a book to read and will participate in discussion groups held in a casual environment and led by a faculty facilitator.

Follow these links for more information on El Deafo or Wonder.



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Welcome 2015-2016 Training Cohort


Va-LEND is excited to welcome 17  trainees this year. We have 13 new long term trainees- (3) family discipline, (3) genetic counseling, (1) occupational therapy, (2) physical therapy, (1) public health, (1) social work, and (2) special education (an early childhood special educator and a teacher of students with chronic medical conditions).  We are also welcoming two new advanced medium term trainees-  (1) occupational therapy, (1) physical therapy, one medium term family discipline trainee, and one autism fellow. Welcome to the program!


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May Leadership Projects

playing pictureThrough recent clinical experiences, Paige Knowlson (Occupational Therapy Trainee), observed that while clinically substantiated and user-friendly screeners existed for Speech Therapy, the equivalent was not currently readily available for Occupational Therapy (OT).   A screener can be used by health and education professionals to determine whether clients, aged 18 months to six years, would benefit from OT therapy services. The ideal screener is basic enough to be used across various disciplines, but targets the developmental milestones appropriate to determining if performance deficits exist within the OT scope of practice.  A screener was developed and pilot tested across disciplines to determine accuracy results and ease of use.  The screener was compiled in 6 month increments, and packaged with all necessary testing items.  It was distributed to three speech therapists, who utilized the testing measure across three age ranges. The screeners found it to be understandable, user friendly, and sufficient in determining the need for further OT evaluation.  This screening tool is continuing to be developed.

Equine Assisted Therapy

Rhonda Wilder, Nursing Trainee, devoted her leadership project to developing an Equine Assisted Therapy Resource Guide. Within the guide, she listed certified equine assisted therapy programs in Virginia, their target audience, contact information, cost, and description of services.  This guide can be found here and on our resource page.  Equine assisted therapy is a treatment that includes equine activities and/or an equine environment to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth in people.

For her leadership project, Andreina Andueza-Croce (Physical Therapy runTrainee) explored the need for community based fitness programs for teens and young adults with disabilities to address decreased fitness levels and to promote healthy lifestyles.   The Tuckahoe YMCA addressed this need by creating a Pilot Fitness Program for Teens with Aspergers.  The main objectives of the fitness program were that the teens would learn fitness terms and concepts, gym etiquette, and would demonstrate general improvement in fitness.   The fitness program was held twice a week for eight weeks total; there were eight teens (ages 14-18) and five coaches in the program, including Andriena. As a coach, Andreina helped the teens gain independence with the fitness machines and provided a fun and safe environment to encourage the teens to continue participating in physical activity.  At the end of the eight weeks, post-fitness measures were collected and the teens demonstrated improvements in each of the fitness activities.  Not only did the teens show improvements in fitness levels, but the program also fostered friendships and socialization among the teens.

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Leadership Projects

BeckyBecky King (Social Work Trainee) developed and implemented several presentations and a webinar on Virginia’s Medicaid Waiver Redesign Initiative.  These presentations and webinar were for families, self-advocates, and providers.  Presentations were made to the Arc of Roanoke, the Arc of Augusta, and the Arc of Southside. The objectives of the presentations included increasing awareness of system change initiatives in the I/DD service system among families, self-advocates and providers, and educating families on national movement of more inclusive services and policies driving change.

Laura BellFor her Leadership Project, Laura Bell (Occupational Therapy Trainee)  initiated the development of objective measures for Occupational Therapists seeking to work in the VCU Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).   The objectives included determining appropriate resources to assist in the development of NICU competencies, researching the role and skills Occupational Therapists bring to the NICU setting, finding appropriate steps individuals can take in order to obtain necessary knowledge and skills, and finally developing a detailed set of competencies.  This is the beginning of an ongoing process.

For her Leadership Project, Lindsay Bailey (Genetic Counseling Trainee), explored how to talk about hereditary cancer at the end of life.  The aims of her study were (1.) to identify potentially effective and appropriate methods of delivery of cancer genetic information to Lindsay Baileyfamily members of patients with terminal cancer, and (2.) to assess the impact that the exploration of hereditary risk of cancer has on the family members of the dying patients.  Communication with a health care professional, communication between family  members, and methods of communication were explored.  Emotional responses of participants were assessed.  The study found that the best method of delivery of hereditary cancer information needs to be explored further because the preferred method was often situational and varied based on each person.  Also, it is important to be cognizant of the wide range of emotions that a family member of a palliative care patient with terminal cancer experiences and adapt communication appropriately.

Melissa Beyer (Genetic Counseling Trainee) did her Leadership Project about Melissa BeyerHuntington’s Disease (HD).  Huntington’s Disease is a rare, progressive, neurological disorder characterized by changes in movement, cognition, and psychological disturbances.  Typically, individuals with HD begin to show symptoms in their thirties or forties.  There is no cure for HD.  Melissa presented her findings and developed a handout to educate healthcare providers about HD, specify who should care for individuals with HD, and identify unique challenges that young people at risk of a developmental disability face.

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Recent Leadership Projects

A proposed book study of Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper was designed as a reading curriculum and catalyst for student disability awareness and learning. out of my mindMeredith Heiner (Audiology trainee) performed a pilot study on a 5th grade class in Chesterfield.  The students were asked to participate in a pre-test (prior to reading the book) and a post-test (after finishing the book) regarding perceptions and attitudes towards children with disabilities.  The goal of this book study is to increase students awareness of disabilities, influence attitudes towards disabilities, and foster inclusion of children with disabilities in the school settings.

siblingsAlicia Kohn and Sarah Beth Slabach (Physical Therapy trainees) organized and designed a workshop for siblings of children with special healthcare needs in partnership with the Children’s Museum of Richmond.  The workshop was created to provide an outlet for siblings to discuss personal experiences and interact with children who have similar experiences.  The trainees developed a guide so that these workshops may be replicated in the future.

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