Building Bridges 2014

The 4th Annual Building Bridges Conferences was held October 16, 2014 at St. James Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. The focus of this annual conference is to build culturally sensitive collaborations among people and agencies across the Commonwealth and beyond.

The topic of this year’s conference focused on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in racially and ethnically diverse communities.  The room was filled to capacity to hear the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Rooshey Hasnain, Ed.D, visiting clinical assistant professor and researcher with the Department of Disability and Human Development and the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She discussed the lives, challenges and strengths of people with disabilities and mental illness. In particular, refugees and immigrants who face additional barriers to intervention and treatment.Building Bridges Picture

In addition to her work at the University of Chicago and in local communities, Dr. Hasnain has worked in three different University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) where she initiated new research and service delivery models with local and global partners.

Other notable speakers included Dana Yarbrough, community supports specialist at the Partnership for People with Disabilities (PPD);  Cecily Rodriguez, Director of the Office of Cultural and Linguistic Competence at the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health Services;  Allyson Coleman, who manages Organization Development and Training for the City of Alexandria, Department of Community and Human Services;  Yvonne Russell, Henrico Area Mental Health and Developmental Services;  Katherine Lawson, Virginia Board for People with Disabilities and Mauretta Copeland, PPD and Virginia LEND Family Specialist.

Pictured above (left to right): Tracy White, LEND Training Director, Rooshey  Hasnain, keynote speaker and  Jessica Ward, PT, DPT, a VA LEND Trainee.

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2014 LEND Book Adventure

Wonder Pic Carly's VoiceDuring September and October, faculty and trainees participated in the Va-LEND Book Adventure. This is an annual activity to foster engagement and develop a sense of community with selected books that address LEND topics and themes related to disabilities, life course, family centered care, inclusion, etc. This year the books selected were Carly’s Voice (2012) By Arthur Fleischmann & Carly Fleischmann and Wonder (2012)by R.J. Palacio.

Faculty and trainees selected a book(s) to read and signed up for discussion groups at the beginning of the semester. Discussion topics were developed and shared on Blackboard. Each discussion group had a faculty facilitator. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

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Welcome 2014-2015 Trainees

We are excited to welcome1welcome our new class of Va-LEND trainees.  We have enrolled fourteen trainees from from ten different disciplines: occupational therapy, genetic counseling, special education (2), family, psychiatry, physical therapy, speech pathology, social work (2), psychology, and nursing.  Furthermore, we have four advanced medium term trainees, including three occupational therapists and one physical therapist. Welcome to the program!

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Leadership Projects

In recent weeks four Va-LEND trainees have presented their leadership projects. These are innovative projects related to the field of disabilities that the trainees have developed with the guidance from their faculty advisers. Below are highlights of these projects.

  • DSAGR LogoKayla Claxton, genetic counseling trainee, conducted a research study to gather information from parents and other experts that work with children with Down Syndrome (DS).  The goals of the study were to gather information about: (1) life with a child with DS; (2) resources and supports that are currently being utilized by parents of children with DS; and (3) additional supports that are perceived as potentially beneficial to these families.  The data collected will be used to produce a current educational video on Down Syndrome.  Kayla presented the results to the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond.  The abstract of Kayla’s study can be found under Resources.
  • Jill Harris, genetic counseling trainee, researched and developed a brief clinical guide to gender differences.  The purpose of this guide was to use primary literature to outline gender differenMF pictureces and also identify additional factors of the family, child, and diagnosis that may assist clinicians in providing the best support and resources for families.  Most of the broad gender differences addressed topics related to coping behaviors. This guide is available under Resources.
  • Rebecca Craft, physical therapy trainee, organized and evaluated a self-advocacy panel of four adults with disabilities who spoke to health science students, faculty, and professionals.  The objectives for this project were (1) to influence the way people perceive others with disabilities, and (2) to educate healthcare students and professionals on advocacy roles for people with disabilities.  The event was videotaped and a DVD was created and shared with healthcare professionals working with children with disabilities in a pediatric therapy setting.
  • Samantha Arritt, physical therapy trainee, ran a book drive and collected 328 children’s books that were then donated to Hayes E Willis Health Center and Richmond ARC. Monetary donations were used to purchase books in Spanish, as well asIMG_1255 to give a gift card to the VCU Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Samantha also set up an interactive story time session for the children and families who attended a Friday afternoon clinic at Hayes E Willis to inspire the children to read their new books.  In addition to the interactive reading session, Samantha put together a parent handout on ways to make reading more interactive to be shared with families in the clinic.
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Leadership Project

Meera's GraphicMeera Mehtaji completed her Leadership Project.  It is a presentation to orient new attendees to the CAS Autism Assessment Clinic.  The presentation explains autism, the team process, and the diagnostic tools.  A video is included to provide an example of a child with autism.

Autism Clinic with Video

Supplemental ADOS Document

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“Lawmakers, Remember the Children” — by Shannon Haworth

            Our very own Shannon Haworth, Va-LEND graduate and now our Clinic Coordinator, is the Richmond Times-Dispatch Guest Columnist today!              Read her article, “Lawmakers, Remember the Children,” on the Op/Ed page (A9) or online at

           Thank you, Shannon, for being a loud and clear voice for children who have mental health needs in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are proud of you!
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ACE-IT in College

Our own Beth Bader, Va LEND faculty member, is Academic Advisor for this program!

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New Travel Guide

Airplane for websiteMariah Abercrombie, Social Work trainee, researched and developed  a family-friendly travel guide, Tips for Traveling by Airplane for Children with Special Health Care Needs. It provides practical information to help families plan for their next trip. It is posted on this website under Resources.  You can also access it here.

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Leadership Projects

In recent weeks several Va-LEND have presented their leadership projects. These are innovative projects related to the field of disabilities that the trainees have developed with the guidance from their faculty advisers. Below are highlights of these projects.

  • Keri Ayres, family trainee, researched, update and published the 2nd edition of Virginia Medicaid Waivers for Persons with Disabilities, Their Families and Caregivers. The new edition has been expanded and provides current information. It is available here.
  • Deborah Johnson, Autism fellow, researched and produced a paper, Changes to Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition (DSM-5): What are the Possible Implication for Virginia Public Schools. She presented her paper to the Va-LEND faculty and have shared it with her colleagues in the Virginia Department of Education.
  • Apps for special kids picEllen McIlhenny, family trainee, researched and designed a website to catalogue apps for children with special needs for educational or recreational activities. Her website is interactive so that families can submit information on apps that are useful and enjoyable for their children. She plans to build a community of contributors who will help build the site into a comprehensive resource for families/parents. Explore the site here.
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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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